Making every little count
Museum of Belarusians of the World soon to open in Minsk
By Lyudmila Minakovа
The Belarusians of the World exhibition, hosted at Belarus’ Culture Institute, brings together artefacts from the National History Museum and works created by the With Honour Association of Belarusian Artists, in Latvia.
Among the unique exhibits is a 30 year old photo of a Belarusian wedding in Australia and a 1977 poster of the Belarusian festival in New Jersey. Caps worn by Belarusians students at Belgium’s oldest university (in Leuven) are also on show.
Around a decade ago, the Republican Scientific-Educational Centre closed (named after Frantsisk Skorina and headed by Doctor of Philology, Prof. Adam Maldis). Its valuable exhibits — books, paintings and personal belongings from the Belarusian diaspora — were distributed across several agencies but Mr. Maldis has been working with the Culture Institute, where he is currently employed, to reunite the rich collection.
Alexander Khromoy, the Deputy Director of the National History Museum, comments, “Our museum has preserved around 60 percent of the materials. Sadly, although the remaining artefacts are not completely lost, they are scattered in small numbers across numerous institutions. We are doing everything possible to make this exhibition part of our museum or, at least, a branch of our museum.”
The project would hardly have been realised without the enterprising employees of the Culture Institute — such as Prof. Maldis and the Head of the Historical-Cultural Heritage Protection Department, Alla Stashkevich. Moreover, the Belarusian diaspora — who should primarily benefit from the project — have donated many items and continue sending books, films and personal belongings connected to their life abroad, including paintings and other artefacts created during their life beyond the Republic.
Among the first exhibits donated were works by artists living in Latvia: members of the Association of Belarusian Artists of the Baltic States. The paintings depict Old Vilnius, Jerusalem, the Himalayas and other natural wonders seen by our countrymen. “We need shows in Belarus,” explains the Association’s Head, Vyachka Telesh. “We’re exhibiting in Latvia and other states but feel more ‘at home’ here.”
The Belarusians of the World Museum is sure to also prove popular with residents of the Republic. “Belarusians know little of their countrymen abroad, of whom they could feel proud,” notes the Head of the Belarus-Belgium Society, Tamara Antonovich. “Among such people is Laurent Klybik, who is unique. At the age of 16, he moved to Belgium to study pharmacy at Leuven University. After graduating, he bought a pharmacy and was among the first to produce homeopathic medicines (much in demand in neighbouring states). Laurent can speak Belarusian, Russian, German, English, Polish and Hebrew. To learn Chinese, he has set up a restaurant, inviting a Chinese cook. Interestingly, a map of Belarus, marking his home village, welcomes all guests at reception. He is proud of Belarus and of his Belarusian nationality.”
Pride in your native land, and its people, is an obvious theme of the exhibition and will be encapsulated perfectly at the planned Belarusians of the World Museum. “I’m delighted to see you, my dear countrymen, gathered round me. I feel that we cannot be indifferent to each other,” smiles jeweller Piotr Yakubuk — a member of Ukraine’s Union of Artists and a master of decorative-applied art. “We never forget our homeland while living abroad. We speak Belarusian and arrange Belarusian parties and holidays. We’re also involved in diverse artistic activities; I make precious Crimean themed decorations for women and dream of organising a personal show in Belarus. I’d love to come to Minsk and know where my works could be housed: at the Belarusians of the World Museum.”