Invisible treasure of Belarus is its people. There are really unique persons among them, for example, Ivan Kruk, Rector of the Institute of Culture of Belarus.
Under his leadership, the institute provides educational, as well as scientific and research, information-analytical, organisational and methodological work on the study, development and forecasting of development of culture and the priorities of the state cultural policy. Ivan Ivanovich is a tireless researcher of culture of his native land. He travelled to the most remote corners of our land, gathering the crumbs of the life history of the ancestors. Books have been created from this vast mosaic. In books, he generously shares the accumulated knowledge with anyone, who seeks to understand the mysteries of folk wisdom. In addition, he also treats people.
Ivan Ivanovich, from where do you have such a craving for the traditions and rituals?
I think I was born with it. As they say, these are the genes. I was born in the village, so I want to wake up people’s memory of their ancestors and family tree. The role of ‘restoring’ memory plays a ritual practice. For example, let’s take ‘Dziady’ (Forefathers) custom in autumn. Everyone gathers at the memorial table. What for? To raise a glass? This can be done on any other day. We don’t know how to remember in the right way those who went to another world. Just imagine, on this day of remembrance, everyone should sit at the table in the order, as our grandparents and great-grandparents did. A boy and a girl, for example, should sit down oppositely, so as not to violate the principle of ‘Don`t rush head over heels’, which means do not rush to escape to another world. After all, this is the logic of life, when the old go to heaven first, not the young. The ceremonies conceal the deepest philosophy. So, I see my mission as to return respect for the family. Everyone admires Radziwill family. We have the bread, called Radzivilovsky and the castle complex has been revived, where tourists come from everywhere... All this is wonderful, but each of us has their own family and roots. Maybe, it was not so rich, but villagers respected it.
You should agree that not everyone wants to know the times, in which we can’t return.
You are right. Everyone has their own goal in life. Someone prefers to buy bread and other food in a supermarket while others enjoy baking it using the great-grandmother’s old recipe. It’s wonderful if family members share a recipe from generation to generation, and it is even ‘seasoned’ with some history. For example, in one of the areas of Belarus in the old days, when the dough was made for Easter to bake a loaf, people stroked it. What for? It turns out for a husband not to beat his wife. Remarkably, life died down in the house during cooking: it was quiet, no one could slam the door, as if the dough falls down and a year will be unsuccessful. And then it was checked. You should see these powerful links.
Probably, it’s better to keep up with the times than to stay in the past?
I’m not against modern rhythm. However, how do we fit into this rhythm? Of course, one can reject everything and accept all new. Will we be interesting for the world then? The world will ask where is something initially Belarusian, your heart and soul? This is why Belarusian culture should be open for the world and the world applauds it. When our folk groups perform overseas, they impress with their uniqueness and archaic character. I’m sure that we won’t dance lambada as they dance it Brazil. We have different mentality and different expression. We are an organic part of our nature, so we have smooth round dances, and you should notice that movements are soft, flowing...
Yes, we have borrowed from Europe Halloween, St. Valentine`s Day and young people have fun these days. But what have we given Europe instead?
Everything is good in its season...
It is absurd, but the Belarusian flax is processed in France. We also know how to do this, but no matter how good our products are, it is inferior in quality to those countries that have more experience in this area. So, again, we have to be unique to the world in what we are really original. These are our traditions and rituals...
It turns out that our mentality shouldn’t be changed and the Belarusians shouldn’t be criticised for being slow?
We shouldn’t criticise anyone. This is a priori. Belarusian mentality is from the God and from the land, where we were born and live. As for the slowness, we can recall the saying: haste makes waste.
What is the peculiarity of the Belarusian mentality?
For example, a guest from a nearby village comes to you. We invite the guest to the table, freeing the place of honour. We give this place not to the grandfather — the head of the family — but the guest. Of course, it`s a good tradition, but it’s also important not to forget about yourself, or everything will happen like in the Belarusian fairy tale about a fox and a hare. The hare has made a carriage and drives off. The fox asks to put a paw, to give a lift. “Are you crazy! It will be hard!” the hare outrages. The fox asks again, “Just one!” Then she put her second paw and then she jumped on the carriage! The hare — out! And she drives, like a general.
Do you want to say that this tolerance may be harmful?
