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Pavel Latushka at the celebration of the 80th anniversary of the Lyceum with the Belarusian language of study in Bielsk Podlaski

Bielsk Podlaski Abstracts of the speech March 25, 2024

Dear Mr. Director, Mr. Prefect, Mr. Burgomaster, dear parents’ council, dear teachers and students of the Lyceum,

It is a great honor for me to speak today on such an important day and in such a unique place as the Second General Education Lyceum with the Belarusian language of study, named after Bronislaw Tarashkevich, in Bielsk Podlaski. With great respect and gratitude for your invaluable work, I congratulate the management, teachers, students, and everyone present here on the 80th anniversary of the Lyceum.

I am proud that I have the opportunity to speak to you in my native Belarusian language, to see so many talented, wonderful, educated young people, boys and girls, to know that we understand each other perfectly and have a common love for Belarus in our hearts—and this invaluable opportunity exists thanks to each and every one of you. Thank you very much for this. And it is even more valuable to meet you on the day of one of the main holidays for Belarusians around the world—Freedom Day. A holiday that unites us with common values that make us who we are.

After all, what is the will of the Belarusians? Who are we, and what do we want?

The Belarusian classic Yanka Kupala said, "We want to be called people." But what kind of people? Belarusians. And this national consciousness is our most important choice. The first step is to be a free and conscious person.

Belarusians did not have freedom for a long time. But step by step, they walked towards it. Step by step, difficult, sometimes bloody, sometimes starting all over again, sometimes waiting for an opportune historical moment. But Belarusians did not stop their struggle for freedom. The struggle for their land, independence, and statehood. For being called Belarusians.

On March 25, 1918, this path led to the proclamation of the Belarusian People's Republic, the first national state of Belarusians.

106 years have passed since then. And these years have not been easy for Belarusians. But for the 106th time, we commemorate that most important historical event when we declared to the whole world: we exist, we have the will, we have national consciousness, and we have the right to build our future. We are Belarusians. We live, hence Belarus lives!

And today, on the 106th anniversary of the declaration of independence of the BPR, on our Freedom Day, I am glad to say these words. I am glad to see responsible Belarusians who preserve their traditions, culture, faith, and roots in an independent, European, and democratic Poland.

The Belarusian minority in Poland, here in Podlasie, is a vivid example of the responsible preservation of what came to you from your grandfathers and great-grandfathers since the dawn of time. And I thank you for not losing your national consciousness, for not losing our language, our culture, Belarusian traditions, the traditions of your fathers, grandfathers, and great-grandfathers, for preserving the Belarusian spirit and these valuable grains.

Unfortunately, today a terrible regime reigns in Belarus, which destroys the Belarusian national spirit, our culture and language, which also fights against the Polish ethnic minority living in Belarus. Belarusians in Poland and Poles in Belarus are the wealth of the two countries, something that should unite us and be a bridge to cooperation. Unfortunately, the current dictatorial regime does not understand this and opposes good neighborly relations between the two peoples.

I believe that Belarus will soon reject dictatorship, and we will be like two European states. Belarus and Poland will cooperate and even open borders as they do in the European Union.

It is important that the authorities of Poland, the authorities of Podlasie, and Bielsk Podlaski support Belarusians in Podlasie. I hope that this will always be the case. I believe that such a wonderful institution as the II Lyceum with the Belarusian language of study will celebrate not only its 80th anniversary but also its 100th anniversary and many, many years later.

Thank you for the invitation. Thank you for your attention. Happy holiday, happy anniversary! Long live Belarus!



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