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Seven stories from an American English teacher in Minsk.
I.

I didn’t know much about Belarus. I didn’t even know where it was when I received my placement. After the phone call, I had to look it up on a map.

“Nobody knows where Belarus is.” Sasha poured a shot of balsam into his plastic cup. He was heavy-handed with the bottle. We were on a train from Minsk, rolling south through the contaminated zone.

“Especially when I visit America,” he continued. “They have no idea. I tell them I’m from Belarus, and they say ‘Ah yes, Belgium!’ ‘No,’ I say, ‘BEL-A-ROOS.’ ‘Oh right, part of Russia,’ they say…as if they recognize it.”

“I have this joke,” Sasha tilted the red cup back and forth while he spoke. “I always tell it to foreigners. Want to hear?”

“Of course,” I answered.

“Okay. Do you know where Russia is?” he asked.

“Well, of course,” I smiled.

“K. Do you know where China is?”

“Obviously.”

“Well Russia is between China and Belarus. Ha!”

He dumped the shot into his laughing mouth.

II.
We often played a game called “2 Truths and a Lie.”

I was teaching English in Minsk. My students were 17-year-old business majors.

“Why business? Why did you choose this specialization? What do you want to do?” I would ask. They stared at me.

“Who wants to be an entrepreneur? You know — open your own business — a cake shop, a hotel, a bookstore. Something like that?” More quiet shrugs.

* * *

“One: I’ve never been abroad. Two: I have a cat named Koshka. And three: I’ve only ever had McDonald’s once in my whole life,” Sveta announced.

It was my first year as a teacher. My students were too chatty, and they rarely did their homework. One even tried to bribe me for a passing grade. Fancy chocolates.

But despite their cheeky comments, I loved them. I wanted to learn about their lives. We often played a game called “2 Truths and a Lie.” The speaker’s aim is to pick things that are true but also fantastic sounding, to stump the listeners. The rest of the class then has to guess which statement is false.

“McDonald’s! You’ve had it more times,” Eugene shouted.

“Nope,” Sveta replied. “It’s true.”

“Koshka — cat. You don’t have a cat,” Marina said.

“Yes. That’s the one,” Sveta said.

“Wait,” I interrupted, “haven’t you been to Russia, Sveta?”

“Yeah, Moscow. So?” she asked.

“Well, that’s abroad. You’ve been abroad.”

“Oh,” she said, “I don’t think that counts.”

III.

The Western diplomat stationed in Belarus had silver hair and handsome white teeth. He had been dating a Ukrainian woman for several years. She hated Minsk.

“Can’t stand it. An awful city,” the girlfriend said quietly to me in the corner during an official reception. “Sure it’s clean, but nothing’s available in the stores, or if it is, it’s bad quality. Tomato sauce is the worst. They put these Western labels on it, but that’s a lie — it’s not Western tomato sauce. We even have better sauce back in Ukraine.

“No, I don’t like it here, but I tell all my family to come visit. They say, ‘Why should we, if you hate it so much?’ You know, I just want them to see what life was like for our parents and babooshki,” she held her plate of hors d’oeuvres steady. “But, of course, they won’t. Nobody wants to come to Belarus.”

* * *

From the bakery section of Minsk’s central grocery store, I bought some sesame cookies and took them home to my apartment. I put on water for tea and opened the plastic bag. I bit into a stale cookie. It was full of worms.

IV.

Anya’s hair was several feet long and quite thin. So was the rest of her. When she wore her hair in a tight bun, everyone asked if she was a ballerina. “Not anymore,” she would smile, “I quit.” Anya taught herself English. She studied hospitality and tourism at a local university. She wanted to run a hotel someday.

Anya was a serious girl, and so our conversations often turned serious. Over tea, she told me about last spring’s bombing at Oktyabrskaya, the city’s central metro station.

“I think something like 13 or 14 people died. I knew one of the boys. He went to my school.”

“My gosh, Anya.”

“Yeah,” she sighed.

“Who do they think did it? Or…who do you think?” I asked.

She paused. “I don’t know, really. I read some Russian blogs that said it was, well, internal, for sure…maybe even government.”

“What?” I couldn’t fathom it.

“Yeah. The websites said to distract from the crisis. Everyone’s worrying about roubles, and they want to remind us that there are more important things to worry about. But really, I don’t know.”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

“Speaking of, did you hear what happened last week?” Anya asked. “That girl at Pushkinskaya station? She jumped in front of the train. Only 16 years old.”

