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Ukrainian family sundered by war

Alexander Topal’s family is one of hundreds of thousands who have been wrenched apart by the war in Ukraine. After the Russians attacked, the 51-year-old scientist, his 84-year-old mother Bronislava, wife Olya (41) and daughter Tetiana (11) endured a harrowing journey across the country to take refuge with a distant relative in Lviv.

But Alexander could not sleep worrying about his daughter’s safety. He picked at the skin around his fingernails until it bled. On March 3rd, Olya, Tetiana, and Toma, the 10-year-old daughter of a friend, joined the flow of refugees to Slovakia. “I am calm now, knowing they are safe,” he says.

Until the war, the family lived in a three-bedroom apartment in a high-rise on the east bank of the Dnieper river in Kyiv. Alexander and Olya’s elder daughter, Anastasia (19), had flown back to university in Poland two days before the war started.

Alexander had prepared meticulously for the war. He packed two emergency tote bags for each family member, containing documents, money, medicine, dried fruit and warm clothing.

The family were awoken before dawn by a half dozen explosions on February 24th. There was an underground storage space which the neighbourhood used as a shelter when air raid sirens sounded, 300m from their building. Old age and arthritis prevented Bronislava from moving quickly. By the time she reached the shelter, the alerts were over.

Survival instinct dictates that one leave one’s ageing parents in a war

Bronislava remembers crying as an infant when sirens sounded during the second World War. “I never thought there would be another war in Ukraine,” she says. “I cannot comprehend it.”

Survival instinct dictates that one leave one’s ageing parents in a war, Alexander says. But he is Bronislava’s only child and could not contemplate it. Their apartment is on the seventh floor of a nine-storey concrete building. “It would collapse like a house of cards if it was hit in a bombardment,” Alexander says.

Fear that bridges across the Dnieper would be destroyed, cutting off all escape routes, also incited Alexander to take his family and flee. He finally convinced Bronislava to leave with the rest of the family, and they set out for Lviv in their car.

The flight was further complicated because Toma had no passport and there wasn’t time to obtain written permission from her divorced parents for her to leave the country.

Alexander plotted the trajectory in advance and downloaded maps. The government set a 20-litre limit on petrol purchases, so it was essential that he chose a route with sufficient numbers of petrol stations.

Squads of Russian saboteurs had been sent to mark targets on the highways, the government warned. The family had to drive through Hostomel, a small town that is home to an airbase where Russian paratroopers landed. “We didn’t see them; we’d probably be dead if we had. Fortunately, the Ukrainians killed them all,” Alexander says.

Olya did the driving, pausing only once for a half-hour break during the 19-hour journey. They got lost several times in the dark and spent another five hours in massive traffic jams on the approach to Lviv.

The family reached the home of Maria Kozymka, a 74-year-old retired television factory technician, at 3am on February 26th. Kozymka is the sister of Olya Topal’s late grandfather. Alexander and Olya had met Kozymka only once, nearly 20 years earlier.

I didn’t want to slow them down. I didn’t want to die at the border

The family waited five days for Toma’s documents to arrive. The child’s father obtained a passport and form signed by both her parents so that she could leave Ukraine. “Toma’s father went to Kyiv train station on foot and found a stranger to bring her papers to us, just like in the movies,” Alexander laughs.

Olya, her daughter Tetiana and Toma set out for Bratislava in the family car, leaving Alexander and Bronislava in Lviv. Bronislava refused to travel with them. “I didn’t want to slow them down. I didn’t want to die at the border,” she says. “I raised my granddaughter while her parents were working. She cried when she hugged me goodbye.”

Alexander could not even escort his wife and daughter to the Slovak border. “As a man between the ages of 18 and 60, I am not allowed to move from one region to another,” he explains. “I would not leave, even if I could. I think this rule is fair. I hear no one complaining.”

Ukraine is calling up conscripts in four waves: men with combat experience in the 2014-2015 Donbas war; 100,000 men who have completed military service and stayed in the reserves; those who received training through university scholarships, and finally those without military experience. Alexander regrets that he falls into that last, fourth wave, because his training in aircraft detection occurred 30 years ago, too long ago to be of use.

“No one wants to fight, but I need to fight,” he says. “It’s my duty.”

Alexander tracked Olya’s journey “like a military operation”, using the Map Me app. Each time the three stopped en route, he telephoned to make sure everything was all right. Polish and Slovak border guards are letting refugees through quickly, but for reasons that no one can understand, there are huge bottlenecks at Ukrainian exit posts.

We try not to traumatise our daughter. We tell her it will just be a month until we are all back together

Olya and the girls slept in a tent on the Slovak side of the border. Kozymka’s daughter Irena, who lives in Paris, had found a rental flat through friends in Bratislava. “The owner cooked for them. Everything was ready,” Alexander says.

