Travel around Pinsk

We are walking around Pinsk with Valery Grishkovets, a poet and a native Pinsk citizen. Sometimes Valery happens to leave — and sometimes for a long time — his native Pinsk. One can not deny that any writer needs vastness — absence of financial or household problems as well as close attention of publishers. Valery Grishkovets, whose works are honoured with Russian prestigious literary awards, has found such place in Moscow
We are walking around Pinsk with Valery Grishkovets, a poet and a native Pinsk citizen. Sometimes Valery happens to leave — and sometimes for a long time — his native Pinsk. One can not deny that any writer needs vastness — absence of financial or household problems as well as close attention of publishers. Valery Grishkovets, whose works are honoured with Russian prestigious literary awards, has found such place in Moscow.

But during our last talk he noticed: “My life is settled in such a way that Pinsk always seems to me a difficult place that inclines to press you but when I entered my fifties I come back to my native place as to a source again and again…” And from my point of view, Pinsk seems to be a nice and beautiful place that satisfies one’s thirst of life…

The poet and I are standing on Lenin Street near the palace, named after Butrymovich. The building is dated to the end of the eighteenth century. It was built in 1784–1790’ years. Its yard frontage is turned to the river Pina.

The inner yard dйcor turns us back to the period of early classicism. Bay window, round corners and ends of side wings are decorated with columns and semi-columns. The palace and its homestead were owned by a Pinsk starosta some time ago. Unfortunately, no modern encyclopedias contain his biography. He was a man unique for his social and political abilities!.. An adventurous nature and thirst for profit and glory led him to serious achievements in the power structure of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. A piece of information about Pinsk concerned with Butrymovich is presented in one of Alexander Elsky’s essays:

“A special brilliance was given recently by the visit of Stanislav August in the year 1784. He arrived on September 07 with big escort of the Royal Household and local gentry having traveled on decorated boats nearly half a mile. Being met by a speech of Narushevich, the assistant of Smolensk bishop and provincial, Stanislav August took a flat that was prepared to him in the former Ignatian collegium and from there looked at the neighboring swamp and waters, as well as at numerous boats near the banks of river crowded with little gentry that worn their dress codes for the first time as the King came. The King inspected the famous road poured for several miles through unapproachable swamps at the expenses of Oginsky, the Great Getman of Lithuania. The road construction was competed only through close attention of Butrymovich, the county judge. The King leaved the city towards Nesvizh on September 09…”

We are speaking with Grishkovets about past times and about relations between magnates and commons. I would like to involve Valery into such conversation hoping that his poetic imagination will show us a certain story plot of old times. Our Belarusian artists made poetic such words as Nesvizh, Barbara Radzivil, Oginskiy, Mindovg, Ragneda but there is no historical poetry created concerning Pinsk’s theme in the present time.

Now we are coming to the Ignatian collegium on Lenin Street. At this time the exposition of the Belarusian Polessky Museum is located there — an exceptionally interesting treasure of Pinsk, Pinsk region and their surroundings. I remind the poet that in the middle of the 19th century a poet and historian Adam Narushevich graduated from that collegium. “Of course, I know — Valery is speaking. — I wrote in Polish. Besides, Pinsk made a great contribution into the Polish literature…” And now the conversation leads us to Richard Kapustinskiy who died in the beginning of 2007. And in September of that year Pinsk citizens honoured their townsman with a memorial plate at the house he lived with his parents. The last time Richard Kapustinskiy came to his Motherland in 1999. “The Reportage King”, as the publicist, a poet and a prose writer was often named, managed to visit dozens world countries during his lifetime. For me personally he looks like those writers with unlimited energy, writers like Ernest Hemingway. The Polish literator and journalist was nominated two times to Nobel award.

Articles, reportages, essays, numerous interview by Richard Kapustinskiy are presented in the following books “One more day of life”, “Bush in Polish”, “To get off a horse”, “Black stars”, “Eben”, “Travel with Geradot”, “Self-portrait of a reporter”… “The King” narrating about prosperity and failure of Haile Selassie, the King of Ethiopia, is translated into 30 world languages. But his swan song, as he assured everyone, would be his book about Pinsk. Unfortunately, he did not manage to finish it. The grateful citizens of Pinsk honoured the writer with a memorial plate.

— But at the same time Pinsk is considered to be Blok’s town — we think aloud with Valeri Grishkovets. — The Russian poet served as a tableman of the 13th construction-engineering brigade in Parahonsk.
And here is what a highway engineer Vladimir Frantsevich Prhzedpelsky, his colleague, remembered: “Is he writing? Maybe he is trying to make his mind balanced?”

— The middle of life is the most difficult time, — he speaks with deep breath. — And we will speak about poetry. Only once Blok let himself to be tempted to read his poems. And then in a Polesky house the words of inspiration were pronounced with trembling and breathed voice. And some more “Our society is rather nice. Near Blok a young pretty Jew is seating, an astronomer, a talented architect and an heir of Glinka composer as well as oboznik — a young man with open mind and really quite soul of a house.
We have dinner and sleep together, and in the evenings we drink incredible amount of tea and taste each other with chocolate.

We are governed by two Polish engineers who make their technical work selflessly and do not see anything except their positive strengthening…”
We would be shamed not for coming into “Assumption of Virgin Mary” Church and a Franciscan monastery. The wooden monastery was put down on that place yet in the year 1396. The stone building was reconstructed instead of a wooden one in 1510. In 1648 the buildings were seriously damaged. And in 1712–1730’s the stone constructions were completely rebuilt. And the church was rebuilt as well. In 1817 a three-stored bell-tower was erected in front of the church… And in 1920’s one more storey was added... A range of paintings in the church was performed by the famous painter Alfred Romer during the second half of the 19th century. It is pertinent to note the old historical statistics: 9 Roman Catholic churches and monasteries located in Pinsk up to 1832. And even a church of … the communists took its place there. But do not confuse those men with temporal adherents of social-communist construction. Catholic communists appeared in Pinsk in 1695 when Yan Karol Dolsky constructed for them a church along with a wooden house and named such place “Karolin”. The former suburbs are located in the east side of Sovetskaya Street. And a lot of old houses built in the beginning of the 20th century remained there. But let’s come back to the communists. The Leader Novelty presented Sosenka village to them. The founder donated 7 500 rubles to communists and their faith followers, Leib and Lipchinsky presented the society with 3 000 rubles. The secular priests’ community disappeared in Pinsk after the middle of 1830’s when the canonic Izidar Kontonovich died — the last communist of Pinsk.

— And such plot could turn into a really dramatic poem, — Valeri Grishkovets is answering to my story. — a poem about yesterday and today.
And we keep walking around a historical Pinsk during our conversation. We are walking around a modern industrial town that impresses and attracts by its cleanness as well as by richness of flower-beds, alleys, squares and parks.

Ales Karliukevich
Cards from collection
of Vladimir Likhodedov
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