It’s already a tradition for the neighbouring Mogilev and Smolensk Regions to help each other during harvest time. This autumn is no exception, with at least as many Belarusians as Russians within the fields of Roslavl District. Two teams arrived from the Prigranichny branch of the Klimovichi Bread Baking Factory to help their neighbours in late September. Rape harvesting is now near completion, with Gomel’s Polesie combine harvesters in assistance. Igor Kotikov, who heads the Prigranichny enterprise, explains that they gathered their own grain in August and had even prepared their combines for the winter break. However, it’s never a problem to ‘unpack’ machinery if neighbours ask for help.
Iskra farm, in Roslavl District, also asks Belarusians for help, as chairman Ruslan Sharov admits. They regularly rely on our assistance, even for sowing. With this in mind, the farm plans its sowing season later, so that its Belarusian friends can help out. Iskra’s rape fields cover around 1,500 hectares (the largest territory in Smolensk Region). Meanwhile, Iskra has just one combine, so also needs help with harvesting.
Happily, several people from Klimovichi District are able to work on Iskra’s fields at the moment, harvesting grain. The situation is mutually beneficial, as Belarusian combine drivers have the chance to earn extra wages, while the Russians harvest grain without losses.
Young drivers Alexander Starovoitov and Yevgeny Tuzhikov, from Prigranichny, are working outside of Belarus for the first time but assert that Russia doesn’t feel like ‘abroad’, since only a few kilometres separate the village of Kiseleva Buda — where Alexander lives — from the border. Yevgeny’s village of Zvenchatka is situated directly on the border. Both visit Roslavl several times a month, having friends and relatives on both sides of the border.
Russian Vasily Chemisov comes to Zvenchatka every summer. The Lieutenant-General has lived and worked in Moscow for a long time but has never forgotten his homeland, where he grew up in a village. He recently constructed a house near that of his parents. Vasily admits that Belarusians and Russians have always lived in the village: his mother is Belarusian and his father was born in Bryansk Region.
In his youth, local young people used to visit neighbouring Russian Serkovka for dances and Russian and Belarusian villages were true friends — jointly sowing grain, celebrating festivities and assisting each other. He has helped build a beautiful wooden church on a hill in the village, which is visible from the nearby road.
In turn, Valentina Golovanova, from Roslavl, has no relatives in Belarus — but has many friends. Until retirement, she worked at Roslavl Milk Factory, alongside Belarusians from Klimovichi, Krichev and Minsk. She’s still on friendly terms with some. As Valentina admits, many Belarusian products are sold in Roslavl and local people especially appreciate Gorky’s milk and sour cream, sausages from Mogilev and Grodno meat plants and bread baked in Orsha and Mogilev.
Neighbours in the Belarusian-Russian border area share much in common, not only relating to trade and agriculture. According to the Chairman of Klimovichi District Executive Committee, Vasily Zakharenko, they jointly grow crops and raise and educate their children. Young Russians study at Klimovichi Agrarian College, while Belarusian youngsters visit Roslavl to compete and train (as Klimovichi has no ice palace of its own).
Belarusians and Russians celebrate harvest festivals jointly, as well as sporting holidays and cultural events. Moreover, most participants of the International Golden Bee Festival — hosted by Klimovichi — come from Russia. Here, along the border, people are not ‘insiders and outsiders’: they live as a large family.
By Olga Kislyak