Meet the three special prize winners

Vladislav Velev from Bulgaria, Prune Antoine from France and Verena Ringler from Austria talk to Kathrin Breer about the story behind their story, their work and their hopes for the future after EYJA 2010.

Vlasdislav Velev, Bulgaria

What is your article about?

It‘s about a Flemish woman and a French guy who live in Belgium. They took part in a course to study Bulgarian folk dances. They got married. Now they run a group of Bulgarian dances.

How did you find this story?

I met them at the reception of the Bulgarian embassy in Brussels. I talked with them and found their situation quite interesting, because they are very keen about Bulgarian culture.

Do you often cover EU issues?

That‘s my main area. Normally, it‘s about Bulgaria‘s role in the EU and which problems it causes to the other European countries.

How did the research go?

I visited the couple I wrote about in Liège. I went to one of their rehearsals. I met all the people who are in the group. I also asked some of my colleagues and my friends what they thought about the topic.

Do you think winning the EYJA 2010 will have an impact on your career?

Sure. It has a good impact. Although it is a relatively new award, it already is very prestigious. And it means that I‘m a good journalist (laughs).

Prune Antoine, France

France

What is your article about?

My article deals with the phenomenon of the so-called “euro-orphans.” Since the enlargement in 2004, there have been lots of Polish migrants going to countries like Ireland and England to work, and earn some money. A few years later, the Polish society realised that this had caused a problem in [the family]: lots of kids were left alone. If they were older children, they stayed on their own. Others lived with their grandparents, or they lived in an orphanage. I wanted to show this side effect of the immigration.

How did you come up with this topic?

I live in Berlin. I work as a freelance journalist and focus on Eastern Europe. I read a very short article about these euro-orphans in a German newspaper. I got interested in it, started to do research and finally spent 10 days in Poland.

How did the research go?

It was extremely hard. I had difficulties finding people who would be willing to speak about their personal situation. I had a photographer with me, and we paid somebody to do the translations and to find us some people. But, actually, most of the people we found “underground”…For example, we went to a school and talked to a teacher. He told us that there was a little girl whose mother is in England and whose father lives in Sweden. This kid had a grandmother that received us in her house where we could see the picture of the woman who is far away and so on. This adds an emotional impression, a piece of life to the article. And that is the hardest part to get, so I was very lucky to have the opportunity to do it.

Is your article a typical example of your work as a journalist?

I often write about EU issues. I am very interested in the Eastern European countries. That is actually why I moved to Berlin, to be close. My work is often linked with the consequences of the enlargement for the people. I find it important to write about social issues caused by the enlargement.

What does the EYJA 2010 award mean to your career as a freelance journalist?

I don’t know if prizes in general have an impact. For this award, it is too early to say. But I am really happy, because those kinds of prizes are encouraging you to go further. They show that what you are doing makes sense and is interesting for some people.

Verena Ringler, Austria

(photo by David Ausserhofer)

What is your story about?

My story is called Kosovo 2.0. It is about innovators and young returnees who come to this place, and actually redefine it in a much different and more optimistic way than you would sometimes think of.

How did you get inspiration to write this article?

I lived and worked in Kosovo for nearly three years. Afterwards, I decided to return in order to write the story. During my time in Kosovo I have seen a lot of good journalism, but also a lot of questionable journalism. International reporting cannot mean flocking to a place, looking for a conflict, and asking for burning cars, because editors-in-chief ask for that same, old lead. Our perceptions of countries tend to be very sticky due to the inertia of far-away agenda-setters. However, places and societies tend to change! To me, good reporting means doing the research, immersing oneself into a place, and then writing about that place as if it were for the first time. Good reporting often means debunking conventional wisdoms.

How would you describe the research process?

It was smooth and intensive. For 10 days, I met selected people in and around Pristina in order to profile their lives and work. Most interviews were in fluent English, because young Kosovars tend to be good at English. Also, they tend to be very flexible and spontaneous, which I really appreciate.

What does the award mean to you?

I hope this prize helps to question this spectre of enlargement fatigue, which I believe often masks a genuine political fatigue. I hope this prize inspires a fair public debate about enlargement, which I believe is often avoided due to a genuine fear from such a debate

Interviews by Kathrin Breer. You can read this year’s winning articles here.

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