Friday, July 22, 2005

Saturday Morning, July 9...My Belarussian Odyssey Part III

I wanted to get something up. This is the first part of Saturday, July 9th

I woke up at three in the morning and could not go back to sleep. So, I took my very tired and worn out self downstairs so as not to wake The Roomie (Don). There were six guards in the lobby when I got down there. A lot of younger people were just starting to come in from the clubs. The guards would stop and ask them questions, probably about where they were staying, to ensure they were supposed to be in the hotel. From what I have heard, Минск is a pretty safe city, but I suppose it pays to be cautious.

Julia was not able to sleep either and came down little after 4. We talked a while as the sun slowly rose; I’m guessing sunrise in Минск was about 4.30 am. We took a walk out to one of the monuments to the Great Patriotic War, celebrating the country’s victory over the Germans. These monuments are everywhere, and to my mind reinforce the need to have a vibrant, vital and independent arts community. These monuments look pretty much the same: a huge concrete (the building material of choice for modern Беларусь. Almost everything in the country is built with this or white brick) phallus reaching to the sky. There is usually some gold marker, like a star or leaves or the like, and a plaque describing that the monument was erected to commemorate the Беларусь victory in the Great Patriotic War…in case you are either wondering or had forgotten. It’s a country with little else to celebrate in its modern history, and many, many things revolve around the event.

Again, we went shopping briefly, and then went sightseeing. One of the monuments that we did see that was interesting was in the center of Минск. It is dedicated to the women who lost children in the Chernobyl disaster. There is a tradition that newly married couples place flowers at the monuments. Since it was Saturday, there were a lot of brides and grooms, and I couldn’t help but realize how young they all were…

We also saw the old section of Минск. During World War II, the Germans were advancing and living off the land. To slow them down and string them out, the Soviet Army adopted a scorched earth policy and burned everything behind them, so the Germans could not live from the Russian soil. They hastily retreated from Минск and burned a lot of it. The Germans bombed the city as they invaded it, and continued to advance until they were stopped by the heroic stand of the Red Army in Stalingrad. The Germans got caught in the Russian Winter and got obliterated. It was their turn to retreat, and as they did, they took out there aggression, anger and frustration on everything in their path, including, again, Минск. As a result of this, Минск was almost totally destroyed. There is a small city block that remained standing, and does to this day, from the old era. Everything else in the city is 1945 or newer.

Then, a two-and-a-half-hour bus ride to THE KIDS!!!!

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