A village in Belarus shines as an exemplary economic miracle within the nation. The name of the Belarusian village is Olshany. Despite only having 8000 residents, the village is famous throughout Belarus, Ukraine, Russia and even the rest of Europe. Why, one might ask? Because Olshany farmers realized that successful business requires more than just hard work. It requires a fresh, innovative plan in order to provide a spark for success.
Harry Potter characters are focused on learning to perform magic and tricks. The Olshany farmers did not study at Hogwarts. Yet they brought something wonderful to life on their land when they created their cucumber empire. A hybrid of two different economic systems – socialism and capitalism – unexpectedly produced a marvelous fruit. And this is how it happened…
The cucumber boom in Olshany occurred in 1999, when Belarus instituted a new law that allowed farmers to lease land. Capitalism swept in to save the day for those compromised by socialism! A group of locals immediately obtained a few acres of land and built greenhouses, where they began cultivating cucumbers. Since this cultivation of cucumbers took off, almost as if magically, the farmers planted yet more crops: tomatoes, cabbage, beets, carrots, and even juicy, delicious apples.
Amazingly, not a single chemical drop goes into Olshany produce. The harvest flourishes and is ecologically pure! Really, what do you look for in a cucumber? Of course, fresh, delicious taste, sweet fragrances, and good looks certainly don’t hurt. Sour or salty, pickled cucumbers constitute an important embellishment on Belarusian dining tables. Yes, the cucumber is an essential part of the Belarusian way of life. Slavic and European cuisines also incorporate cucumbers into many recipes. A good pickle has even become the perfect companion to traditional American burgers and sandwiches.
Soon, the cucumbers in Olshany were growing by leaps and bounds. Cucumber lovers from neighboring villages and countries, and businessmen and vendors called nonstop, asking, demanding, and begging to get their hands on the famed cucumbers. Of course where you find cucumbers, you will also find the rest of Belarus’s beloved cuisine. Many people came from far and wide, so the locals in Olshany pampered their new guests with fresh milk, sour cream, cheese, meats, traditional borscht (soup), and other local delicacies.
Belarusians from other regions and districts wonder how the residents of Olshany produced this miracle. The village seemed the same as any other in Belarus. The people are the same as anywhere else in Belarus, the girls are the same, and the elderly are the same.
Yes, it’s all the same, and yet it is not. The kids are like other kids, but there is something different about them. They live by an amazing principle: Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country. People work hard here, but do so happily, and, because of this, they prosper.
The homes in the village are grand and beautiful. Young families build undeniable palaces and drive luxury cars. They are not building their wealth in order to relocate outside of their native Belarus. They would rather stay on their land and enjoy the fruits of their labors.
For many years, a large group of Olshany people have famously belonged to the Protestant faith. Presently, half of the village identifies as Evangelical. Followers comply with all the covenants of the Bible, which is a critical document that outlines their way of life. The communities are very close and rarely drink alcohol. As psychologists point out, the people follow a very moral lifestyle.
Locals do not see the phenomenon in Olshany as a mystery or secret. They know, without a doubt and with faith and God’s name on their lips, that living well signifies value and usefulness in the world.
Evangelicals first brought their doctrine to Belarus in the 1920s. Belarusians who had worked in America and been baptized there returned to their native land and began to share their new faith.
During Soviet times, Olshany believers organized their life around evangelical principles. They tried, as much as possible, to shield their children from secular education. According to their doctrine, children did not join Komsomol (the youth organization focused on Communist regulations) and refused to bear arms and military service. At that time, military service was obligatory, and those who refused to join could be sent to prison.
Currently, the Evangelical church in Olshany is impressive in its grandeur. Built in the 1990s, churchgoers used their own money for the project. Even a glance at a picture of the church relates its spiritual greatness.
The residents of Olshany have also found a solution to the problem of demographics. “It’s not just teaching the way of the church. For God told us, ‘Go forth and multiply,’” explains native resident Yuri. The Evangelical families in Olshany retain a high birth rate. This is probably the only area in Belarus where children outnumber adults. On average, families in Olshany have 6 children, and many even boast 10 – 13 children. At one time, children had to study in three shifts at the school. The school was eventually enlarged, and learning could then take place over two shifts. However, the residents of Olshany were unhappy with this arrangement and built another school.
An important characteristic of the locals in Olshany is their protectiveness over their produce. Ivan, an elderly resident, explains, “The cucumber, like a child, deserves respect, attention, and love. This is true of any fruit, as they help man survive on Earth!”
One can definitely say that the inhabitants of Olshany enjoy success. This is the reason that young people remain in the village. Until kids reach 18, they stay and work with their parents, saving up for their own cars. The kids in the village all like to work hard for the good of the community, the village and the whole of Belarus. One might also note that Belarus enjoys the success of many thriving companies and industries, including foreign businesses that enjoy a five-year tax exemption from inception. Tis is also a marvel, not in the area of cucumbers, but certainly in the realm of taxation.
But let’s get back to the wonderful cucumber. Olshany is home to the world’s greatest cucumber “cult” of aficionados. There are holidays to celebrate the beloved cucumber, poems written in its honor and happy tunes sung about the delectable fruit. Olshany locals even joke, “Our cucumbers are greener than American dollars!”
In Olshany, there exists an unwritten code for living: A true Olshany, within his lifetime, will erect a greenhouse, grow fruits and vegetables, take care of his children and teach them to be loyal to the Earth and the country. Farming rules daily life in this area. No weddings take place in the summer; such festivities are held in August, following the harvest season.
The extravagant weddings in Olshany are attended by thousands, which take place inside a giant transformed greenhouse. A few weeks before a wedding, relatives bring large refrigerators into the greenhouse, in order to hold ceremonial foods and flowers.
In Olshany, one will not find any dilapidated houses. Visitors from out-of-village are not used to seeing so many foreign cars in a Belarusian village. Additionally, shops and cafes owned by the Evangelicals do not sell alcohol or cigarettes. As an old woman, Lyuba, known by villagers as “Mama,” states, “People say we have nice houses and new cars. It’s easy to explain: the people don’t drink, don’t loiter, and that’s how we have all this. Those who drink and don’t care for the land, they won’t be able to even buy a bicycle. God blesses us, and we are grateful to God and to our country for everything that we have.” Lyuba thinks for a minute about whether to add one more thought. She asserts, “The rest of Belarus could also be as prosperous as Olshany!”