Belarusians love peace. This is important. Even in the poorest area, you can walk around unafraid, nothing will happen to you. There is no aggression, no malevolence.
I called my Belarusian friend, who said he was partying with some college kids during their break. He said, “Some guys are trying to beat them up.” I get there 10 minutes later, and it’s peaceful and quiet. He says that some guys attacked two of the students, but 20 more came to their defense. “Well,” my friend said. “We took care of them and then we went back to partying. After all, it’s a holiday!”
Belarusians do not behave rudely. Well, not completely. But there is no instinctive rudeness. I asked someone to find me a rude person in Belarus because I myself had never been able to find one. A friend showed me: A guy went to buy bananas, or rather, a single banana. He stood in line and ordered one banana. The saleslady said, “That’s it?” Okay, I admit it; that is kind of rude.
Many times I have run into simple explanations for complex family relationships. For example, “This is my mistress” is uttered as a statement, without a single bit of reproof or hint of moral superiority. In Belarus, everyone lives as they want, and visitors are sometimes surprised by the unending tolerance of Belarusians as a people.
Belarusians are joyful. Students sweetly rave and party, but not boundlessly. That’s why resort hotels invite more young Belarusians to stay at their properties than any other Slavic nationality. The obvious difference in the way Belarusians behave as opposed to other Slavic people has become something of a national joke on television. On that note, Belarusian shows are seriously worth watching. It’s not easy to explain how these shows can be so engaging; you just have to watch them for yourself. Absolutely hilarious.
It is nice to realize that there is a country where people are pure in thought. Crime certainly exists, just like anywhere, but it is not a regular part of life. In fact, the crime rate in Belarus is very low.
My friend, a foreigner, used a very beautiful word to describe the mentality of Belarusians. Initially, he said “naïve,” then corrected himself and said, “pure!” This is very true! One theory of how Belarusians remain pure is that they simply do not know depravity. And the soul feels joy in seeing Belarusians with a clear under- standing of what it means to love others.
I’ve got to say that education is not always at the highest level. It’s not so bad that students use “lay” instead of “lie” or throw in incorrect pronouns. What I really can’t get used to is the way they talk on the cell phone at the movie theater. However, this country-folk behavior is often a lot more pleasant than dealing with snobbery.
It’s funny that high-level speech is some- how associated with education. There’s no perfect speech, yet if someone asks for your telephone number, if you’re educated you say, “Three seventy-two, forty-one, ninety- four.” But if you lack a good education, you might pronounce ninety like “ninedy.” Even so, everyone says certain vowels and letters the same way.
The fields of Belarus leave a lasting impression. There is not an inch of uncultivated land and there are no rusting, useless harvesters. But, to be honest, I get sick of hearing about “harvesting” on a daily basis, both on TV and in newspapers. I can’t wait for it to stop. Then, just when you think it’s done, there are “winter crops.” In my opinion, this is fine, as long as you have control of the remote.
In the villages, you need to keep the grass trimmed on “your” part of the fence, so that it will remain beautiful (you’re fined if you don’t!), and in the winter you have to keep “your” part of the road, along the fence, shoveled (but you won’t be fined if it’s not).
Mimicry is a protective mechanism that allows one to hide or assimilate. But foreigners don’t have to do anything to seem to be Belarusian when in the country. You are Belarusian just by being there. It’s a very pleasant feeling: I am myself. You are not giving away anything, if you just don’t say anything. No one knows you are a foreigner. Unless, of course, you cross the road when the light is red.
LOVE FOR BELARUS
Belarusians consciously love their country. It’s an irrefutable fact. I asked one 20-year-old kid, “Do you love your native land?” There was not a hint of laughter or doubt about it; he immediately and deliberately, answered, “Yes!” It’s so nice that this question is not subject to laughter, and pretty cool that it’s met with sincerity.
I got another surprise when I asked another youth, “Is there anything that makes you unhappy?” I got back, “What do you mean?” I tried to explain that maybe there were some things in life that he might be unhappy about and I heard this as an answer, “You ask such complex questions!” It’s pretty amazing that there are people you have to really push to find out if there’s anything that troubles them.
We, Belarusians, are peaceful people. Wholeheartedly devoted to our Motherland. The melody is alright, but the words are really, truly wonderful and touching. For Belarusians, the words of the national hymn are truly representative of them.
By Timothy Buryak