“That’s awful,” I said.

“Yes. It is. Probably did it because of a boy, or something stupid,” she held her mug for warmth. “It’s been a bad year for us.”

When I landed in August 2011, one US dollar was worth 5,000 Belarusian roubles. By October, one US dollar could buy 8,500 roubles. With my American bank account, I felt like I was winning big at the slot machines whenever I stood in front of an ATM. I’d walk away with a thick wad of colorful bills, feeling lucky.

According to the World Bank, the 2011 devaluation of the Belarusian rouble was the world’s steepest of the last 20 years. No one else felt lucky.

V.
“While traveling any person has full right to do what he likes. If he likes sex, it can be sex; if he likes cakes, it can be cakes,” the minister jokingly told the press.

They say that Belarusian women are the third most beautiful in the world, Ukrainian and Russian being numbers one and two, respectively. I’m not sure who “they” are, or how they measure. Is it some kind of ratio, maybe body mass index to hair length? Do they tally up the blue eyes? Is it that every third girl on the street can pass for a ballerina?

A young Dutch man was taking Russian classes at the local language university. He came to Belarus to be with his longtime girlfriend, a striking Belarusian. He often complained about his classmates.

“They’re all men. Slimy Italians and Turks, mostly.”

“Why are they learning Russian?” I asked.

“It’s not about Russian. It’s about women. A sex tourism sort of thing. Belarusian women have a reputation for being very beautiful, you know. Regular tourists don’t come to Belarus.”

I tried to research Belarus before I left. One article told about a 2009 press conference held by the Minister of Sport and Tourism. “While traveling any person has full right to do what he likes. If he likes sex, it can be sex; if he likes cakes, it can be cakes,” the minister jokingly told the press.

According to a state report, the article noted, approximately half of all tourists that enter Belarus stay for just one day — in transit from West to East, or back again.

I probably googled a hundred different “Belarus” combinations from my home in South Dakota. Most news results profiled the country in the same way, recycling the same words in different combinations: “Disaster.” “Dictator.” “Devaluation.”

On travel websites the information trend was also predictable. It was hard to learn about life in Belarus, but easy to learn about avoiding it. Several forums were dedicated to the cause: “How to Travel by Train Across Europe (Without the Hassle of a Belarusian Visa!).”

VI.
When the accident happened on April 26, 1986, 31 people died immediately.

“One of my departmental colleagues has very delicate hands,” the teacher whispered to me. “Apparently she was a brilliant classical pianist, but she can’t play anymore. Her bones are so weak. Her fingers break whenever she touches the keys.”

“Why?”

“She grew up in the southeast somewhere, I think.”

“What does that mean?”

“Well, you know, the contaminated region,” she paused. “Can you imagine that? Your bones just crumbling like cookies?”

I shook my head but didn’t know what to say.

“Anyways,” she quickly changed the subject. “What do you think of Minsk? How do you like it here?”

“Um, it’s nice,” I swallowed. “People are nice, and the city is very quiet, clean. It’s the cleanest city I’ve ever seen.”

She nodded. “Foreigners always say that.”

When the accident happened on April 26, 1986, 31 people died immediately. The nuclear power plant was near Pripyat, Ukraine, just 4 miles from the border. On April 26th the wind was blowing north. Seventy percent of the radiation fallout landed in Belarus.

The general public wasn’t informed of the accident until two days later, when the state radio station started playing classical music. Classical music: that’s how, they say, you know bad news is coming.

A rumor has haunted the country since then. It lives in flaking paint chips, in the stillness of apartment block stairwells, in the hushed moments around kitchen tables.

People say Moscow seeded the clouds that week in ‘86. Seeding is when you inject the sky with silver iodide to induce premature rainfall. It’s a very expensive and difficult process. After the accident, a radioactive cloud hung over the border between Belarus and Russia. They say the Kremlin was worried about it blowing their direction. They say it was to protect Moscow.

Most academic books I’ve read discredit the cloud-seeding thesis. They say it’s too fantastic, too complex. I’m sure the academics are right. It’s probably just a rumor, but Belarusians say it rained a lot that week.

VII.

I leaned against the train window. It was foggy with condensation.

“Good, old Bell-ahh-roos,” Sasha wiped his chin. “Nobody cares about Belarus.”

