Deltiologist, ascetic, enlightener
About what did our predecessors think and what did they feel? How did people perceived life in Belarus in the beginning of the ХХth century and which were the images of towns and places? — a unique exhibition of post cards tells about this, It is taking place in the museum of the Great Patriotic War, which is situated in Minsk. Its author is a prize winner “For spiritual renaissance” Vladimir Likhodedov, who has recently published a book-album “In search of the lost: the history of Belarus in the old post cards”. Today he is a guest of the editors office “Беларусь. Belarus”
I have always been admiring people, who don’t only collect, but also enlighten the citizens. I am far from collecting any subjects of antiquity. I confess, that I have never experienced such tremor before, which, according to the admirers of the past, appears each time, when they receive some unique thing — the witness of past йpoques. I prefer real and modern life wits its vehement rhythm. I couldn’t suppose, that, viewing old post cards, I would feel something like excitement. This awakening of interest to the times past occurred, when I turned over the pages of Vladimir Likhodedov’s book “In search of the lost”, presentation of which had recently taken place in the public press-centre of the House of press.
As it is known, each person has his own period of time, when his historical consciousness awakens. Somebody experiences tremor from contact with antiquity in his youth, the other one, just like me, is captured by a theatre and prefers contact with nature to research of the ancient castles, basilicas and temples. Besides, there are many such objects in Belarus, which are gradually revived and restored. When I traveled on foot along the National border, I signed with relief, when, for example, an excursion in the ruins of Golshansky castle of Sapega princes or in deserted cemeteries came to an end. Well, ruins are ruins, I thought.
It seems, that my acknowledged, as it is called, inclusion to the history, began from the moment, when in the section of a book by Likhodedov “Grodno region” under one of the post cards I read an inscription: Radun. Voronovsky district. 1916. There was a deserted snowy street on the post card, on its both sides there were grey wooden houses, three of them were painted pink, the horsed sledge rush along the street, near a dog runs.… Everything is simple and aesthetic. An inelaborate post card reminded me of my provincial childhood, when the winter was real, frosty, with huge icicles, dangling from the roofs of the houses, with snow, crisping under felt boots.… I remembered, when in 1996 we went along the frontier line through Radun, and there were Gypsies behind us, which wanted to invite capital journalists (even in the beginning of the century the Gypsies lived in Radun).
Of course, 100 years is not a long term for the history. But there are no traces of those houses from Likhodedov’s post card, and favourite colours of Belarusians for houses’ painting are primarily sky blue, yellow, lilac in combination with white and one colour with the other. But there were pink houses (I remember only several such houses) in Radun. Brest, Gomel, Grodno, Vitebsk regions and others.… Turning the leaves of a book, I recognized places, where I travelled by foot, and for the first time I acutely felt: the past doesn’t disappear, it is always with us. I thought then: My colleague, a journalist, a regional ethnographer, the author of texts to the album “In search of the lost” Ales Karliukevich. (Besides, in our magazine he continues the cycle of his publications to Likhodedov’s post cards in the column “Retro/in search of the lost”). So, to my question: what is it necessary to understand to acknowledge yourself in historical space? he answered: “Many people understand it with their brains. But to understand deeply, how necessary the past is for us, you should firstly feel, you need some initial push, emotional personal flash, enlightenment, when you feel: here it is, I have finally understood…”. Yes, in this sense Likhodedov’s album represents great value. I suppose, that many people will be able to join the history of their country by acquiring a book (besides, this is a wonderful gift-book). Vladimir hopes for it very much.
— I would like our people, especially youth, to think not only who we are, what for do we live, not to turn away from the past. All nations, which don’t remember their history, disappear. I travelled Europe all over and saw, how people in different countries try to preserve and restore their history. This is how the relation between generations is preserved. Our history is very rich.
Over the waves
of Dvina and Polota
Wherefrom did it all begin?
