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The Distant Barking of Dogs: Discussion Guide

Discussion Prompts: Displacement and Migration

Alexandra (Oleg’s grandmother) explains, “Our souls are rooted in this house.” Why do you think Oleg and his grandmother do not leave Hnutove?

Oleg plays in abandoned buildings and sites that have been destroyed by war. There are many such sites in the village. How do you think Oleg and his companions feel being surrounded by ruins? How might (or do) you feel if your neighborhood buildings were (or are) neglected and damaged?

At one point, Alexandra says, “We are part of this place, part of this land.” We watch Oleg playing on the land and the family using their land for survival; we also witness the destruction of the land near the village. In what ways are Oleg and Alexandra connected to the land? What do you think this relationship means to them? In what ways do you feel connected to the land you occupy?

Oleg and his grandmother install new wallpaper in their house that bears a large, vivid image of a forest. Why do you think Oleg is so taken with this image?

“When the soldiers arrived, people moved away,'' explains Alexandra. What might be the impact of depopulation of your home community? Have you ever been forced to move away from home? What did you feel you lost? If you haven’t been forced to move away from home, what kinds of bonds do you have with your neighbors, teachers, peers, friends and family members? How would you feel if these people were suddenly scattered?

According to international law, a refugee is a person who flees their home country due to a well-founded fear of persecution and the failure of their own state to protect them against that persecution. This legal definition was designed by the United Nations to exclude economic migrants, victims of natural disasters and people fleeing generalized violence but not subject to specific persecution “for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.” Countries are entitled, but not required, to grant asylum to these migrants. What do you think of the current international law governing those fleeing violent conflicts? What obligations should other countries have toward refugees who leave their own countries to escape war? In your view, should countries have different obligations to migrants depending on factors such as proximity, wealth, ethnic or religious composition, histories of military intervention and colonialism and so on?