Culture Guides


 

About The Author

Sonya Bilocerkowycz

Sonya is currently on a Fulbright grant, teaching English in Belarus. She is an ethnic Ukrainian, originally from South Dakota.

  • http://www.PostSovietGraffiti.com/ PostSovietGraffiti

    #3! I bet that’s the lie. Worms in cookies? No!! I think that #6, #5, #2, and #4 are true.

    I enjoyed this article and I love Belarus very much (despite the endless rain that plagued my stay in Minsk, Brest, and the Puscha this past summer). 

    Thanks for sharing!

  • Borna

    What an amazing collection of stories. Love it. They all sound plausible to me though, guess you’re really good at this game. If I really had to pick one out, then I also think #3 is the lie.

  • http://www.katiegoingglobal.com/ Katie

    I spent a week and a half visiting Belarus earlier this year. Interesting article.

  • Priyanka kher

    Thoroughly enjoyed reading this. Was completely taken in by the stories and actually forgot that one of them was supposed to be a lie. You had me convinced, that’s for sure:)

  • Katalina

    The lie is that no one cares about Belarus, of course.

    • http://www.facebook.com/andy7panda Andrew Parfenov

      That is the most obvious truth out of all the facts provided :)

  • ANXNYER

    I visited Belarus for a few days in July, 2007. I had to visit my local Belarus Embassey to get a visa. I was probably the only person who ev er applied for a visa. No one there seemed to know what to do.
    I stayed at a Soviet era high rise hotel with probably 2-3 hundreed rooms. Every night I received a call front the front desk asking me if I wanted some female companionship.
    All of the police cars were new Chrysler 300′s. How many U.S. cities have U.S. made police cars? This may be because Chrysler and Mercedes had a relationship at that time.
    I had lunch at aTGIF. The meal and service were horrible. I’m sure that this restaurant had no connection with the TGIF chain.
    Young women wore extra short cut offs, fish net stockings and spike heels. This was during the day and they were walking with their children. Weird. 
    Stores, even a department store had vertually no window displays.
    Interesting place. Now that I think about it, I may go back in 2013. I love to see how cities change. 2012 vacation plans are set.

    • Vicki

      I have lived in Belarus for 20 years and sure the country has a lot of problems, especially when it come to the economy but please don’t post comments about our women and the way they dress. First of all it’s none of your business and I’d rather walk next to my child wearing fish nets than stuff him or her full of french fries and hamburgers. Our women have a sense of style and they shouldn’t apologize for it especially not to people like you who walks through life in a pair of sweatpants ,Ugg and a north face jackets. s. You should care more about yourself and your family and I’m pretty sure that you are far from perfect. Judging people is the worst quality there is. If you find Belarus that weird I would recommend that you don’t go back. 

      • http://www.facebook.com/andy7panda Andrew Parfenov

        Given that I really love well dressed women, I can’t deny that fishnet stockings you are talking about is usually a decoration to attract slovent men. Our society is still very traditional and envies such girls for their personal freedom and great opportunities so they have to call it “just the sense of style”. In a society where you don’t have to please some man to have a house and a good car, they would rather prefer cosy and convenient clothes.

  • Felicity Electric

    Evocative and sobering

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=29711223 Mat Masterson

    That was too amazing!

  • http://www.sweeneysays.com Sweeney

    This is beautiful.  Thank you.

  • http://twitter.com/AndrewBelarus Andrei Shcharbakou

    Hi! From Belarus )  Lukashenka – one big problem in Belarus. Only this man! 