As it often happens, when destiny throws up different life orienting points, a 14-years’ old teenager, a pupil of one of the schools of the ancient Belarusian town Polotsk Volodja Likhodedov once was carried away by post cards and, not knowing this, he once and for all made his choice. Probably, this happens like in fairy tales, where the hero can go different ways: if you go this way, you will find happiness and glory… Of course, Volodja didn’t think about fairy tales. Since childhood he, according to his words, was a realist, he simply bought his first post card with a view of Polotsk in a town club of collectors, where he came by the example of his classmates: some of them collected badges, some — stamps, some — match labels. “What did I feel then?” — I ask. “I didn’t feel anything”.
— Don’t believe him, he is too modest. He is in love with his Polotsk, — says Karliukevich, — he can speak about his native town for hours, say, about its magnificent temples, the rivers Dvina and Polota. Besides, in school, where Volodja studied, there is a cadet class, and he presented them the reproductions of his post cards, dedicated to cadets. Probably, this is pleasant to patron something. Volodja is in love with his post cards, this is a serious business for him.
— And after the first post card I wanted to have the views of each Belarusian town, — says Vladimir, — this is how collecting started.
Since then thirty years passed. Likhodedov graduated from the Academy of Physical Culture (then it was called the Institute of Physical Culture — author’s note), worked a hockey trainer, played hockey himself, participated in international contests. And later he carried on business. But he didn’t forget about collecting, continuing meeting the collectors in different towns.
— I visited Vitebsk, Brest and Minsk… There were town, republican and national meeting of collectors. They took place in Riga, Tallinn, Leningrad, Moscow. On the whole, now the collectors communicate with the help of Internet and exchange information, and then, if it is necessary, they meet personally. Recently I had visited Minsk club of collectors, but I didn’t acquire new post cards.
What represents Likhodedov’s collection? On the whole, these are post cards with the views of Belarusian towns and places, where people and sights are depicted. There are post cards with the emblems of provinces and maps. Vladimir explains, that these are so-called view post cards. There are also others, which are dedicated to holidays — Christmas, Easter, New Year.
— I would say without mock modesty, that my collection is, probably, the biggest in the world, in any case, I don’t have information contradicting this confirmation. It consists of more than 10000 post cards.
Yes, as it often happens, everything starts from the idea. The editor-in-chief of the newspaper “Belarus segodnia”, a merited man of culture Pavel Yakubovich, who knew about Likhodedov’s post cards, offered him to think about realization of the project “In search of the lost”. Little more than three years a project, as it is said, started: Likhodedov’s post cards appeared on the pages of a newspaper “Belarus segodnia”. “SB” journalists and free-lance authors wrote texts to them. Everybody, who read a newspaper, thanks to this column managed to realize their personal journey to the past. And interested readers, naturally, opened there their own hearty moments. Their numerous letters in the editors office testify on this. At the present moment narration about big and small towns of the country in their retro image continues on the pages of the newspaper. The majority of authors have their own recollections and reflexions: say, somebody, for example, was born in one of the towns, somebody had a crash meeting somewhere…. Ales Karliukevich (now he is a director of the editorial-publishing institution “Literature and art”) also dedicated the cycle of articles and books to its native Pukhovschina (Minsk region). It is quite natural, that people, attracted by the same idea, find themselves in a creative community, so to say, the team achieves success and acknowledgement. I would note, that in 2006 the author’s collective of the cycle of publications “In search of the lost” by Vladimir Likhodedov, Ales Karliukevich and Pavel Yakubovich was awarded a prize “For spiritual renaissance”.
A reverse side of the post card (a dialogue)
— What people are collectors? Are they fans, who can scarcely think about anything except their collections or are they ascetics?
— Mainly, people whom I happened to meet, were educated and intelligent. There are rich and prosperous people among them, however, there are less prosperous. They can be called ascetics, who don’t imagine them without collecting. These are enthusiastic persons, each — in his own topic. What does unite them? It seems to me, that for collectors, as well as for me, it is important, that such notions as morality, culture, thanks to appeal to history and traditions — wouldn’t die, that the nation would become spiritually richer in this respect. That is why we introduce the community to out rarities.
— How often do you make exhibitions?
