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Open book of memory

Guards at the Venezuelan Embassy usually greet visitors with the words: ‘Have you switched off your phone? Place your keys and metal objects here, please’.
However, at present, they simply nod and open the door silently. A continuous stream of people is visiting to sign the book of condolence. Inside, everyone speaks in lowered voices. Among the flowers and lamps hang portraits of Hugo Chбvez and, by 2pm on March 6th, the book is already almost half full. Messages appear in various languages — not just Russian — expressing grief as well as admiration for the great man’s courage and achievements. Many comments are in Spanish: the native language in Venezuela. I write my own words of sympathy and then emerge into the street, where more people await entrance.

People of all ages are eager to show their sympathy for the Venezuelan president’s passing, bearing flowers and portraits. The First Secretary of the Belarusian Republican Youth Union NGO, Igor Buzovsky, recalls his visit to Venezuela, saying, “Belarus has lost a friend in the highest sense of the word; accordingly, Belarusian young people are here, mourning with the young people of Venezuela.”

The First Secretary of the Venezuelan Embassy, Gerardo Estrada, tells us that young people should not lose heart, but must continue to strive towards their goals, no matter what occurs. He thanked them for their show of feeling and attendance and then remained on the porch of the Embassy, welcoming visitors personally and giving brotherly hugs.

A long queue was evident at the book of condolence, with people travelling especially to pay their respects — many on public transport. Boris Dvoskin, Chief Engineer at Belgorkhimprom, tells me simply that he works on a mineral extraction project in Venezuela and recalls warmly his meeting with Mr. Chбvez. He is deeply saddened by his death.

The Embassy began an hour of silence, with the number of those wishing to express condolence continuing steadily.
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