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June 7 & June 10: from Italy - Amsterdam - Cairo - Bosnia - San Agustin, Cuba

From our correspondents around the world...


The enduring image from 1992 of the Bosnian war, taken when Ed Vulliamy and Independent Television News uncovered the existence of concentration camps in Trnopolje, above, Omarska and Keraterm. Vulliamy argues the startling revelations failed to bring the horrors, or the war, to a close. (Photo: Reuters)

Why Italy illegally walled off the sea to would-be refugees and sent them to certain abuse in Libya.

Dining out on a country specializing in famine. There's more than kimchi at a North Korean-themed restaurant.

Speaking of menus, there's a celebrity cook on Egyptian TV pitching comfort food for an uncomfortable economy.

Then, a Bosnian memoir from a correspondent seething about the perils of the Balkan region's unresolved history.

And from Cuba, how to get along with your neighbours when you're a temperamental artist and your neighbours are the Castros.

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Eritrean refugees had originally cheered the sight of an Italian ship in the Mediterranean. They'd been adrift for four days. Little did they know that Italy would breach international law and dump them in Libya to face near-certain abuse. (Photo: Closed Sea)


Closing the seas to refugees 

Here's a remarkable sound recorded on video aboard a disabled boat, as African refugees welcome the sight of an Italian helicopter after four days at sea without food and water.

But their delight is misplaced.

Italy is not there to welcome them, but to send them back where they came from.

In 2009, it defied the UN and illegally closed the Mediterranean to refugees.

The impact of that policy of pushback -- or refoulement, as it's known -- comes under withering scrutiny in a new film called Closed Sea.

It documents the astonishing story of Eritreans fleeing military repression at home, hoping to sail to Italy via Libya, and marooned by politics.

Writer and director Stefano Liberti joined us from Rome.

North Korean cuisine: dining out on mystery

A country synonymous with famine and nuclear brinkmanship might seem unlikely inspiration for a restaurant. Especially if you're hoping to appeal to other countries.

But all things North Korean are the motif in a blacked-out building in Amsterdam. A private enterprise apparently, even though the bubbly staff is imported from the Fatherland where it was hand-picked by the government.

The place is called "Pyongyang." And like that Potemkin capital city it's named for, the restaurant too is less than transparent, and more than a little mysterious.

From the garish greeters to its overpriced art, more novelty than gastronomy perhaps. But as Dispatches contributor Lauren Comiteau discovers, you don't just go for the food.

Lauren Comiteau's dispatch

Cooking show host Ghaila Mahmoud works in her modest kitchen at the studios of 25TV, a network formed in the wake of the Egyptian revolution in 2011. (Photo: courtesy 25TV)

What's cooking in Egyptian politics

Political revolution has changed the face of Egypt, and with it the faces Egyptians are watching.

After next week's runoff election, they'll be looking at a new President. But there's another trendsetting personality emerging on TV.

And she's a cook, doing what she does best.

Though the bare-bones economy of her dishes, reflects the sclerotic economy confronting most Egyptians.

The CBC's middle East Correspondent, Derek Stoffel, is with her to suss the ingredients that make up her celebrity.

Listen to Derek's documentary 

Ed Vulliamy addresses Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) and Croat (Bosnian Catholic) survivors of the Serb-run Omarska concentration camp near Prijedor in western Bosnia.  They met to mark the reveleation of three camps by Vulliamy and other British journalists in 1992. (Photo: Ranko Cukovic/Random House)

Bosnia - a war without reckoning

The Bosnian war left the world many grim images, few more enduring than that of the skeletal man behind barbed wire at a Serb-run concentration camp in August of 1992. A visual echo of the Holocaust.

The Bosnian Serbs preferred to call it a "collection centre," and it was one of several that journalist Ed Vulliamy and his colleagues uncovered early on in the three-year war.

The Bosnian Muslims suffered the worst of it, starting with those camps. And he says it continues today, because so much of that history is still being denied.

It's the subject of his new book, called The War Is Dead, Long Live The War. Bosnia: the Reckoning.

Ed Vulliamy joined us from London, England

Ed Vulliamy is a journalist with The Guardian newspaper. Long Live The War is published in Britain by The Bodley Head.

Listen to his reading from the book.

Art for art's sake, in Cuba for god's sake!

In a neighbourhood near Havana that's seen better days, a man is striving to put his community on the artistic map. He's constructing a museum that's an exhibit all by itself.

It's a cautious test of Cuba's loosening grip on its citizens. Though ironically, to finance his artistic freedom, our man has to surrender some of it to the Castro brothers every now and again.

More on an artist's progress from CBC journalist Pedro Mendes in the midst of a creative clamour.

Listener mail

From the village of Rupert in Quebec, Bruce Hatch sends us a story prompted by his time as an elections consultant in Bosnia just after the war, and a young couple he'd come to know.

Bosnia was pretty grim. Sarajevo, where I rented an apartment, was seriously battered and bruised. In walking around, I...couldn't understand how buildings on both sides of very narrow streets could have been so pock-marked by bullets, soon realizing that the damage had been caused by indiscriminate mortar fire from the surrounding hills. Anyone having visited Sarajevo would know what a sitting duck it was, located essentially in the bottom of a bowl.

During my walk home every evening, I'd pass a small pizzeria on the corner of my street. With almost nothing but pizza available at the time, I soon ended up frequenting the place, and getting to know the young couple who owned and ran it.

Over subsequent visits, and there were many, I found that their two children had been killed during the war by Serbian snipers operating from the hills. Needless to say, they were both somewhat shell-shocked, although always pleasant, and at least tried to be philosophical about their predicament.

I could empathize though, and they were surprised to what extent, as I had lost my...pregnant wife and daughter in an accident 10 years earlier.

We spoke frequently about why it had taken so long for the international community to intervene in the (Bosnian) conflict, and of the likelihood of a lasting peace in an environment so poisoned by brutality and suffering.

We also talked of the challenge of bridging life's personal setbacks, and the need of keeping an eye on the broader realities of a bigger picture.

I left Bosnia and spent most of 1998 in Cambodia, but went back to Sarajevo briefly in late fall. When I visited the pizzeria, I was happy to find that the owners were expecting a child.

As for me, I'm re-married to a wonderful Austrian woman whom I met working in our office in Vienna. 

A very personal dispatch there. Thank-you, Bruce. 

This program is the work of producers Dawna Dingwall, Alison Masemann, Steve McNally. With technical producers Tim Lorimer, Nima Shams and Steve Sweeney, senior producer Alan Guettel, and Rick MacInnes-Rae..

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