— Now I make this often. Recently I have returned from Moscow from the international fair of deltiologists. There I represented my two albums. There are also permanent fairs: in Polotsk University the reproductions of his post cards are exhibited with the views of Polotsk, in Zhirovichi monastery — with Orthodox temples. One of the biggest, as you know, is in the editors office of the newspaper “SB”. This is one hundred collections of post cards.
— Are there many young men among collectors?
— Enough, their number has especially increased in recent years. There are many people of my age, they are over forty.
— Do you have friends among collectors?
— Of course, I have friends and simply good acquaintances. In Minsk, Poland, Lithuania and Germany. There are many of them. Besides, a man, who once caught the spirit of collecting, doesn’t drop this occupation anymore. There are also experienced persons among them. For example, in Poland a vice mayor of Belostok collects post cards, and in Vilnius — the director of the post. I would also mention a Kiev citizen Viktor Kerkevich. He has a big collection with the view of Kiev. In Moscow lives Kirill Sokol, he has many post cards with the monuments of the Russian Empire. My acquaintances from Poland collect post cards with the views of Belarus, which once was under the supervision of Poland.
— How do you get post cards? According to earlier worked out scheme, or it happens, that they get into a collection by chance, for example, somebody knows about your attraction and reports you, that he has a post card for you?
— I don’t believe in wonders, nothing falls from the sky, a man should earn everything with his own forces, and I do this.
— Which are your editor’s and enlightened plans?
— I think, that the collection of old post cards, which tell about the regions of Belarus, will find expression in a new publishing project, we will work at it with Ales Karliukevich. I also hope, that the series of albums “Jewish life” will continue (the first album under the name of “Synagogue” appeared in 2007 — author’s note). There are interesting post cards, which will introduce you to the culture and style of life of the Jewish nation. Exhibitions will be carried on.
— Who helps you in your business?
— My wife. She processes the post cards and systemizes them. I can’t do without her in books’ publishing and exhibitions’ execution .
— Did you capture your daughter or your son with collecting?
— I didn’t even try to. They have their own ways in life, their own interests. I respect the choice of my daughter and my son. But, if the articles about me appear, they read them. And, probably, they are proud of me. As well as my friends.
— When you meet your friends, do you speak a lot about your attraction?
— I talk about it with those, who are interested in it. I understand, that somebody can relate to history absolutely indifferently. And this is also normal.
— Are you personally interested in a reverse side of a post card? There is a history of human relations there…
— And not only. There is one’s destiny and moments of life there. I have, for example, more than 15 post cards — letters, which one addresser sent to the other. A part of them is represented at the exhibition. It seems to me, that people in the beginning of the century referred to each other, and not with the words “hello” and “bye”. Respect and deliberateness shine through in their words, and the words are warmed with feelings of people, who congratulate each other with the holidays or want to say something very important. In one family a son was born, somebody finished the construction of a house, somebody invites someone… A reverse side of the post card is breath of the past epoch, a style of human relations, their warmth. This is absolutely another language, now we don’t say so, there isn’t such tremulous care about each other and the interest of a human to a human, which are traced in these letters.
There is also something important in them, in my opinion. A historian interpretes the history in a way, how he sees it, he can embellish something, and he can belittle something. The author of a post card, as a rule, is a usual person, he will not do this, he doesn’t have to embellish something, he will reflect reality. That is why for historians a reverse side of a post card is a layer of life, about which he will not read anywhere. For example, a man writes: I was present at the sacring of the Church on the day… Dates, events in perception of the citizens even in addition to some famous historical events — this is extremely interesting for researchers. This labor is painstaking. Public is introduced to the most interesting texts at the exhibition.
— Did all your dreams come true?
— Once a former conductor of a TV program “The Club of Travellers” Yuri Senkevich to the question, what is happiness, answered: happiness — when your work turns into a highly paid hobby. That is why I can’t say, that I achieved everything I wanted. And I would hardly say it in the future, as I always have to be in motion. I always liked to promote and to break through something. Moreover, if you know, that somebody needs it.