19 May 2019, Sunday, 16:46
For our and your freedom!

The Barathrum

Iryna Khalip

It's about birches, small land and billions.

"Stierlitz was dying to return home," - I would place this phrase from anecdote on a huge billboard in the Minsk airport, so that it could welcome former compatriots.

It would seem that people left forever. Some of them moved long ago, in the Soviet times. Many of them migrated with their families, so there's no need to visit relatives here. The majority was escaping persecutions, not seeking high living standards. They made career, received citizenship, earned money in other countries. They may travel around the world, but no one forgot birches and small homeland. And former compatriots arrive here looking for long forgotten classmates to say "do you remember us sitting in a pub near the university and we saw people - cops?"

My good acquaintance has recently arrived in Belarus. He built up a great career in America. He has a house, a garden, expensive insurance, and ensured good universities for his children. Expensive insurance indicates a high standard of living. It also serves as a ground to boast of before his good acquitances who stayed here in Belarus. You know, it is some kind of insurance when your leg is itching, air medical service arrives. It is valid even in the middle of nowhere. But it is not valid here.

A complacent traveler had to pay 18 dollars at the airport. For medical insurance, of course. Otherwise, he is not allowed to the country. Being the person who knows what he pays for wondered: "What is the pro of this insurance?" A woman who received these 18 dollars gave a shining smile and said: "Nothing!" Later my acquaintance confessed that his desire to get nostalgic for pubs disappeared at once. Though this money paid changed nothing either in his life or in the country's.

Stop. Perhaps, I overreacted about the country. Every year around four million foreigners visit the country. The statistics does not involve Russians - they do not pass the passport control and pay for insurance (it's better for them to pay with gas and oil; it will be the better option than these 18 dollars). That is, every year petty fraud and slight blackmailing bring the country 70 million dollars. No expenses, only pennies spent on printing of papers. And it will be enough for all this useless stuff of officials.

However, money raised by fraud and blackmailing are taken not only from foreigners for some reason arriving here. Let's recall the parasite decree the country can't put an end to. The best minds come up with ways to raise as much money as possible - education, medical care, utility services. They will surely find a good reason to withdraw money. Let's also recall the fee for parcels from abroad - everything which costs more than €22 is subject to the fee and the customs duty. Regarding adherence of Belarusians to AliExpress (their ability to survive at its expense), it makes up huge amounts raised at the expense of citizens who do not owe anything to the state.

Let's recall constant deductions to major overhauls paid for decades. Let's recall the road tax. Let's recall huge amounts raised due to free compulsory labour of schoolchildren working during the harvesting. Let's recall repair works at schools and kindergartens covered by parents.

Let's recall not-paid pensions due to the pension trap and not extended labour contracts. It makes up millions or even billions. Illegal billions raised by the state. And they are successfully divided between a thousand people who keep laughing at foolish compatriots. They also laugh at foolish foreigners; however, we share the same boat regardless of rights and the income level. It's an barathrum which needs more. Meanwhile, people have to raise money on Facebook to help disabled people and people of low income. Father Zuckerberg will help us.

By the way, regarding birches and a small homeland. Some of my friends born in villages and tows have received "letters of happiness" delivered by their native Executive Committees. District officials say "this year is devoted to small land. We ask you, as the native, to make contribution to the development of our district and to transfer money to our Executive Committee's account. Thank you in anticipation." It's one more "relatively legal method". It's other filthy breathing of the barathrum.

Iryna Khalip, especially for Charter97.org