Through generations and borders

[b]Be-La-Rus youth camp gathers friends from Latvia, Belarus and Russia for 19th time[/b]A Mound of Friendship was raised in 1959 to honour the military comradeship-in-arms of Belarusian, Russian and Latvian partisans and undergrounders, who fought side by side during the Great Patriotic War. It is located at the junction of our three former-Soviet republics — now, three sovereign states. The mound, with an oak at its centre, remains a symbol of strength and long, faithful friendship, situated on Latvian territory. Three avenues run outwards towards our three countries. One finishes in Belarus, with a monument dedicated to the heroic young communists of the village of Proshki. A monument to Hero of the Soviet Union Maria Pynto has been unveiled in Russia and a monument to Hero of the Soviet Union Imants Sudmalis stands on the Latvian side.
Be-La-Rus youth camp gathers friends from Latvia, Belarus and Russia for 19th time

A Mound of Friendship was raised in 1959 to honour the military comradeship-in-arms of Belarusian, Russian and Latvian partisans and undergrounders, who fought side by side during the Great Patriotic War. It is located at the junction of our three former-Soviet republics — now, three sovereign states. The mound, with an oak at its centre, remains a symbol of strength and long, faithful friendship, situated on Latvian territory. Three avenues run outwards towards our three countries. One finishes in Belarus, with a monument dedicated to the heroic young communists of the village of Proshki. A monument to Hero of the Soviet Union Maria Pynto has been unveiled in Russia and a monument to Hero of the Soviet Union Imants Sudmalis stands on the Latvian side.
Annually, our Great Patriotic War veterans gather here and, since the early 1990s, Be-La-Rus international youth camp has been organised at the site. 600-700 young people from Belarus, Russia and Latvia usually arrive during the last July weekend, camping for four days and taking part in sports and artistic contests, while exchanging new ideas and finding new friends. The camp organisers assure us that, next year, the 20th jubilee event will bring children from Asia and the EU.
Let’s look at the emotions and impressions left by the 19th international youth camp. Two young girls from Kalmykia — who were among the Russian delegation — had to travel over 2,000 kilometres to reach the camp. They are the first ‘ambassadors’ from their region, joining over 200 Russian young boys and girls in the forest meadow this year, situated in Belarus’ Verkhnedvinsk district. They came from Russia’s Moscow, Smolensk, Pskov, Yaroslavl and other regions.
Each country takes it in turns to host the Be-La-Rus event and, this year, Belarusians organised the camp, held under the slogan: ‘65 — We Won!’.
“In the year of celebrating the jubilee of the Great Victory, this topic is universal,” notes the Second Secretary of the Central Committee of the Belarusian Republican Youth Union, Mikhail Denisenko. “The theme is even represented in our bivouac decorations and artistic contests.”
Symbolically, our Russian and Belarusian veterans arrived to chat to the younger generation. Jointly with the leaders of the three countries’ youth organisations, they laid flowers at the border monuments.
The topic of the Great Patriotic War was tackled by each team individually, with those from Moscow’s State Institute of Radioengineering, Electronics and Automation issuing a newspaper dedicated to the pioneer-heroes. Brest’s young people stylised their camp as a Belarusian village from the 1940s, staging a lifelike theatrical performance. “Our performance describes how war arrived in Belarus, how courageously people fought and how they won,” explains Tatiana Vensko of Brest, with emotion in her voice. “I believe this is a beautiful and creative step.” Her opinion was shared by the jury, who recognised Brest’s bivouac as the best at the Be-La-Rus camp.
According to Riga businessman Rashid Sultanov, 52, this youth camp doesn’t need advertising in Latvia. Those who have been coming for many years tell their friends about it and many return with their children, who later tell their friends about this unusual event. Despite the difficulties of crossing borders, the Latvian delegation is always large and diverse in age.
“This year, we have those who’ve visited the camp over ten times, as well as very young participants,” Mr. Sultanov explains, speaking of the Latvian delegation. “It’s my 14th time here and it’s always interesting for me to watch our first-year entrants, who couldn’t even imagine, prior to arriving at Be-La-Rus, that a place exists where youngsters from various countries can easily communicate with each other. For example, some learn that their grandfathers struggled here. This is our common history, so it’s no surprise that, each year, we arrive with great pleasure, to meet old friends from Russia and Belarus and to make new acquaintances.”
A journalist from Kalmykia, Elza Khartylova, is at the camp for the first time.
She notes, “New acquaintances help expand my horizon being useful for me in future. I’ve learn how our peers from Latvia and Belarus organise their work and which youth programmes and projects are being implemented.”
The Russian delegation is always ready to share news of its interesting and exciting projects, most of which are very successful. “One is called We Speak the Same Language,” notes the Deputy Chairman of the Russian Youth Union, Dmitry Yepov. “Another tackles a similar camp — called Neighbours, working on the border of Russia and Kazakhstan. This April, we organised a Euro-Asian conference, Europe-Russia-Asia, to discuss important aspects of integration of various regions.” According to Mr. Yepov, the participants of the conference showed great interest in the Belarusian-Russian-Latvian camp and youngsters from Shanghai Co-operation Organisation countries and the EU may also wish to arrive for the camp’s 20th jubilee next year. The organisers can’t reveal their secrets but promise the event will be unforgettable.

By Sergey Golesnik
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