The sense of measure should be in everything.
What about church traditions?
People adapt them for themselves. It was as follows: a grandmother went to the church on Christmas, although she did not know, who Jesus Christ is. And then came home and celebrated Kolyady as her parents celebrated. This may refer to everything.
Probably, you’ve faced several times that something eastern is hanging on the wall near the Orthodox icon in a house. What’s your attitude towards this?
I have not only seen the eastern attributes next to the icons, but even asked the owners what for they need such a mixture of ‘genres’. The reply was that in this way the owners tout happiness in the house.
Probably, Belarusians also know how to tout happiness in their house. Is your book The Golden Rules of Folk Culture dedicated to this topic?
There are a lot of Belarusian variants of touting happiness. Few people write and tell about this. A few years ago, I entered the central bookstore and saw a lot of literature on Feng Shui, Yoga... So, I decided to write the book, entitled ‘The Golden Rules of Folk Culture’. I described in details each day of the year: what to do and what not to do. For three years, the book was reprinted eight times, and the circulation stood at 25,000 copies, so I am very pleased with this.
Man of letters
Is it now in demand?
Oh, yes. Everyone uses it, as it tells us that Belarusians are not worse than the Japanese, Indians... Belarusians, like any other people, are ‘mounted’ in the nature and in social relations, while boasting their ancient culture. For example, I am proud that there’re modern young people nowadays who want to get married in a national style. Young people are attracted to the knowledge while they are searching for a hint in book; yet there’re currently few of these.
You also have other books, which are actively sold nowadays?
Alas, not all. For example, the book ‘The Symbolism of the Belarusian Culture’ can’t be found anywhere else, it`s all sold out. For three years it had three reissues. For Belarus it was an ‘explosion’ — the first book with a theme. I also published four volumes dedicated to the Belarusian national calendar. I re-released for the fourth time the book, entitled ‘The Wheel of Time: Traditions and Modernity’. There is also a monograph entitled ‘Eastern Slavonic Fairy Tales about Animals: Images and Composition’. I also worked with pleasure on the book ‘Belarusian Wedding in the Space of Traditional Wedding Culture’.
What brought you to traditional medicine?
In 1992, my life took a big drama. Due to unsuccessful training I injured my spine. For six months I couldn’t walk, but refused from the operation. One day, my friends took me to the village to an old woman... For forty minutes she did what professors could not do in six months, and then this granny gave me the ‘secrets’ of traditional healing.
So you trust the sorceress, do you?
I can’t say that you can address everyone, but there are real nuggets of healing. I personally have travelled all over Belarus and met with hundreds of old women. Now I know who is who.
How an ignorant man may know whom they should trust and whom not?
In such cases intuition helps. If you turn to me, I’ll tell you what to do.
What is the reason of such a growing interest in alternative medicine?
I think people are tired of differentiation according to the principle: a dentist, an ophthalmologist, a hepatologist... Yes, I’m now here responsible for your eyes, but the fact that you currently have a pain in your heel is of no my concern! What we fall ill we usually say that we’re upset, as if a musical instrument. Meanwhile, the soul, body, and spirit have crumbled. What should we become in order to return to a harmonious state?
That’s right. This is my favourite word. Healers exist for this purpose. So, for me the question what to cure is of minor importance. No matter what hurts a person: an eye or a head. The reason is vital why all of a sudden they are ‘out of order’, as is the human aura. Everything is considered in the complex.
Do you apply knowledge of Belarusian folk traditions in medical practice?
I’m more telling about them.
Interviewed by Alisa Krasovskaya
Author of golden rules
[b]Invisible treasure of Belarus is its people. There are really unique persons among them, for example, Ivan Kruk, Rector of the Institute of Culture of Belarus. [/b]Under his leadership, the institute provides educational, as well as scientific and research, information-analytical, organisational and methodological work on the study, development and forecasting of development of culture and the priorities of the state cultural policy. Ivan Ivanovich is a tireless researcher of culture of his native land. He travelled to the most remote corners of our land, gathering the crumbs of the life history of the ancestors. Books have been created from this vast mosaic. In books, he generously shares the accumulated knowledge with anyone, who seeks to understand the mysteries of folk wisdom. In addition, he also treats people.