Alexander Lukashenko emphasises that Belarus’ major creative projects have brought it to the centre of European cultural life
Speaking at a ceremony to bestow his ‘Spiritual Revival’ and special Presidential prizes on the country’s most talented and self-sacrificing individuals, he noted that their contribution enriches our moral standards, spiritual kinship, glorious historical legacy and deep respect for traditions, which bind us as a society.
The Head of the State underlined, “For over a century, philosophers have been arguing over which has priority: our spiritual or physical needs. Today, looking around this hall, in which the cream of Belarusian intelligentsia has gathered, I can’t help but ask myself the same eternal question. Undoubtedly, our material needs must be fulfilled but we hold them within us, which is hard to describe: some divine spark or spiritual fire. It inspires us to feel and think, love and suffer,
dare and create.”
Mr. Lukashenko continued, “Man cannot live by bread alone. Even the powerful empires of ancient times fell once they lost the ideals, morals and faith, which bound them. Such treasures transform a population into a nation; a place of residence into a homeland.”
According to the President, Belarusians have always praised the power of the word over brute force, bringing forth not aggressors or enslavers but enlighteners, scientists, artists and poets. He stressed that the Belarusian people have survived historical catastrophes while retaining a strong legacy of tales, monuments, traditions and songs. Our nation has not dissolved in the sands of time but has kept its identity by cherishing heroism and honouring its ancestors.
Mr. Lukashenko mentioned that the holiday of Christmas has become a symbol of revival in contemporary Belarus, with the return to century-old values which have shaped our historical path.
Our spirituality, art and culture are our lifeblood, giving us strength to live,” the President asserts. “As such, the state has always supported creativity and talent and will continue on this path, nurturing new generations, so that our creativity never dies. We wish to help each of you, the few endowed with a special gift, making your dreams come true.”
According to the Head of State, 2012 saw wonderful examples of the revival and blossoming of culture. Nesvizh palace and park estate reopened after huge renovations, while the Kupala Theatre was also rebuilt and the new Museum of Great Patriotic War History opened its doors for the first time. Belarus is becoming a European centre of culture, hosting major international festivals, exhibitions and artistic projects covering all genres: from folk crafts to classical works and the avant-garde.
Mr. Lukashenko believes that our young artistes’ victories at prestigious contests bring glory and pride to our country. He underlines, “The most important task is to give us a sense of the meaning and value of life. Culture and spirituality guide society’s attitudes towards work, our children, our fellow man and, of course, towards our Fatherland. There’s no freedom without culture. Where moral barriers are absent, freedom degrades into destructive power and anarchy. We are only truly free if we enjoy self-discipline.”
“We, Belarusians, shouldn’t allow ourselves to lose our identity or faithfulness to our heart, as these define the spiritual code of our nation,” continued the President of Belarus. He is convinced that cultural development should be expanded to embrace innovative ideas, encouraging competition and respect for creative freedom, since these are powerful tools of progress.
“We are firmly against political motifs entering into the artistic sphere; barriers should never appear in this way,” the Head of State underlines. He believes that we are shaped by our cultural environment, so must take care to ensure that our children are raised in a society, which reflects our deepest values.
Mr. Lukashenko added, “We’ll always support those who use their creative talent to promote patriotism. Belarusian culture should inspire us morally, forming the foundations of our nation’s spiritual identity. The Bible says that a town is built on the righteous; in the same way, a nation is built on its heroes. Today, we honour those who can be rightly called heroes of our time. They are real enthusiasts, who never fail to help those most in need.”
“The laureates of the ‘Spiritual Revival’ award include doctors from Gomel’s Centre for Marriage and Family Matters, who help women become mothers. The Director of Radoshkovichi boarding school, who has acted as a father to dozens of orphans, has also been awarded, alongside those responsible for restoring priceless historical treasures and clergymen who have dedicated their lives to charitable works. Thank you for having such generous hearts,” said the President.
Last year was the Year of Books, with writers awarded for their love of literature and promotion of our national culture.
