Brazilians wept when their 200-year-old National Museum went up in flames last September. Twenty million items, many of them irreplaceable, were thought to have been reduced to ash when it was gutted by a massive fire. Staff said the loss to science and history was incalculable - and the tragedy, possibly caused by faulty wiring in the long-underfunded institution, led to much national heart-searching about the country's commitment to its heritage. The museum, housed in Brazil's former Imperial Palace in Rio de Janeiro, held unique collections of fossils, animal specimens, indigenous artefacts, as well as Egyptian and Greek treasures - and the oldest human skull found in the Americas.
Some scientists, who saw their entire life's work go up in flames, were in despair - but others vowed to work to rebuild and restock the museum. Now, months on, painstaking archaeological work in the debris has uncovered items that can be restored, while other specialists are setting out on expeditions to acquire new specimens. Tim Whewell reports from Rio on the agonies - and occasional small triumphs - of the slow, exhausting effort to bring a great national institution back to life.
Poland's Partisan Ghosts
For some in Poland the Cursed Soldiers are national heroes; for others they are murderers. A march in celebration of a group of Polish partisans fighting the Soviets has become the focus of tension in a small community in one of Europe’s oldest forests. Those taking part believe the partisans – known as the Cursed Soldiers – were national heroes, but others remember atrocities committed by them 70 years ago. Some partisans were responsible for the burning of villages and the murder of men, women and children in and around Poland’s Bialowieza forest. The people living the forest are Orthodox and Catholic, Belorussian and Polish; this march threatens to revive past divisions between them. Many believe that far-right groups have hijacked this piece of history to further their nationalist agenda. For Crossing Continents, Maria Margaronis visits the forest to find out why this is causing tensions now; why the locals feel the march is making them feel threatened; and how this reflects wider political rifts in Poland today.
Produced by Charlotte McDonald.
Nepal Fights Foreign Paedophiles
Hunting western paedophiles is a priority for a new police unit tasked with safeguarding children in Nepal. Mired in poverty and still recovering from a devastating earthquake in 2015, Nepal is increasingly being targeted by foreign paedophiles who recommend it as a destination when they share child abuse tips on the dark web. In recent years, a series of western men have been charged with raping or sexually assaulting Nepali boys. For Crossing Continents, Jill McGivering follows the under-resourced police unit, hears the stories of victims and perpetrators and examines what makes Nepal so vulnerable to abuse by western men.
This programme contains descriptions of child sexual abuse which some listeners may find distressing.
Produced by Caroline Finnigan.
Unrest in Ukraine’s Little Hungary
Eastern Ukraine has been under assault from Russian backed rebel forces for the past five years, but few have heard of a smaller conflict, which could be brewing in the west of the country, between Ukraine and Hungary. Some have accused the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban of trying to create a breakaway state in impoverished Transcarpathia, once part of the Austro-Hungarian empire.
Ukraine and Hungary both expelled diplomats from each other’s nations, following a row over passports and a Hungarian cultural centre has been repeatedly firebombed. Lucy Ash meets people in the Ukrainian border town of Berehove and investigates whether deepening tensions could destabilise the region and further dash Ukraine’s hopes of being a unified country inside NATO and the EU.
Producer: Josephine Casserly
(Image: Pupil at a Hungarian-language secondary school in Berehove in Western Ukraine walks down a corridor bearing a portrait of Lajos Kossuth, the 19th Century political reformer after whom the school is named. Credit: Balint Bardi)
Japan's Elderly Crime Wave
Elderly pensioners in Japan are committing petty crimes so that they can be sent to prison. One in five of all prisoners in Japan are now over 65. The number has quadrupled in the last two decades, a result it seems of rising elderly poverty and loneliness, as seniors become increasingly cut-off from their over-worked offspring. In jail old people at least get a bed, a routine and a hot meal, and for many, as Ed discovers, the outside world can seem like a threatening place. For the prison authorities it means an increasingly ageing population behind bars and the challenges of dealing with a range of geriatric health issues.
Produced and reported by Ed Butler.