18 January 2018, Thursday, 14:21

Iosif Shagal – Krasnaya Gorbatka’s ambassador?


In the end Iosif Shagal hardly makes the grade as the brother of Karatyhin sisters.

Two weeks ago a Russian journalist Mumin Shakirov brought to Minsk his documentary “Holocaust: wallpaper glue?”. The story is simple: Karatyhin sisters, students of one of Moscow institutes, participated in a quiz show on Muz-TV channel. After the host asked what Holocaust was the girls consulted, suggested hypotheses and versions, and then answered: “Holocaust is most likely a wallpaper glue”.

The video, naturally, got on YouTube and had a large audience, the sisters got their minute of dubious glory and thousands of pejorative comments, while Mumin Shakirov, who then was the host of a program on Radio Free Europe, invited the girls to the studio, in order to understand how this “wallpaper glue” came to their heads. The sisters Ksenia and Evgenia explained the logic of their conclusion: the word Holocaust was unknown to them, so the Karatyhins started looking for the answer by the way of associations. Thus, with them Holocaust brought an association with Dykhlofos (anti-bug spray) or something else of household chemistry. This is how the paper glue came up.

Mumin did not show in the bad light the family or the school in the village of Krasnaya Gorbatka in Vladimir region of Russia, from which the sisters came to Moscow, but simply put Ksenia and Evgenia into a train and took them to an excursion to Auschwitz. This is how his documentary emerged. The camera followed the Karatyhin sisters all along the trip. And the spectator could see how their eyes changes, how the understanding and grief came out on their faces, and the horror of what they had never heard of before. At Auschwitz they finally became adult. They cry in earnest, pressing themselves to a wall of an Auschwitz barrack. Karatyhin’s mother in the meanwhile visited the neighbors asking about Holocaust, and it turned out that no one in Krasnaya Gorbatka knew the word.

When I watched RTVi ‘s interview with Israel’s ambassador to Belarus Iosif Shagal, in which he called Belarusian political prisoners criminal, I first though may be Shagal comes from Krasnaya Gorbatka? Its ambassador to Belarus? Karatyhin sisters’ elder brother? In any case this is what some acquaintances of mine tried to persuade me of two years ago, when Iosif Shagal came to work in Minsk and claimed to journalists that he did not know about the existence of political prisoners in Belarus. The new ambassador then said that he needed to read newspapers, and in half a year he would be ready to answer about the question of political prisoners. Some friends told me then: do not be so indignant, Shagal actually just came and got such a question aimed right at him, do not get angry and do not rush into proclaiming him an asshole and idiot, give it time. I did then rush,though, and it turned out I was right.

Not half a year, but whole two years passed since then. In this time a young activist Andrei Haidukou was put in prison for espionage, another year of imprisonment added for Dzima Dashkievich, Uladzimir Jaromienak and Vasil Parfiankou send to prison for another term, imprisonment conditions toughened for Mikalaj Statkievich and Mikalaj Autukhovich, authorities enjoyed torturing Ales Bialatski and Jauhien Vaskovich. But Iosif Shagal acts like he has not even been working in Minsk at the time, saw nothing, heard nothing, read nothing, but only lounged at Krasnaya Gorbatka.

This would be his only excuse: without a doubt, good and kind people live in Krasnaya Gorbatka. It is not their fault but their tragedy that they do not know the world and its history. I have no doubts that they never heard not only of Holocaust but of Belarusian political prisoners either. But in the end Iosif Shagal hardly makes the grade as an elder brother of Karatyhin sisters intellectually. Because compared to him the sisters are Sofia Kovalevskaya, Bernard Show and Albert Einstein put together. If two years in Minsk was not enough for Shagal to learn and understand everything about Belarusian political prisoners, then it should not be explained to him after all, because you cannot explain anything to an idiot. Even if he knows and understands everything, then even more so one should not explain anything to him, because even in Krasnaya Gorbatka they deserve a punch in the face.

Iryna Khalip, specially for charter97.org