As the year draws to a close, we take a look back at the most moving reports of the year. We start with a marathon through crisis-shaken Greece and report from Spain on the trade in egg cells. We also travel back to chess-infatuated Armenia and speak with Irish deserters from World War II.
For long-distance runners, it's the ultimate: the road from Marathon to Athens. It's an iconic route - and right now it leads to the heart of the Eurozone crisis.
Now more than ever, Greece needs staying power. That can be sensed along the historical route from Marathon to the Greek capital. Legend has it that in 490 BCE, a messenger ran the distance to inform the Athenians of Greek victory over the Persians at the battle of Marathon. Nowadays, along the Marathon-Athens highway, there's a great deal of resignation among the population in the face of austerity measures and a weakening economy. The way out of debt promises to be not a sprint, but a real marathon.
Jobs have become scarce in Spain as a result of the economic crisis. Now some Spanish women are trying to earn a living by becoming a paid egg donor. In some cases, they are risking their health.
Young university students are among those looking to become egg donors. They see it as an easy way to earn money - up to 1,000 euros per donation. Many women donate several times a year, even though doing so is risky to their health. Although Spain’s ethics commission has enacted limits on egg donation, these are nearly impossible to enforce, in part because donated eggs are a lucrative business for fertility clinics. Even though Spain is regarded as a stronghold of Catholicism, its laws on reproductive medicine are among the most liberal.
Armenia is a country facing many problems. Its ceasefire with neighboring Azerbaijan is rocky, and its economy is struggling. Now Armenia is hoping chess could help improve its fortunes.
Armenian schools are introducing chess as a compulsory subject. The idea comes from chess grandmaster Smbat Lputian, who founded a chess academy in Yerevan. The game is said to hone analytical skills and improve memory and concentration. Lputian says that could help children in other subjects too. And he's convinced that a country of chess players is capable of many achievements.
Thousands of Irish troops joined British forces during World War II to fight against Nazi Germany. In their own country, they were punished and scorned as deserters.
Ireland was officially neutral in the war. But nearly 5000 Irishmen deserted to join the struggle against the forces of fascism. There were no honors awaiting them upon their return to their own country - only dishonorable discharges from the Irish armed forces. They were stripped of their pensions and some even court-martialed for desertion. A modern-day initiative is now seeking to restore the honor of these heroic deserters.
With names like Kelebec and Bursa Roller, Turkey’s roller pigeons are renowned as acrobats of the air. Breeding them is a national pastime, and its enthusiasts often invest small fortunes.
The rollers turn somersaults, perform breathtaking nosedives and clap with their wings. Their keepers have perfected the technique of training them for such aerial acrobatics. It takes patience and persistence. The Turkish pigeon breeders coddle and care for their ‘little doves’ - and command steep prices for them at auction. Particularly fine specimens can fetch several thousand euros.