Early May is a busy time for journalists in Belarus since May 1st is the Day of Work and May 5th
is the Day of the Press. This is followed by May 7th, the Day of Radio and Television Workers, and,
of course, by May 9th: Victory Day. This abundance of holidays includes two professional holidays.
We all love to celebrate but, naturally, when the country relaxes and enjoys festivities, the writing and broadcasting brotherhood heads to the street, to record all the action! On May 1st and 9th, they provide coverage of events and, on May 5th and 7th, they write reportage on colleagues’ successes. Among the professional awards presented are the ‘Golden Letter’ (a figurine) and the ‘Golden Pen’ (a medal): traditionally given to those with best service to the Ministry of Information and the Belarusian Union of Journalists. Many have won these symbols of success but recognition is far from being the primary driving force in their professional life.
Those who hold pens and microphones tend to do so because they feel an inner compulsion: it is their vocation. Moreover, most felt their calling from an early age, being eager to share their observations, and open the eyes of others to that which often falls beneath our consciousness. People the world over still rely on newspapers and television and radio broadcasting to learn about current events. Journalists hold a responsibility in how they present their facts: through the written and spoken word and photographs. Meanwhile, our Belarusian reporters pave the way for the wider world to learn about our country.
Let’s meet some of today’s chroniclers.
Olga Sakharova: an expert guide of Minsk
Olga Sakharova is Director of Art Programmes for STV TV Channel and the presenter of ‘Minsk and Minsk residents’: a popular, 10-year-strong programme offering a guide to the capital. The job has allowed her to travel far and wide, learning much about the city. Those who watch her show can also call themselves ‘experts’ — regardless of the place from where they originate!
She admits proudly that was born in the capital, although her family was living in Syktyvkar, the capital of Komi, where her father was employed. It happened so that her mother decided to visit relatives in Minsk and, almost immediately, went into labour.
Olga is dedicated to providing an educational service and welcomes feedback from Minsk residents very much. Her stories involve local authorities and residents, with the aim of solving problems. She sees her programme as ‘an interactive platform’, allowing the public to ‘express their wishes about the city’s future’. She invites authorities to appear live on television, answering probing questions on their work, and is known for pushing for honest answers.
Oleg Lukashevich: beauty hunter
Oleg has a ‘nose’ for what will interest his viewers and draw audiences. He became famous thanks to his series devoted to tracing natives of Belarus abroad: Marc Chagall in France, Ignacy Domeyko in Chile, and Stanisław August Poniatowski in Poland — among others. Oleg has travelled the world, showing Belarusians where their famous countrymen have stepped.
Lukashevich always sets high standards for himself creatively, wishing to be both original and engaging: on TV and in his books. His travels across Belarus brought forth his Heritage of Belarus (co-authored with Alexander Alexeev). Its photographs of architectural icons are arresting, showing Oleg’s skill behind the camera. Editions now grace the shelves of the world’s top libraries: from that of the British Queen to the shelves of the Pope. Bookshops regularly recommend its purchase to those seeking a souvenir of their visit to the country: perhaps the highest acclaim.
Mr. Lukashevich is attracted by all that is beautiful: history, culture, outstanding personalities and architectural masterpieces. Moreover, he brings them to life on screen and on the glossy pages of his albums, reaching beyond the scope of journalism to become a diplomat for Belarus worldwide, showing its best side.
Olga Makey: seeking out the facts
Olga Sakharova once dreamt of being an air stewardess while her TV colleague, Olga Makey is a regular air traveller, reporting on interstate negotiations from various corners of the planet. Several years ago, she received a prestigious Televershina Award for the ‘best reporter’, having reported on the arrival of the first tanker of Venezuelan oil for Belarus at Odessa port, scooping the story before her media ‘competitors’.
She began by shooting light-hearted stories, before moving to serious themes. She admits that her love of her job makes it hard to switch off, even when she’s on holiday. She thrives on ‘living on the edge’, emphasising that she loves the thrill of improvising in unexpected situations. “I’ll do anything for an ‘exclusive’, she smiles.
As a child, she became adept at show jumping, which may be the source of her boldness, since injuries were inevitable. She was named the national vice-champion, travelling 35km daily to train, near Molodechno. “I hitchhiked, can you imagine! I told my mother that I caught the bus, but it only went once a day and not at a convenient time!”
There appear to be no limits to what she can achieve, which is a great advantage in journalism. Besides determination, she boasts a real presence on camera. As the professionals say, ‘the camera loves her’. To become successful on screen, it seems that this is essential, no matter your other talents...
Ales Karlyukevich: fisherman of literary coast
On entering the room of Ales Karlyukevich, the editor-in-chief and director of Zvyazda Publishing House and Zvyazda newspaper, you cannot help but notice the piles of books, magazines and newspapers. This is not only the produce of the Zvyazda Publishing House. Mr. Karlyukevich takes time to read everything published about Belarus (domestically and abroad). Despite being lack of time — as director and editor has to focus more on economic, rather than creative, issues — he writes reviews of books across various genres.
While many toss aimlessly on the sea of literature, Ales orients towards all writing on Belarus, which he uses to inform his own analytical research. His books are enjoyed by thousands of all ages, since his talents extend to writing for children.