  • qin

    I was born and live in Belarus, Minsk. Thanks for the article, it was a nice read and, what most important, it let me have that very impression I have while living here. 
    Its a dull soviet autocratic country, where young ppl leave it for good as soon as they graduate or even earlier, where a regular salary is 300-400$ a month with prices just a bit lower than european. Yes, it is so, don’t raise your brows)
    People live and work generally for food, as well as in Ukraine, Russian and other *stan countries. But that is just one side of the great octagon.
    The low level of life is spiced with an omnipresent paranoid propaganda about  concentration camps! in US, riots and western spies, that are everywhere and want to sell our motherland. 
    How come that I’m aware of all this, how come, that I still live here, understand what is going on and where it will eventually lead our country? I don’t know, I just go with my life, dreaming, that  one day I will live somewhere near Ontario or walk along the roads of Ohio, or just take shoots of Australian kangaroos. Some day, but not today.
    The biggest problem of Belarus is that 50-60% of ppl are poorly educated supporters of the reigning regime. We do have a dictator, yes, a man from the masses they call him. A charismatic latent psychopath everyone is scared of. But he is not the reason of our  dismay, it is the ppl who led him to power and trusted him. I should sadly conclude, that our ppl are uneducated rednecks, who care only for lesser things in life, thats why ”Young women wore extra short cut offs, fish net stockings and spike heels. This was during the day and they were walking with their children. Weird.@e05b94cbf00513e7f46cc4738bf44229:disqus ” made me smile. It is not style nor it is a custom, it is simple social underdevelopment we are experiencing. 
    I don’t have high hopes for Belarus, I can’t say if we end up being something like Libya, North Korea or other. I just want to leave it and start a new life somewhere near Ontario. 

  • Paulvermont2000

    This is a beautiful piece of writing. As a citizen of the country in question I enjoyed every line of it. Please keep writing Sonya. You can spread the word about the unspeakable violence that the government is doing to the human spirit here.  This is a priviledge that only a foreigner has because we – the citizens – are just silent prisoners of a dysfunctional culture.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Hannah-Pocock/1562580232 Hannah Pocock

    This is a beautiful collection of vignettes, and they flow together seamlessly.  Thank you!

  • alexb1111

    Come on! It’s not that bad in Belarus! The main problem is that people are scared of Lukashenko there and majority of them don’t want to do anything to make their life better. All I hear in blogs and opposition web sites is complaints about “how bad it is, but what can we do?”. Do something!! Go live somewhere else, if you don’t like it there, or go and work, find a way to make money – there are opportunities for it even in this country!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Anastasiya-Fomchyna/100001184990644 Anastasiya Fomchyna

    Each country has its problems. For Belarus it’s mostly
    political. But it doesn’t mean that it’s not worth visiting Belarus.

    You want to see just bad about this country. You can find
    lot of problems in the USA or Great Britain but don’t want to notice the most
    important part of Belarus– the people. Belarusians are very hospitable, kind,
    well educated people, always ready to help.

     You are not talking about the culture. There
    is a great old Ballet and Opera school, numerous theatres, art exhibitions,
    festivals. Belarusian language is one of the most melodic languages and you can
    see this in Belarusian tradition music.

    Unfortunately there are not so many old buildings (they were
    destroyed during the World Wars) or rare sights, but nature: lot of lakes and rivers, forests, national
    parks (especially Belovezhskaya Pushcha). There are plenty of opportunities for eco tourism.

    And the food. The belarusian
    cuisine is delicious; natural fresh ingredients, very good food quality…

    It’s not a reply for
    your article. It’s just my small try to show Belarus, another side.

    P.S. You will never
    like the foreign country until you want this. Try to understand the culture and
    history of this country and you will love Belarus like I do it

    • Trinity33

      yes, its not a reply, more like a piece of propaganda. This “culture” and “cuisine” you’re talking is childish nonsense, that is written in all our school books and vigorously fed to every single foreigner, asking “whatta hell is Belarus?”  
      Pretty sweet talk from someone, who lived in Belarus and now lives, wait for it…. California, lol. 
      The human hypocrisy knows no country boundaries. 

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Anastasiya-Fomchyna/100001184990644 Anastasiya Fomchyna

        Dear Trinity 33 ( sorry, I dont know your real name), I wrote it definitely not for you. This childish nonsense is the same like Miss Sonya’s article. And  it’s addressed to the foreigners who read it and was so lazy even to check the information in the Internet.
        P.S. you shouldn’t care where I live now. 
        Envy and wrath shorten the life. Take it easy!

    • http://www.facebook.com/andy7panda Andrew Parfenov

      So what do we both do abroad in this case, young lady? Waiting to graduate from a colledge and to use all those fancy knowledge and skills we’ve got back in Belarus? And how did it happen that those “very hospitable, kind,well educated people, always ready to help” have made such a mess of their own country?