Alexander talks to Olya and Tetiana every day. “We try not to traumatise our daughter. We tell her it will just be a month until we are all back together,” he says.

This impeccably organised, rational man, a member of the Ukrainian Academy of Science, covers his hands with his eyes until he regains his composure, then rubs tears away with the ball of his hands, like a child. I shift our conversation to the fighting in the east, to Vladimir Putin, to anything but the pain of indefinite separation.

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Here’s when your favorite show may return as writers strike is on the verge of ending | Culture

A tentative agreement between striking screenwriters and Hollywood studios offers some hope that the industry’s dual walkouts may soon be over. But when will your favorite shows return?

Well, it’s complicated. First, the agreement needs to pass two key votes, and certain paused productions such as Deadpool 3 and Yellowjackets will still have to wait on actors to reach a deal with studios.

When is ‘Jimmy Kimmel Live’ coming back?

Once the contract is approved, work will resume more quickly for some writers than others. Late-night talk shows were the first to be affected when the strike began, and they may be among the first to return to air now. NBC’s The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live and The Late Show With Stephen Colbert on CBS could come back within days.

Saturday Night Live might be able to return for its 49th season, though some actors may not be able to appear. The actors strike limits promotional appearances that are the lifeblood of the late-night shows.

Shows that return while actors are still picketing could prove controversial, as happened with the planned resumptions of daytime shows including The Drew Barrymore Show and The Talk. Those plans were later abandoned.

One show that’s likely to make a speedy return? Real Time with Bill Maher. The host plotted a return without writers but ended up postponing once last week’s negotiations were set.

What about ‘Stranger Things’ and ‘Superman’?

Writers rooms for scripted shows that shut down at the strike’s onset, including Netflix’s Stranger Things, Severance on Apple TV+ and Abbott Elementary on ABC are also likely to reactivate quickly. But with no performers to act out the scripts, long delays between page and screen will be inevitable.

Film writers will also get back to work on their slower timeline, though those working on scripts or late revisions for already scheduled movies — including “Deadpool 3″ and “Superman: Legacy” — will certainly be hustling to avoid further release-date delays.

When are Drew Barrymore and other daytime shows coming back?

Barrymore’s planned return to her daytime television show became a rallying point for picketers earlier this month, prompting her to cancel her plans. The Talk and The Jennifer Hudson Show, which also employ some screenwriters, also called off plans to return.

Barrymore and the other shows have not announced their plans for returning. However, the Writers Guild of America has made it clear: Guild members cannot start working again on projects until the tentative contract is ratified.

That vote has not yet been scheduled.

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Milan fashion celebrated diversity and inclusion with refrain: Make more space for color and curves | Culture

More curvy models than ever showed up on Milan runways this season, due mostly to a single show by Brazilian designer Karoline Vitto, while designers of color showcased their work at collateral events meant to promote their visibility — along with diversity — in the backrooms of Italian fashion.

Wherever diversity and inclusion were being celebrated during Milan Fashion Week, which ended Sunday, there was one underlying refrain: Make more space.

Curvy models get outing at Karoline Vitto

“We made history! It was incredible,’’ world-renown curvy model Ashley Graham gushed as she embraced London-based Vitto after Sunday’s show. Graham is often the only curvy model on major fashion runways, but for this show she led a cast of models ranging in size from UK 10 to UK 24 (US 6 to US 20).

By comparison, some Milan brands typically size up to 48 Italian (US size 12), while some, notably Dolce & Gabbana which sponsored Vitto, has extended some looks up to an Italian size 52 (US 16).

Graham wore an edgy black ripped corset and long sheer skirt, while other models wore form-hugging jersey dresses fitted with S-shaped metallic fixtures that sculpted their curves. She used the same technique for bathing suits.

“It feels normal,’’ Graham said, calling on more designers to get more curves on the runway. “If I feel normal on the runway with this many girls, that means that there is something that doesn’t feel normal when I am on the runway with everybody else.”

Diversifying small brand profiles

After working in fashion for decades, Deborah Latouche launched her own brand after converting to Islam and realizing how hard it was to find clothes that were “luxury, high-end and modest.”

Latouche brand, Sabirah, was highlighted along with US brand BruceGlen at the Milan Fashion Hub for new and emerging designers, sponsored by Blanc Magazine’s Teneshia Carr and the Italian National Fashion Chamber. The Hub offered space to meet buyers and other people interested in new brands.

“Something like this is really important because small brands such as myself can get really overlooked,’’ said Latouche, who has shown her brand in London, where she is based. “We put a lot of work in but we don’t necessarily get a lot of recognition.

Being invited to Milan “is an amazing platform that gives us the potential to elevate and that is really important,’’ she said.

Twins Bruce and Glen Proctor have been working on their brand for 17 years, and relished the time in Milan showing their creations to a new audience while they also connect with their true creative intentions.

