28 May 2024, Tuesday, 9:25
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The Svislach Named After Lukashenka

The Svislach Named After Lukashenka

Second place in a fools contest does not provide for any prize.

There used to be a gymnasium named after Kastus Kalinouski in the city of Svislach, but it became a gymnasium named after Pasha Vasilenka. The corresponding street in Minsk will be renamed soon as well, I think. Everything is going that way.

Svislach officials from the education department explained that Kalinouski’s personality is not so popular today, so they made this decision. Well, yes, and Pasha Vasilenka’s popularity is breaking all records — that’s probably what they had in mind.

Pasha Vasilenka is truly an underground heroine of the Second World War. She got a job in a German canteen, listened carefully and memorized everything the Germans said, and passed on the information to the partisans. At the same time, she also brought out food — also for the partisans, who, unlike the army, were not entitled to allowances and had to get their own bread. Pasha Vasilenka was arrested in 1943, tortured, and then hanged along with her father and brother. A heroic girl, bless her memory.

By the way, everything is in order with the memory of Vasilenka in the area: in Svislach and Dabravolya — Pasha’s native village — there are streets named after her. And, by the way, there is also a school in Dabravolya. It’s just called “Educational and Pedagogical Complex Dabravolya Kindergarten-Secondary School.” Why not name this particular school, where Pelaheya Vasilenka studied, after her? It would be natural and logical. Vasilenka did not graduate from the gymnasium in Svislach, but Kastus Kalinouski did. And the gymnasium — then still secondary school #1 of Svislach — received its name not from Paznyak or the Supreme Council of the 12th convocation with a strong faction of the Belarusian Popular Front, not at all through someone’s secret efforts, but by a completely prosaic decree of the Ministry of Education of the BSSR.

Just like Kalinouski Street, which every Minsk resident remembers as long as themselves, was named so not by Shushkevich or Paznyak: the new street, which then seemed to be located in the middle of nowhere, and then found itself almost in the center of the city, received its name back in 1963. That is, the communists gave it the name of Kalinouski.

Kastus Kalinouski is a unique personality. He is a universal hero. That is, a hero for everyone. For the communists, he was a fighter for the liberation of the peasants, and schoolchildren were taught about “Mužyckaja Praǔda” in history lessons. For nationally-oriented Belarusians, he is a man who fought against the Russian Empire on the lands of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Left or right, communist or conservative, progressive or retrograde — everyone will see in Kalinouski’s struggle their own, socially or politically close, facet of absolute heroism. And only Lukashenka made his mark even here. It is only him with whom Kastus Kalinouski interferes with by the very fact of his existence in the history of Belarus, only him whom Kalinouski irritates and teases. Lukashenka himself, voluntarily, and not at all by a court verdict, signed in January 1996 decree #26 “On approval of the description of orders, medals and badges for honorary titles of the Republic of Belarus.” And the Order of Kalinouski together with the Order of Skaryna, established by the Supreme Council in April 1995, became state awards of Belarus. Moreover, if the Skaryna Order was to be awarded for merits in the field of national revival, then the Kalinouski Order was to be awarded for exploits. “For selfless action, courage and bravery.” But this order was never awarded, and in 2004 it was officially abolished. Probably because Lukashenka cannot even bear to pronounce or write the name of the Belarusian hero. And then all sorts of local initiatives began, like the one we see in Svislach.

By the way, in that Svislach region, in addition to educational and pedagogical complexes, like in the village of Dabravolya, there are three secondary schools. One of them is named after Nikolai Massonov, a Soviet division commander who died near Svislach in 1944. And two are unnamed. And if you really wanted to assign the name of Pasha Vasilenka to some other place, the Svislach officials had quite a decent choice. However, they didn’t need to commemorate Pasha, but to erase Kalinouski’s name from history. Just like Lukashenka is trying to do. District officials are just his smaller brothers. And more simple-minded. I would even say pristine. Haven't they realized that you can't erase a hero's name with dirty rags?

Now they probably expect that the initiative will be rewarded, and they will be given some kind of memorial signs from that very decree #26. Or even a medal “For Labor Merit”. They won't get it, though. Second place in a fools contest does not provide for any prize.

Iryna Khalip, exclusively for Charter97.org

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