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Anastasiya-Fomchyna/100001184990644 Anastasiya Fomchyna

        This mess made one person, not very good educated and definitely not a kind man
        Believe me I’ll find a way how to use my skills

  • Yuri

    I visited Belarus in 5 times, twice renting a flat there, which by the way, have been just as nice or better than mine in Manhattan. 
    I have shopped in the shops and dined in restaurants, both high-end and low. Never had I experienced shoddy products or insect-infested food. Although, I have had some bad service in restaurants and stores.I’ve traveled across the country, from Mogilev to Minsk to Grodno, so although I am no expert, I certainly have a fair bit of experience with Belarus and its people. I also keep very informed on the terrible political situation, which this article does not touch on and have been somewhat active in opposition events. I have many Belarusian friends there and here, in the US. Wages are low, work often scarce, the south is radioactive and the government, oppressive, so I know that life can certainly be difficult in Belarus, but what this article describes is Belarus as a living hell, which is certainly not the case. 

  • Vicki

    This article has about 5%truth to it. The only part that I agree with is the one about economic situation in Belarus. Everything else is a total lie. I don’t know where you found cookies full of warms when in my 20 years there I never came across anything like that. Maybe during the soviet times there was a shortage of produce in the stores but rest assured you can find anything your are looking for in the stores as long as you have the money to pay for it. Our food is delicious and made out of homegrown products for the most part, not full of pesticides like fruits and veggies in the US.
    Oh and about the girl that killed herself. First of all it happened in Russia and second, she was saved before the train came.
    Our women are too skinny? First of all they are not, they are perfect because they eat right and don’t stuff themselves full of cookies, fries and hamburgers.
    So before writing the article please check your facts and if it’s fictional then don’t make it sound like it’s the sad reality of Belarus, the country you obviously know nothing about.

    • http://www.facebook.com/andy7panda Andrew Parfenov

      Chapter III looks unfamiliar for me either as I have never came across anything more than milk went sour in a store, so worms sound even more werid :) 
      After all, food standards are rather high in Belarus: 1) they are based on old soviet state standard specifications which engaged much more natural products than we have today, 2) no one has balls to change it ’cause too little people run PRIVATE food maufactures big enough to oppose the Ministry and 3) which is the most important thing, the standards let greenhouses sell green-as-grass tomatoes for double price of those imported.
      So the choice is rather plain: 1) local green tomatoe with no pestecides (bought for currency on the world market, they could make it a real pome d’or, golden apple as they called it before), or 2) good looking tomatoe from Egypt full of nitrates for a reasonable price, or 3) realy good tomatoe from “babooshkas” in the market 2 months a year.

    • http://www.facebook.com/andy7panda Andrew Parfenov

      Вы, Вика, пошли самым простым путём: давайте скажем, что за границей тоже плохо, тогда свой домашний ужас не будет казаться таким ужасным. Но увы, не сюда, но отсюда ездят толпы туристов и почти такие же толпы эмигрантов, не отсюда, но оттуда происходит ваш телефон, автомобиль, компьютер и большая часть программ в нём, не там, но здесь люди пытаются не протянуть ноги на 300$  в месяц, едят всю жизнь картошку и макароны, превращаясь в 40 лет в плюшевых мишек, и растят свой огурец на даче в ущерб отдыху, путешествиям, профессиональному развитию. Какой ещё факт из статьи вы готовы оспорить? В червей я тоже не верю, и мы оба знаем, если умеем читать, что в статье автор оставил один заведомо ложный раздел.

      • Vicki

        Vy znaete moya mama nas rostila odna buduchi uchitelnicej muzyki, no makarony my ne eli, a eli myaso, potomu chto trudoljubivyj chelovek dob’etsya esli hochet. Da, v nashej strane trudnee chem v drugih, no eto ne znachit chto nuzhno vinit okruzhajushchih v svoih neudachah

        • Andy Panda

          С этим нельзя поспорить, вы несомненно правы. Только вот кто (я? вы? автор статьи?) и каких окружающих обвиняет в своих неудачах? :)   

        • http://www.facebook.com/andy7panda Andrew Parfenov

          That’s really good that you have your own experience and opinion. But if we return to the matter of my question, what other statements given in the article can you call “absolutely non-typical for Belarus”? Make sure they will amount 95% or you will appear a liar ;)

          • http://www.facebook.com/andy7panda Andrew Parfenov

            … just thought of my friend’s grandma, she once told us among other things “I was young in 50′s and we were raised up in the idea of obtaining knowledge and loving our country, such was the time… and when we had to choose between purchasing a book and a skirt, we chose the book for sure. much, much later I found out that in other countries you could usually afford both of these”
            The difference is that really witty and hardworking person in a normal country can afford a lot more than just buying meat for his kids. While you live only once, immigration seems a natural option for a man of that kind.

