We support our Olympic athletes, wishing them all luck and victories. However, we’re no less impressed by the achievements of other sportsmen who demonstrate undisputable mastery and determination to win. Just as we adore our favourite actors and singers, irrespective of their nationality, sport brings us together. Talent and charm are truly international.
Speaking of singers, and festivals, Belarus transforms into a true festival mecca in summer, with the Slavianski Bazaar in Vitebsk being the key event. Festival veterans unanimously agree that a quarter of a century ago none could imagine that the modest festival would evolve into a major musical and theatrical art event, of the highest standard. In 25 years, the Slavianski Bazaar has significantly expanded its borders, to welcome performers from 70 countries, and organisers plan on extending this further.
Like a magnet, Vitebsk attracts talented people from all corners of the world, as well as music fans. In this Year of Culture, the Festival has attracted entrants from beyond neighbouring European countries, even drawing those from other continents. This level of interest is truly impressive.
Another Belarusian festival is Alexandria Gathers Friends — devoted to the Kupalle traditional folk holiday and its modern interpretation. Many Belarusian cities, towns and villages host Kupalle events but that in Alexandria, Shklov District, Mogilev Region, gathers most guests, delighting them with its lively originality.
We all know that laughter prolongs life. Residents of Bolshiye and Malye Avtyuki, Kalinkovichi District, Gomel Region, have long demonstrated that a sense of humour is good for the constitution. Avtyuki residents, like all Polesie people, are known for their wit. When young writer Vladimir Lipsky spent several days there, collecting information on Avtyuki and its people, he chatted with heads of collective farms, spent nights with ordinary villagers and focused on the small details of life. Despite hardships of those post-Perestroika years, especially for villages, where people could hardly imagine today’s wealth, humour triumphed over adversity.
Mr. Lipsky, born in the Polesie area, recorded local jokes and humorous anecdotes; in doing so, he realised that meaning lay behind those (often bawdy) jokes. He suggested that a Belarusian festival of folk humour be arranged, noting that five minutes of laughter is worth two blini with caviar, or a feast of bacon, onion and salted cucumber! The festival lasted not minutes but days, and he knew that more would be likely to follow. Avtyuki might yet join the international festival circuit.
With support from the Ministry of Culture, the Grodno Regional Executive Committee and local authorities, Avtyuki villagers organised the first All-Belarusian Festival of National Humour in 1995. During that first event, among the honourable guests were comedians from Bulgarian Gabrovo, Lithuania and Ukraine. This year, the event took place for the eighth time!
The Cherry Festival, in the small Belarusian town of Glubokoye, was held for the fourth time this year. This merry holiday, devoted to the sour-sweet berry, gathered many friends, occupying a worthy place among the festivals of the Vitebsk Region.
Really, can we ever have too many interesting, merry and humour-based festivals? They bring diversity and joy to our lives, and enrich us spiritually.
by VIKTOR KHARKOV