Brest lamplighter perceived as visitor from past times

Victor Kirisyuk is no magician but, on touching a button on his jacket, the dreams of city residents tend to come true

By Nadezhda Ivanenko

Each evening, Mr. Kirisyuk — an electrician boasting over 30 years of experience — lights kerosene lanterns along pedestrian Sovetskaya Street in Brest. The tradition appeared two years ago and has already become the calling card for the city on the River Bug. Local residents and tourists gather to see this romantic show; it’s even said that touching the button of the lamplighter’s jacket will make your dreams come true. Mr. Kirisyuk is confident that realising our innermost wishes requires human will rather than magic but, as another seeker of happiness touches his button, he smiles, allowing them to believe.

“When I learnt that I’d be a lamplighter, I could hardly believe it; there were over 70 candidates for the post, but, for some reason, I was chosen,” notes Mr. Kirisyuk, still rather surprised.

When he was younger, he served several years as an electrician on a submarine, before repairing street lighting. Two years ago, he transformed into a romantic lamplighter on the eve of Brest’s 990th anniversary.

He is known everywhere, wherever he goes, even when dressed in other clothes. People greet him like an old friend, asking after his health. However, the most popular question is how he manages to work all year round without weekends, in any weather.

Moreover, the process is always the same; those watching know exactly when to wait for their favourite character and what to expect. Mr. Kirisyuk appears in Sovetskaya Street at a certain definite time, relating to sunrise and sunset. At present, he extinguishes the lanterns in the morning (at 5.30am) and returns in the evening (at 8.50pm) to light them again. It’s already a tradition that when the last, seventeenth lantern is lit, the city’s lights are immediately switched on.

The Brest lamplighter is also known abroad, with many foreigners especially visiting the city to take pictures with this representative of the rarest profession. Tourists from across Europe, Canada and, even, the South African Republic, arrive. Adults and children alike watch him with great delight.

“Everyone thanks us that such a beautiful tradition — unrivalled worldwide — has appeared in Brest,” asserts Mr. Kirisyuk. Many invite him to their cities and towns, which have no lamplighter. Little children often ask him for permission to use his ladder to light the kerosene lanterns themselves. He then has to find kind words to explain why it’s not possible; it’s too high — more than 1.2m. However, he allows them to stand on the first step, which brings them great delight and pleasure.

“I always have reserve fuel with me,” he tells us. In summer, lamps can actually run for two nights on one fuel reserve, since the hours of darkness are shorter; in winter, more kerosene is needed.

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