    • Guest

      There is nothing that says they are too skinny, simply that 1/3 of the women there could pass for ballerinas… which I would take as a compliment since ballerinas are supposed to be statuesque, beautiful and graceful, and thin, of course.  Also, remember, one of these 7 stories is supposed to be a lie (mimicking the 2 truths and 1 lie game she plays with her students), so, only 6 stories are true and one is a lie.  Perhaps the one about the bad food is the lie.  Also, these are her personal experiences (well, 6 of them are) and just because there may have been someone who told her something that wasn’t 100% true (because maybe they got their facts mixed up… as typically happens when things are passed on by word of mouth) doesn’t mean that these weren’t her true experiences.  This is a subjective piece, almost like a blog or excerpt from a memoir, not a scientific journal article.  

      • Vicki

        I don’t really care about where her experiences are coming from. I don’t like people posting something that insulting without checking facts.  I, as anyone else have a right to express my opinion and comment on something. No need to argue with me, my opinion is formed. Believe me I’m not the only one who feels this way about this article.
        I wonder how much you would like it if I insulted the country you were born in…

        • Guest

          I’m just think you should take something for what it is.  If this is how she has seen Belarus as while she has been living there, and this is what Belarusians among others have told her, then why are you so upset by it? It isn’t an attack on you personally.  If you want to write a piece from your own experiences that portray the US in a light that I might not see it, that is fine, because I am not defined by where I come from.  Maybe there is a language barrier? This piece is by no means caustic or brash in tone.  Inferring something that is not stated isn’t reading between the lines, it’s making an assumption that you might not be qualified to make.

          In that same breadth: The one student, Sveta clearly did not differentiate between Russia and Belarus as different foreign entities.  The other, Anya, didn’t say the girl died or that this happened in Belarus.  She said it happened at a train station, and she, like Sveta might not differentiate between Russian and Belarus.  The anecdote about the worms (not “warms”) in the cookies does make a generalized statement about the quality of the food in Belarus, simply that she had a stale batch of cookies.  I’ve had plenty of apples here that have had worms, but that by no means means every single piece of food from every source in the US is infested/stale/rotten/unhealthy.  So, please do remember, that this is from her point of view, and her experiences.  If you would like to write a piece “6 truths and a lie from the US” or one about Belarus from your experiences, please do.  It would be a much better form for critique than turning what is a collection of short stories into a critique on the state and people of a nation.  

          • Vicki

            Actually they say that the apples that warms find attractive are no good :) so if you had apples with warms at least you know it wasn’t socked with chemicals.There’s nothing suprising about apples having warms, it doesn’t mean they are bad. Now cookies with warms is something completely different. I have nothing to write about the US.and I don’t know why you would suggest that I should. It’s a wonderful country. The only thing I commented on was their veggies and fruits that are unfortunately not as tasty as the ones in Belarus.  
            Now if she talks about Belarus and then mentions a girl that killed herself (which she did NOT by the way) everyone would assume that she means it happened in Belarus unless it’s cleared up by the writer.
            Finally if the writer can’t take criticism he or she shouldn’t publish at all. 

          • Vicki

            Sorry I meant :
            Actually they say that the apples that warms DON’T  find attractive are no good :)

          • Guest

            I think you might have meant “worms,” not “warms.”  Warming is the action of heating something up where as worms are the invertebrate.  

          • Paulvermont2000

            I apologize for breaking into your conversation but you need to understand that Vicki is just a pretentious brat in denial who can’t come to terms with the fact that she comes from an underdeveloped dictatorship where life very closely resembles hell. As for the verisimilitude of fact, a 16-year-old girl did die in the Minsk subway on October 10, 2011. Here is an article in a Belarusian newspaper that gives the details of that tragedy –  http://kp.by/daily/25767.5/2752638/

          • Leo Wireman

             Well, according to that article the girl fell off on the tracks and tried to escape, but it was too late and she was squeezed between the train and a platform. Does it sound the same as “That girl at Pushkinskaya station? She jumped in front of the train. Only 16 years old.” ???