Meanwhile, Mr. Karlyukevich, as a publisher, is always searching for writing worthy of appearing in Zvyazda, being keen to share such insight with its large readership. As a professional journalist, he is keen to ‘catch’ only the best information product in order to be the first to bring it to thousands of readers.
Tatiana Sivets: a poetess on air
Tatiana must be the envy of many, being a rare breed: a poetess on television. She even hosts her own programme: the result of both talent and luck. However, she does more than indulge in rhyme, interviewing creative figures and drawing out their ‘secrets’, like any classical journalist.
Encouraging frank discussion on camera is a real art, since artistic people tend to be guarded in revealing their soul to the world. They are expressive only in their creativity. Ms. Sivets’ ability to get inside the psyche of literary and artistic figures is unrivalled. No doubt, her experience as editor-in-chief of Litaratura i Mastatstva (Literature and Art) newspaper is of great use: it is there that the names of future literary figures are born. Published since the 1930s, it has been a platform for many well-known Belarusian writers. Tatiana separates the wheat from the chaff. Achieving the role of editor is the epitome of any journalist’s career, as well as being a huge responsibility. God forbid that you miss out on identifying real talent. So far, Ms. Sivets’ radar has proven accurate.
Konstantin Yumanov: voice of the people
Mr. Yumanov is known for presenting corporate events, for his radio DJ-ing and for his hosting of popular TV-programme Belarusian Vremechko. Always cheerful, clever and witty, he is endlessly engaging: it’s a rare combination.
As a TV reporter, he communicates directly with the public, drawing many to phone in with their concerns and anxieties. Unswervingly, he offers wise advice helping people to solve their problems.
He tells us, “On first appearing live in 1998, I never imagined connecting my entire life with radio and television. Twists and turns of personal advancement and continuous searches made me work with various radio stations and TV channels, enabling me to learn much and gain valuable experience; it shaped me creatively and nurtured strong friendly relationships. Also, I met my true love here, with whom I have a son. Work is my second home.”
Lyudmila Rublevskaya: day and night at her writing table
Lyudmila Rublevskaya used to work for Litaratura i Mastatstva but, since 2002, has written a literary column for Sovestkaya Belorussiya: the country’s leading paper, with a circulation of 400,000. Each week, she shares her opinions on ‘must-reads’ — by Belarusian and international authors. She notes that readers aren’t backwards in sending letters of complaint if they disagree with her recommendations. However, Lyudmila’s tastes tend to be in line with the majority and her messages include letters of thanks, as well as requests from debut authors, wishing to receive a review. Her fellow critics tend to revere her literary judgements too.
In fact, Lyudmila has written several fascinating novels herself, exploring Belarusian historical themes: copies of her books tend to sell out quickly when they hit the shops. She also sets stories in contemporary times. It’s a wonder that she has enough hours a day for all her interests and occupations, writing thick volumes of adventure stories. She admits that she writes tirelessly in the evenings, after her working day is done. Surely, this is a sign of the ‘real writer’: the compelling urge to express one’s thoughts. Moreover, Ms. Rublevskaya’s ideas are met with much appreciation. Hot off the press, and in their bindings, her editions are an attraction in every bookshop.
I know of no other journalist or writer in modern Belarus with as much energy as Ms. Rublevskaya.
Tatiana Sulimova: the power of the weaker sex
For many years, I knew Tatiana only by her voice: as a star of a Minsk broadcasting station. She was the voice of her age: at the turn of the millennium. It was always a joy to listen to Ms. Sulimova. Now, I read her ‘women’s issues’ column in Sovetskaya Belorussiya, where she explores the lives of modern women, looking at their opportunities, and obstacles to their success — in Belarus and abroad. She writes knowing that women will understand her words and heed her advice, which is empowering, uplifting and inspiring.
Men can also benefit from perusing her articles, which offer insight into the condition of women today. The ‘confessional’ tone offers men understanding such as they may never gain otherwise, of their wife, mother or girlfriend, helping them appreciate the workings of the female mind. Ms. Sulimova is always frank in her declarations. It is the secret of her success, as a radio journalist and newspaper columnist.
Ivan Podrez: a gentleman, in a word
One of Mr. Podrez’s most recent projects was a polished TV programme about rock stars. Produced here in Belarus, it was worthy of gracing any channel worldwide. I’m proud of knowing him: as a musician and as a presenter. His style is unlike any other. His outstanding personality illuminates the screen, with charm and intelligence. There is no trace of the vulgarity common online. In a word, he is a gentleman; he is a true Belarusian.
When I hear that Belarus lacks interesting journalists, it makes me angry, since it’s simply not accurate. An objective reading of our newspapers tells another story: as does the watching of our television, or listening to our radio. Those who criticise our media tend to idealise foreign sources. I can easily name ten professional reporters and presenters in Belarus, and there are many more. Give it some thought and you’ll think of names of your own. It’s easy to expand the list. In modesty, we’ll remain quiet in praising those who write for our own magazine. I ask only that you keep your mind open to what you read, watch and listen to over coming weeks. As they say, knowledge is power. Our journalists continue to work tirelessly to bring you facts and considered opinions, not only on Belarus but the wider world.
By Viktar Korbut