Masters from the National Academic Bolshoi Opera and Ballet Theatre and from the Theatre-Studio of Film Actors were awarded for vivid adaptations of Belarusian literary works to the stage and screen. Meanwhile, staff from the National Library of Belarus and from the Yanka Kupala State Literary Museum were also recognised for their considerable contribution to preserving and promoting our literary legacy. The President told them, “The country appreciates your work and talent.”
The Head of State congratulated everyone on their awards, emphasising that they are worth more than money alone, “Thanks to these awards, all Belarus will know of the achievements of the laureates; you’ll become an example to young people.”
We also congratulate the ‘Spiritual Revival’ award winners and those given the special Presidential prize for culture and arts. Their self-sacrifice, sincerity and modesty are the inspiration to us all. They are our contemporaries and Belarus is proud of them!
Vocation calls us to good works
Vitaly Kulpeksha, Director of the Caritas Charity Catholic Society religious mission of the Roman-Catholic Church’s Vitebsk Eparchy, has two degrees: one agricultural and one legal. In 2003, he was invited to Vitebsk to become the Eparchial Department’s administrative assistant. Then, in 2007, the Bishop of the Vitebsk Eparchy, Vladislav Blin, appointed him a director of the Caritas religious mission (translated from Latin as ‘mercy’). Mr. Kulpeksha is a secular believer but is convinced that the most important quality is a desire to do good.
“We don’t even ask our volunteers whether they are followers of any particular faith. We have just five paid employees in the Vitebsk Region, who ensure that donations by individuals and organisations reach people in need of assistance: those who are unwell, the elderly and orphans. We hold summer camps for handicapped children and their parents as well as recuperative trips for children to Poland and the Czech Republic. We also search for foster carers for children from Belarusian families on low incomes. It’s lovely to have our work praised at such a high level. The restoration of the tradition of charity work in Belarus is wonderful, since it’s far more satisfying to give than to take,” asserts Mr. Kulpeksha.
By Sergey Golesnik
Old fame likes new one
Natalia Neifeld, 25, has been the director of the Dribin District Local History and Folk Museum for just four months so modestly gives credit for the special Presidential prize to her whole staff and, especially, her predecessor, Yelena Rebkovets. It’s easy to see that she is devoted her job, as she tells us, “Dribin has been long known for its felt making. Since the 19th century, our felt makers have created hand-made felt boots for sale locally, as well as to neighbouring districts and the Smolensk Region. The secrets of the craft were passed down from generation to generation and a secret felting language was even invented. Over time, the number of master craftsmen has dwindled, as it’s no easy task to create felt boots. Accordingly, we’re restoring knowledge of this unique craft at our museum. I can now make felt beads but am yet to master felt boot making — although I’d love to. Anything made by hand is valuable, being unique. We’ll continue to promote felt making, which has been given the status of a historical and cultural treasure of Belarus. We also hope that Belarusian felt making will become registered on the UNESCO List.”
By Olga Kislyak
The Mother Superior of Grodno’s St. Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Stavropegial Nunnery, Gavriila, tells us that her work to revive the Orthodox church on the site of the St. Prechistenskaya’s Church, which existed in the 12th century, is the result of her divine calling. In the early 1990s, as an ordinary nun, she did the seemingly impossible in persuading the region’s leadership to transfer the nunnery into believers’ hands.
Mother Gavriila recollects, “In the 1960s, the nunnery’s possessions were expropriated and the building used to house a branch of DOSAAF (Volunteer Society for Co-operation with the Army, Aviation, and Fleet), where motorcycles were repaired. In 1977, the building was transferred to the Republican Museum of Atheism, with concerts and exhibitions held inside. A piano stood at the original altar place. Twenty years ago, we received the opportunity to restore the community. The first Christmas mass was attended by just 15 people, including the priest and choir but, this year, there was not a spare seat to be had. At present, 16 nuns live at Grodno’s St. Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Stavropegial Nunnery. We’ve opened Grodno’s first Sunday school, teaching around 100 children. I accept the ‘Spiritual Revival’ award with gratitude and joy and will continue to place other’s needs above my own. For a nun, the most vital aspect is to pray and assist others.”
By Katerina Charova
The Deputy Director of Belrestavratsiya JSC, Sergey Drushchits, is an absolute authority among restorers. He is a person of few words, preferring action, and has worked tirelessly to restore various architectural sites to their former glory. Among these pearls is Nesvizh Palace, which was completed to a tight schedule, with each detail preserved authentically.
