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The most precious gift

Pavel Latushka, deputy Head of the United Transitional Cabinet of Belarus, Head of the National Anti-Crisis Management, ambassador

I never knew Ryhor Baradulin personally, never met him, but once, when I was the Minister of Culture, I received one of the most precious gifts from him: a book of Baradulin's poems with the author's own handwritten addition. 

This handwritten addition, which I would not like to voice publicly, is one of the most valuable for me as a person, as a personality, as a Belarusian. These were very important and touching words. Only a few of the closest people know the content of this post. But to this day, when I think back to that gift, in many ways those words motivate me. 

The story of my extramural relationship with Ryhor Baradulin began when, as Minister of Culture, I was approached by the priest Vladislav Zavalniuk — rector of the Church of St Simeon and St Helen in Minsk — with a proposal to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the famous Belarusian poet. It was not the initiative of Baradulin himself, but it was the initiative of the Belarusian public. I remember that some time later I had a meeting with Lukashenko. During that meeting, among others, I raised the issue of the anniversary of Ryhor Baradulin — one of the last national poets of Belarus.

And there was a proposal from the public that this event should take place in the Palace of the Republic. I can't say that I sincerely like this facility, but the idea was to use a venue that could accommodate as many people as possible — and the Palace of the Republic was suitable for that. Lukashenko reacted negatively to this, but did not object to the adjustment of the proposal, as there were other alternatives — the Belarusian State Philharmonia and the National Academic Theatre of Yanka Kupala. Lukashenko was also against the Yanka Kupala Theatre as a venue for the anniversary celebration, but he waved his head at the Philharmonia. 

We began to prepare the event, I gave a written order to the Belarusian Philharmonia, and planned to go to the anniversary to personally congratulate the People's Poet of Belarus Ryhor Baradulin. But just a day before the event I got a phone call. Natalia Petkevich, then first deputy head of the Lukashenko administration, called. She said that she categorically forbade me to be present at this celebration, as she considered that it would be a provocation, that I could actually turn out to be a person, a minister, a member of the government, who would thus support the Belarusian opposition.

However, I managed to find a way out then: I sent one of my deputies to this celebration — and he was present at this event. It was important for me that it happened, that we honored an outstanding Belarusian Ryhor Baradulin. 

Ryhor Baradulin was born in Ushachchyna - the land where many outstanding writers and poets were born: the national writer Vasil Bykov, the national poet Petrus Brovka, the famous poetess Eudokia Los. Baradulin was a true Belarusian who conveyed the Belarusian self-identity in his works. However, I still often remember this valuable gift of Baradulin when rereading the works of the famous author.


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