          • Paulvermont2000

            Yes, this is the late girl Sonya’s friend was referring to. The director of the Minsk subway denied the possibility of suicide because otherwise it wouldn’t reflect well on the country’s suicide rate stats (according to the WHO data Belarus ranks 5th globally by the number of suicides per 100,000 population. A few years ago Belarus ranked 2nd or 3rd and it didn’t look well in light of the government’s promises to build a “socially-oriented state”, so now suicides are registered as accidents nationwide). But some witnesses wrote on several internet forums that they saw the girl jump on the tracks in front of the coming train. Furthermore, in the article above you can see a picture of the girl sitting on railway tracks that had been taken a little over a month prior to the tragedy. That picture also points to the fact she had been contemplating suicide.

  • FishnetsRock

    Slimy Italians and Turks, LMAO:) How can we ‘tag’ Dutch men in Belarus…hm…let’s try CHEAP! like everywhere else!
    This article is not opinionated at all, just saying…

  • Sa-ne

    it was my bad dream

  • qwer

    ” Belarus will save the sniper”(local joke).

    And yet in my country (Belarus) in the majority of people do not speak the native language … including the so-called” President”. When
    you are aloud to talk to a man in public places, then invoke the
    suspicious glances of passers and a genuine interest in all sorts of
    Commissioners. Retrieved on itself.
    In short, I live in a society paranoid and” President”
    to direct.
    For some reason, google translator says the president of the word with a capital letter? Our President,”” does not deserve such a right in principle.
    So it goes.

  • sad2008x

    cancel

  • Termo_awer

      Vicki – this is one of the many KGB agents that are present on the forums on the internet and troll articles and user comments.

  • Anduuudee

    Бред Сивой коБылЫ

  • http://www.transatlanticsketches.com Kate Reuterswärd

    Wow! What an interesting post, and so well-written. I’ve been thinking about it for days, had to come back and comment. Looking forward to your next piece! 

  • http://twitter.com/us_capone John Cooper

    Sonya, thanks!
    Thank you very much from Belarus!
    We, belarussian people, say to you – THANKS!
    For the truth about us!

  • trampampam

    Thanks for an amazing article! I hope people you were communicating with won’t become victims of the current regime. Anyway think twice before posting the truth.

  • qin

    the most hilarious part here is the commentary about “Belarusian women with fishnets and high-heeled shoes, walking in daylight with children”. The quintessence of all that was said and not. 
    There is no need to argue, I can just walk out into the streets and look around?
    The real problem as I see it, is a complete lack of information. People over 40 don’t use internet, and there is no other source of alternative opinion, most ppl have never been abroad and simply don’t know how ppl live. The seniors always tend to tell you “Well, when we were young, we didn’t have this or that and we were very happy” after that goes a long tirade how sweet were they living in the USSR. As funny as it may sound, nobody really gives a chit nowadays, about 80% of young 18-30 ppl are potential immigrants,  those who are just less intellectually advanced repeat, what our TV says: “spies, western conspiracy theories, american grants, traitors”, others get the fuck out of here)
    What I see, is an everyday legalized government racketeering of unaware ppl.(Guys, can you imagine that the president signed a benefit provision decree, which allows numerous benefits to all members of force structures, not teachers, doctors or mere ppl! )
    But yes, you are right, no one cares, why should they, if ppl let it go and never learn. Why should anybody care for us, if we don’t even protest? 
    Like I said, I don’t give a chit for this country, as harsh as it may sound, I’ll be happy packing my bags.

  • Guest

    Sonya, I’m really
    ashamed for you. You are a hypocritical person who, despite what you write
    here, has never really made an attempt to learn anything about the country. Why
    haven’t you said a word about the conditions you were provided with? About all
    the help and hospitality you were offered?

     

    Unfortunately,
    working in education you have no broad mind and ability to see things unbiased.
    I don’t understand, what motivated you to write this and what you are trying to
    prove. 

     

    When in the USA, I
    saw stinky Americans wearing dirty baggy clothes, speaking English with
    outrageous grammar mistakes, and buying yet another pair of jeans, acting the
    most arrogant way possible though having no knowledge of the simpliest things,
    and I would never think that every American is like that. 

    “A
    sex tourism sort of thing”… Well, during my life in Belarus (and that would
    be about 30 years now) I’ve never had any offer or even the slightest hint of
    that kind. You, on the other hand, got to know about it during your several
    months here. I suggest, you reconsider you social circle. 