“The unique project is a credit to our creative team of builders, engineers and artists, who share the ‘Spiritual Revival’ award. It’s vital for the state to fund the restoration of cultural monuments, despite difficult economic conditions. Nesvizh Palace has been registered on UNESCO’s World Cultural Heritage List, putting Belarus on the map. Last year, it was visited by almost 500,000 people. Naturally, the inflow of tourists opens up new opportunities for the further development of the town’s infrastructure, while bringing jobs and additional revenue for the budget. We still have works to complete, such as the landscaping of the grounds around the palace,” notes
By Viktar Andrjev
For the sake of future generations
Over the last five years, the child mortality rate from birth defects has fallen five-fold in the Gomel Region, largely thanks to the work of Gomel’s Regional Medicine and Genetic Diagnostics Centre, which also offers advice on marriage and family matters. Chief doctor Oleg Krivo-lapov admits that reducing the mortality rate is the Centre’s foremost aim.
“It’s a huge honour to receive the ‘Spiritual Revival’ award, since it recognises the work of all Belarusian doctors in reducing child mortality and disability. It particularly recognises our own staff, whose institution celebrated its 20th birthday in 2012. With state funding, we’ve been able to modernise, using both simple and high-tech methods to ensure babies’ health. Our key task is to provide families with the most complete and exact information on the future health of their child, at the earliest stage. We’ve seen much success, since our region’s level of infant mortality from birth defects is one of the lowest in the country. We plan to introduce mass biochemical screening of birth and chromosomal defects for each mother in the Gomel Region, to allow them access to full genetic knowledge on their baby,” notes Mr. Krivolapov.
By Vera Dromova
History interlaced with fates
Several years ago, Anatoly Cheboganov was known as a successful entrepreneur and a patron of arts. Now, he’s also known as a serious researcher, being a member of the Union of Writers of Belarus and a corresponding member of the Academy of Russian Philology. His Presidential prize is perhaps the crown of his career.
After compiling his own family tree two decades ago, he continued his research, looking at several noble families from Belarus, revealed across volumes of his I am Your Son series. These explore the country’s history over the last five centuries, through the lives of certain people. He spends all his free time in such research, such is his enthusiasm.
He notes, “I was lucky to find new documents about the heroes of the 1812 Patriotic War and about the Chairman of the Institute of Belarusian Culture, Stepan Nekrashevich. I plan to research as many families as I can, releasing 2-3 volumes of family trees annually. Moreover, I plan to set up a fund to support genealogical studies. If a special team were founded, we’d be able to work on many more families, which would be a significant contribution to the history of our homeland.”
By Ivan Ivanov
At soul’s dictation
Since 2003, Igor Dyatlovsky, who comes from a family of teachers, has headed Radoshkovichi boarding school for orphans and children left without parental care. He followed in his father’s footsteps, graduating from the Minsk Pedagogical Institute in 1991 (named after Gorky and now called the Maxim Tank Belarusian State Pedagogical University). By 2005, he had turned the school into a full secondary establishment and had removed the dormitories, installing a new boiler house and medical block with swimming pool and sauna. Keeping the children fit and healthy is, of course, a priority. On site is a dentist, as well as physiotherapy and massage rooms, a phyto-bar, facilities for therapeutic exercise and a steam room. There are even ski and cycle tracks, an ice hockey rink and tennis courts.
According to Mr. Dyatlovsky, his aim is to make the children feel at home. Accepting our congratulations, he noted briefly, on his way to a meeting, “This is a great honour for me but don’t ask me about my merits. I simply love what I do and put my soul into it…”
By Alla Martinkо
Creativity must never die
[b]Alexander Lukashenko emphasises that Belarus’ major creative projects have brought it to the centre of European cultural life[/b]Speaking at a ceremony to bestow his ‘Spiritual Revival’ and special Presidential prizes on the country’s most talented and self-sacrificing individuals, he noted that their contribution enriches our moral standards, spiritual kinship, glorious historical legacy and deep respect for traditions, which bind us as a society.