From our hearts, we say ‘Welcome to Belarus!’ and meet them with sincere joy
The Welcome to Belarus project — run by one of our leading TV channels — chose its name with good reason. Six families from China, Germany, South Korea, Spain, France and the USA arrived in Belarus for the first time, eager to learn more about our nation, its traditions and culture. They spent five days touring accompanied by ONT’s film crew.
Alexander Lukashenko met the project participants at the National Library, enjoying a friendly atmosphere from the very first. Naturally, the foreign guests were full of impressions as they saw the sights, visited leading enterprises, tasted our national cuisine and enjoyed the beauties of the countryside. Their smiles proved their true pleasure at the trip and, really, could it have been otherwise? Belarusians have always been known for their hospitality and spirituality.
“Belarus is an open country,” Mr. Lukashenko told the group. “We are a peaceful, sincere nation, keen to make friends with anyone — through trade, tourism and meeting freely. We have no alien attitude towards anyone. We wish only kindness, happiness and prosperity to all.” He stressed that the guests’ fresh impressions are of special value, saying, “We live in Belarus and love it. However, over time, we become accustomed to its beauty, no longer being amazed.”
The guests were of various ages and occupations, including teachers, businessmen, musicians and housewives. Mr. Lukashenko invited them to chat freely, saying “Tell us of any ‘failures’ if you notice them; believe me, your opinion is very important to us and to me as the President. You have a fresh eye, enjoying new, objective impressions. Importantly, you are all sincere and open people who — as I hope — wish the best for our land and nation. On hearing your opinions, we’ll consider how to make our Belarus even better.”
German businessman Gerd Sommer was first to share his views. Accompanied by his wife Sabina and son Christian, travelling through the Mogilev Region, their trip was a true revelation, as Mr. Sommer admitted. He noted, “We’ve visited many countries but have never been welcomed with such hospitality as in Belarus. Sadly, we have little information on Belarus in Germany. We’re impressed by your people, your cultural sites, your wonderful landscapes, good roads and tasty cuisine. Belarus has only been developing as an independent state for twenty years but your infrastructure development is worthy of respect. There are many construction sites in the country and you can construct well; however, we’re ready to propose new technologies and would like to offer constructive co-operation after this trip.”
Mr. Lukashenko thanked the German for his invitation to hunt on his own estate, adding that a lack of information on Belarus in Germany is bemusing, since thousands of Germans cross through Belarus annually -- all with good impressions, even when only transiting. Such ‘public diplomacy’ stands high.
There’s no doubt that the trip will remain in the guests’ memories. Edgar Romeo Gadea, Elena Iskerdo Puebla and their four-year-old daughter Paula, from the Canary Islands, love our Belarusian lakes and forests, so will surely be dreaming of them on their return home. As Edgar admits, they had never seen anything of the kind before. Chinese Weiwei Lan, his wife and ten-year-old son are now keen to publish a book about Belarus in China, to familiarise as many people as possible with its beauty. During his trip, Weiwei sent dozens of photos to friends by email; the Vitebsk Region’s landscapes inspired his family to artistic endeavours: they drew a picture, presenting it to the President.
The trip coincided with the honeymoon of French Erve Giyo and his wife Lerans, who loved the Grodno Region for its architecture, culture of industrial production and, naturally, its hospitable and generous people. Lerans Boba Giyo believes the Belarusians and French share many values: ‘family, work ethics, culture and pride in our country’.
The guests from South Korea were impressed by Brest Fortress and the Belovezhskaya Pushcha. “It seems that I’ve travelled back to my childhood for a while,” smiled Kyung Seok Om, after meeting Father Frost in the Pushcha. They also shared a love for some of our traditional dishes, enjoying draniki (served with soya sauce rather than sour cream).
Robert James Brennan, from the USA, will certainly recollect Belarusian Polesie’s natural beauty on returning home. He saw first-hand Belarusian diligence, industry and ambition. “Less than twenty years ago, you experienced a complicated period of transformation. It’s hard to believe this on seeing how you live and are developing now,” he said. Robert’s musician son John, 22, promises to compose a song about Belarus which may inspire thousands of his countrymen (knowing nothing of Belarus) to see it with their own eyes.
Of course, such opinions are valuable since they can be used to help us assess our homeland more objectively, realising that we have much of which to be proud. Finally, the President told the foreign guests, “Your impressions are important to me, as I can tell our people: look at what a wonderful country you live in. It’s not just me saying this but all those who visit. Our forests, lakes and rivers are Belarus’ fortune and they belong to everyone, including you.”
The eight programmes following the guests’ travels are to be broadcast by ONT, once a week. All those who took part are also receiving the full series to take home on DVD.
By Vladimir Khromov
Sincere hospitality is a true brand
[b]From our hearts, we say ‘Welcome to Belarus!’ and meet them with sincere joy[/b]The Welcome to Belarus project — run by one of our leading TV channels — chose its name with good reason. Six families from China, Germany, South Korea, Spain, France and the USA arrived in Belarus for the first time, eager to learn more about our nation, its traditions and culture. They spent five days touring accompanied by ONT’s film crew.