In search of the lost and caring for the future

[b]Gantsevichi, in the Brest Region, has been preparing for Belarusian Written Language Day for a whole year; certainly, it’s now ready and will prove worthy. Next time, Glubokoe in Vitebsk Region will host the event. Gantsevichi is the third city in Brest Region and the 18th countrywide to welcome the country’s top journalists and writers. Nobody doubts the cultural, architectural and literary contribution of ancient cities to our country’s history; however, relatively modern Gantsevichi may seem a strange choice of venue. Few even knew where to find it on the map… [/b]The city grew around the construction of the Vilno-Rovno section of the Polesie Railway. In 1884, three stations opened in today’s Gantsevichi District: Gantsevichi, Lyusino and Malkovichi. By 1902, Minsk Governor Office had approved a plan to build a town of the same name at Gantsevichi station.
Gantsevichi, in the Brest Region, has been preparing for Belarusian Written Language Day for a whole year; certainly, it’s now ready and will prove worthy. Next time, Glubokoe in Vitebsk Region will host the event. Gantsevichi is the third city in Brest Region and the 18th countrywide to welcome the country’s top journalists and writers. Nobody doubts the cultural, architectural and literary contribution of ancient cities to our country’s history; however, relatively modern Gantsevichi may seem a strange choice of venue. Few even knew where to find it on the map…

The city grew around the construction of the Vilno-Rovno section of the Polesie Railway. In 1884, three stations opened in today’s Gantsevichi District: Gantsevichi, Lyusino and Malkovichi. By 1902, Minsk Governor Office had approved a plan to build a town of the same name at Gantsevichi station.
Many exhibits at the local museum are connected with the railway; photos of station heads, lamps used by station wardens, documents and geographic maps. A special place is devoted to the wall clock, donated by the daughter of the former head of Malkovichi station, Klimenty Krupenich. At first sight, it appears simple, failing to work without its cuckoo. However, from an historical point of view, it is priceless. Three letters are inscribed on the face: ‘ПЖД’ (Polesie Railway). The Emperor presented the clock to the railway master for good service, giving Mr. Krupenich his own place in history. His photo hangs near the clock in the museum.
Gantsevichi District Library has organised an exhibition of rare books dedicated to Belarusian Written Language Day. Among them are many ‘witnesses’ of bygone times, when the city was young: Science and Life magazine (1892), Volume One of the A.S. Pushkin Collection (1904), Care of Patients — an illustrated medical reference book (1917) and Emperor Nikolay II and His Family (1921). All are worth seeing. Meanwhile, more rare books are kept by city residents and those in neighbouring villages, in their home libraries.

Land praised by talents
If Alexander III had failed to initiate the construction of Polesie Railway, would life be different in modern Polesie? There’s no doubt that, sooner or later, a railroad would have been built, as people have always been attracted by its amazing landscapes. The area around Gantsevichi was first settled in the 5th-4th millennia BC — as proven by archaeological finds from the Neolithic era, in Kachaika, near the district centre.
Addressing those attending Belarusian Written Language Day festivities, the Chairman of Gantsevichi District Executive Committee, Vladimir Stolyar, called the territory ‘a singing land and picturesque area’. Of course, nobody could think otherwise; the city naturally deserves its right to host the holiday. Through the years, it has given birth to famous folklore researcher and ethnographer Alexander Serzhputovsky and Belarusian writers and poets such as Vasily Proskurov, Mikhas Rudkovsky, Ivan Kireichik, Ales Kasko, Ales Kozhedub and Victor Gordey.
During the holiday, an Avenue of Written Language was launched in Gatsevichi, dedicated to these prominent literary men. Meanwhile, a monument to Belarusian classical writer Yakub Kolas has pride of place. His life started here. The first part of his trilogy At the Crossroads (In Polesie’s Wilderness) was written in the village of Lyusino (near Gantsevichi) during his school teaching years. Interestingly, the granite-bronze monument was inspired by a photo taken while he lived in Lyusino. Brest husband and wife sculptors Pavel Gerasimenko and Alesya Gurshchenkova created the wonderful statue (both members of the Belarusian Artists’ Union).

Books more than a source of knowledge
Belarus’ Deputy Prime Minister, Anatoly Tozik, presented awards to the winners of the 2010 Republican Contest for the Best Literary Piece at Belarusian Written Language Day, stressing that the state is focused on promoting national culture, education and printed editions. It’s hard to disagree. In Belarus, book printing is actively developing, with special attention paid to classical pieces. It’s now planned to release a collection of Vladimir Korotkevich’s works. Meanwhile, a range of interesting books are to be dedicated to the 120th anniversary of Maxim Bogdanovich’s birth. In addition, publishing houses are preparing for major jubilees of the birth of Yanka Kupala and Yakub Kolas, celebrated next year.
Among the new projects premiered at the Gantsevichi festival were exhibitions featuring Frantsisk Skorina’s Bibles and Yakub Kolas’ books (on loan from the Belarusian National Library). Original artefacts from the Yakub Kolas State Literary-Memorial Museum were also on display. Parties were held to honour Maxim Bogdanovich’s forthcoming jubilee, while a presentation was made for the launch of an e-book version of Poet of Beauty and Harmony. In addition, the National Library presented a collection of books by Belarusian writers to Gantsevichi library.
The Gantsevichi Readings 2011 scientific-practical conference debated the next possible national programme for reading development. “We need to start discussing how best to promote reading in Belarus,” asserts Culture Minister Pavel Latushko. “Surveys conducted at our suggestion by the National Library show that our children and teenagers are reading less, which is obviously a problem.”
Belarusian Written Language Day successfully attracts attention to our native language and books while promoting a feeling of spirituality and national pride. We are reviving a love for some forgotten writers, while encouraging respect for our national legacy. It’s vital that we keep hold of our roots, which began in the times of Yevfrosiniya Polotskaya. The festival breathes light into our cities and villages. The Archbishop of Lvov and Galitsia, Avgustin, tells us that ‘the cut and sewing are perfect’ regarding the holiday. The representative of the Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine was an honourable guest in Gantsevichi.
Many other foreign guests also attended the event. Evidently, preservation of national traditions, and further development and promotion of Belarusian literature brings countries and cultures closer together.

By Valentina Kozlovich
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