“For a longtime we did black and white, based on what we thought the industry wanted,” Bruce Glen said. Now they are doing what comes naturally, “Colors, prints and fur.’’

Carr said presentations where people can touch the wares are a great way to connect people with a new product, without the huge expense of a runway show.

“The fashion system isn’t working for anyone but the 1 percent. I am all for trying to make new systems where everyone gets paid and people get clothes that make them feel better,’’ she said.

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Hollywood Studios Reach Tentative Agreement With Screenwriters To End The Strike

The picket line of writers and actors outside Netflix offices in Los Angeles.

The picket line of writers and actors outside Netflix offices in Los Angeles.

A happy ending in Hollywood. The studios and the writers’ union have reached a tentative agreement to end the screenwriters’ strike that has brought the world of film and television in the United States to a halt for nearly five months.

After four days of negotiations, Hollywood studios and the Writers Guild of America (WGA) managed to set down the bases of a new collective agreement. The deal announced Sunday unblocks one of the longest labor conflicts in the industry, with the strike now at 146 days.

“We can say, with great pride, that this deal is exceptional, with meaningful gains and protections for writers in every sector of the membership” the WGA stated in a press release. The leadership of the screenwriters’ organization must ratify the pact on Tuesday by a vote. The studios must now focus on resolving the conflict with the actors’ union, which is still on strike, so that productions can resume operations.

The studios and the WGA resumed negotiations on Wednesday after months of tension and a failed attempt to reach an agreement in mid-August. This time, there was a greater sense of urgency from both sides, who were concerned that further disagreement could have stretched the strike to 2024.

The main executives of the four studios attended the meetings with this in mind to show their willingness to negotiate. The parties set the goal of drafting the new contract before the Yom Kippur holidays, which began Sunday afternoon.

The negotiations were attended by Bob Iger, from Disney; David Zaslav from Warner Bros. Discovery; Netflix’s Ted Sarandos and NBCUniversal’s Donna Langley. The studio heads were present for three days at the meetings, which were held at the offices of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP).

Over the weekend, the studios were able to finalize the remaining details of the deal with the WGA. California Governor Gavin Newsom was also involved to ensure that both sides remained at the negotiating table. The strike has cost the state about $3 billion, according to a conservative estimate by California State University Northridge.

SAG-AFTRA actors and Writers Guild of America (WGA) writers rally during their ongoing strike, in Los Angeles, California, U.S. September 13, 2023.

SAG-AFTRA actors and Writers Guild of America (WGA) writers rally during their ongoing strike, in Los Angeles, California, U.S.

In the press release to announce the tentative agreement, the WGA made it clear that the strike is not over yet: “No one is to return to work until specifically authorized to by the Guild. We are still on strike until then.” The WGA’s 11,500 members must vote on the agreement.

This will happen after Tuesday, when the Negotiating Committee ratifies the deal once the final version of the text is ready. The deal is likely to be overwhelmingly approved by screenwriters, who have expressed their satisfaction for the resolution. Union members have also recognized the work of the Negotiating Committee, headed by Ellen Stutzaman.

While the strike continues until the deal is voted on, the WGA has brought an end to the picket lines at the gates of major studios in Los Angeles and New York, which have been in place since May 2.

If the strike had reached September 30, it would have become the longest in the history of the WGA, surpassing the 153 days of the 1988 strike. Actors, in the meantime, remain on strike, until they reach a deal with the studios.

According to the writers, the agreement was made possible after the studios agreed to reformulate the scope that artificial intelligence will have in the writing of content, and to set minimum rules for writers’ rooms.

During the strike, screenwriters complained that studios were abusing so-called mini rooms, a more compact version of a writers’ room. These mini rooms were used to develop more content for streaming platforms in less time and with fewer hands, which made the work more precarious. The new agreement establishes a minimum number of people who must write a television series.

One of the most insistent demands by the WGA was a review of the residual payment model. Residuals are compensation paid for the reuse of a credited writer’s work. The union argued that the previous scheme worked in the times of broadcast TV, but that adjustments needed to be made for the era of streaming. In the digital age, writers, producers and actors receive see hardly any compensation for shows that become hits on platforms.

The studios agreed to change the model to increase compensation depending on a show’s audience figures. This issue is also key to resolving the conflict with the actors’ union SAG-AFTRA, which has 160,000 members, and has been on strike for 72 days.

After the failed negotiations in August, the pickets at the doors of the studios became larger in September. The writers flexed their muscles when Drew Barrymore announced she would return to filming her CBS talk show. This provoked the anger of the scriptwriters, who argued that the popular actress was violating the strike. Barrymore defended herself by stating that many members of the production were suffering financial hardship after months without work. But she came under a lot of pressure.

After a week, Barrymore tearfully apologized in a video posted on social media and announced that she would not resume filming. Other television productions followed, reporting that they would not return until the strike was resolved.

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