     

    Did you want to
    escalate the tensions between the two countries and ruin the efforts of those
    who devote their time to the improvement of the relations?..

     

     I’m deeply surprised that such a silly act
    comes from a person who educates.

     
     

    • trampampam

      And what exactly is not truthful? Every day these things happen to us, we do not notice that. No sex tourism? Okay, like you I’ve never had such offers, too, but go some day to the club ( Do zari for example) and you’ll see these whores (can’t write girls) ready to do everything when they hear men speaking foreign language. Why all oppositional journalists can write anything they want, of course in negative colours, but if somebody not from here – war till the end? Double standards. Can’t you understand that are things that really impressed her? Every time I come back home from holidays or trips I’m shocked, probably even more than Sonya. 98% comments on charter97.0rg are negative because we’re afraid of the truth. Yeah, most belarusians are hospitable, always ready to help and blah blah blah. It’s really wonderful we haven’t lost our kindness, dignity, face etc. but there’s also another side of the coin!
      If you don’t like this ugly truth – write yours.

      • Guest

        Уважаемая трампампам. Пишу по-русски, чтобы у вас не возникло сложностей с восприятием информации. 
        Любой адекватный и образованный человек понимает, что в каждой стране есть свои проблемы и сложности. В моём комментарии отсутствует указание на безоблачную ситуацию в нашей стране, но мне мерзко, когда человек, пробывший здесь несколько месяцев,  делает обобщения, далёкие от правды, а неудовлетверённые жизнью безвольные граждане бросаются в ноги с экзальтированным “Спасибо!”.
        Вы называете девушек whores. Скажите, а что конкретно вы сделали для улучшения их морального поведения? Возможно, вы считаете, что в США все чисты и невинны? Простите, но неужели ВСЕ девушки в нашей стране готовы прыгнуть в постель к иностранцу? Да, к сожалению, глупых девочек достаточно, но их стоит только пожалеть. У вас личная жизнь утроена? Потому что иначе вы бы так остро не реагировали.
        Ваши сведения безнадёжно устарели, особенно эта избитая фраза про запуганных белорусов. Какую правду они боятся сказать или услышать? Вы чего боитесь? 
        К сожалению, в вашем комментарии изо всех щелей сквозит обида и ущемлённость.

        • trampampam

          Вот это да. Не знала, спасибо за диагноз и заботу. С личной жизнью у меня всё ОК на 100%. ”
          делает обобщения, далёкие от правды” Что конкретно в статье неправда? Взрыва не было или радиации? Булки с кусками кирпича как-то мне попадались. Возможно, насчёт шоколадок за отметку неправда. Не думаю, что можно так обнаглеть.
          Я не называю девушек whores. У меня не поднимается рука, написать о whores, что они девушки. Я не служитель церкви, чтобы спасать их заблудшие души. ”Простите, но неужели ВСЕ девушки в нашей стране готовы прыгнуть в постель к иностранцу?” Прощаю. Безусловно, есть девушки, которые в клуб приходят потанцевать, но тех, кто приходит снять иностранца, больше. Важное замечание: смотря какой клуб. Вот здесь обобщение о девушках сделали как раз Вы. “Ваши сведения безнадёжно устарели, особенно эта избитая фраза про запуганных белорусов. Какую правду они боятся сказать или услышать? Вы чего боитесь?” Да неужели?! Я искренне рада за Вас, что Вы не знаете, как это, когда к тебе приходят домой эти уроды, роются в вещах, тащат куда-то среди ночи. Когда ты сделаешь всё что угодно, лишь бы не тронули семью. Лишь в этом моё безволие. И я от всей души желаю, чтобы Вы этого никогда и не узнали. 

  • trampampam

    That’s a pity you are leaving. And to my point of view you shouldn’t write a letter to charter97.0rg.

  • Anonymous

    Keep writing, you have a very natural style with all the right little observations along the way. You are ready to start a novel, so now you will need to figure out where a central story is, and then write a lot more until you see something coming into focus, then revise until the sculpture is there for all to see. I am an author, this is the only time I have ever written advice to another writer, but I want to encourage you because you have what it takes.

  • Evgeniy Smoley

    не смешно(((

  • Hanna Zanina

    A lie is probably about cookies. Never got a cookie with warms in my life, nor anything else.
    Anyway, thank you for the article, now more people can learn about Belarus.

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