I found the name of this remarkable artist on the Internet, but the first time I had seen her drawings was in a literary almanac published in
Germany and mailed to me by German friends. It was the artist’s creativity that impressed me from the beginning. She composed her works in pen, in black ink and with light, gossamer lines. Behind the seemingly modest simplicity and calligraphic accuracy of the picture, however, lay a deep poetic image and meaning.
At that time, I was working on a book about Belovezhskaya Forest, and I was desperate for just these kinds of illustrations. Why? The answer is simple: Belovezhskaya Forest, with its legends, its secrets, its rare forest inhabitants, its amazing flora and fauna, has always attracted the attention of writers, artists, photographers, historians. I myself, in my book called «Alesya. Belovezhskaya Dreams,» recount one such legend.
I soon found out that my artist lived in New York, and that her name was Lana Rayberg. Just imagine how happy I was when I found out that she was born in my beloved Belarus, in Minsk! She had lived in America since 1992, and taught fine arts in New York schools. In our homeland, Lana had graduated from the Art and Graphics Department of the Vitebsk Pedagogical Institute. This means she had studied in the very city associated with the name of the world-famous artist Mark Chagall!
The first question Lana asked me in her letter from overseas was, «What is your book about?»
I sent her the title story. It was a beautiful legend about a young girl who lived in a modest hut on the edge of a small village, in the heart of the Belovezhskaya Forest sanctuary – a huge ancient forest on the border of Belarus and Poland. On the roof of the hut and in tall trees, white storks had built many nests. It was a real “stork village.” There actually is a village like this in the Forest; it is called Babinets, but that is not the point of the story. The girl has a bad leg, and she tries to heal it by stepping barefoot on a sacred stone that bears footprints of the Virgin Mary. This stone with impressions of the Virgin lies near the forest, and people make pilgrimages to it. The girl befriends a wild bison and tames it, riding on its back with a small bell in her hand. The little lame girl and the bison are accompanied on their travels by swallows and doves from the Forest. The magical forest and the power of nature give her courage and confidence…
There is a miracle, and the girl is healed. Lana started drawing with enthusiasm, but soon a letter from her arrived… The painter confessed that during her life in the huge metropolis across the ocean, she had forgotten the look of a forest fern, to name just one example. She had forgotten what kind of horns a bison has, or how branches grow on an ancient oak tree. She no longer knew how a stork in flight spreads its wings …
«Storks do not live on skyscrapers,» wrote the artist, explaining her initial failure.
So I began to send pictures of Belovezhskaya Forest to New York. I sent many, many photos of the works of nature: trees, birds, plants, animals…
Success was not long in coming. Lana remembered everything, figured it all out. She made her illustrations and sent them to me. Soon a book about Belovezhskaya Forest, with drawings by Lana Rayberg, was published in our Belarusian-publishing house. I would like to add that Lana is a member of the London Association of the Art of Imagination and the Brooklyn Artists’ Association. It is true that storks do not nest in New York skyscrapers. However, in that metropolis lives a person whose wings of talent unite America and my own Belarus.
Alexander VOLKOVICH, Belarusian writer