What are you driving around here for? How about buying a hut?

How an ordinary trip around the countryside and a chance encounter changed the life of a director from the capital city.

The village of Belaya Tsarkva, which is a two-hour drive from Minsk to the north, is known to be one of the meccas of Belarusian downshifting. Here lives a community of creative people, including musicians, directors, and photographers. Today we are going to Belaya Tsarkva to talk with the founder of the settlement, musician, and clip-maker Matvey Saburov, and his wife, theater director Katerina Averkova.

Soon the excited owner of the house appears.
He has just returned from a meeting of the district executive committee, where Matvey somehow managed to get a round of applause.
He works with the local executive committee as the main organizer of the SPRAVA festival. Last year, Matvey, Katerina, and their neighbor, musician of the Port Mone band Sergey Kravchenko, organized a festival of the place with academic and modern music, a choir performance in an abandoned 16th-century church on a peninsula in the middle of Lake Chereis. Although last year the authorities did not quite understand who and what they were dealing with, this year, the festival organizers were treated with more attention.
Matvey hands me a towel, and we go to the lake to swim. There we are met by a new wooden dock.

After the July heat and a long journey, the lake is just what you need to get refreshed. Having cooled down, we are resting on the dock, and Matvey with a towel on his shoulder, reminds not a musician but some ancient Greek philosopher.
– People build their lives according to the place where they live.
And a place is a landscape, the presence of lakes, rivers, seas. Each place has its own advantages. We have a lake and a peninsula here, a bit of hill and a lack of coniferous forests – there are mostly oaks and aspens. Therefore, your activities are very often provoked by surroundings, and most likely, you can even stick to a certain place," says Matvey.
– For example, I really like water. When I choose a place to live, I can't choose one without water nearby. So, if someone says, "Let's gather in that one place, it is great to live in," I don't understand that. For me, it may be a great place to live, but for someone else, it may not.
And if everyone chose a place to live based on what they like landscape-wise, then the Minsk population would go down to 600 thousand people.
And in the villages around our lake, there would still be 20-30 houses with people living in them, unlike now when everything here is abandoned. Moreover, our festival would not be some strange event, but a completely natural occasion, only it would be called differently. It used to be like that before when there were spring and winter celebrations: people would gather from the nearby villages, shop cars, and music bands would come, and there were various contests held, for example, pole climbing… and all of that happened completely naturally.
– I came down here because I was tired of that urban environment, among other things. This is not a friendly environment for me. I love riding a bike, water, space. I love people, but those people who communicate, not just move.
In Minsk, one gets the impression that people simply wander around. It's true that lately, some of the things have begun to change, probably because we hit rock bottom at some point before that.
When you are placed in such a creative cauldron, it seems that you live in your own separate country. At that time, I began to travel around Belarus. I visited my mother (she lives 15 km from Belaya Tsarkva) and invited her to go for a drive. For the longest time, I was keen to explore the story of the White Church (Belaya Tsarkva), which I heard as a child, but I had never been in the village itself. The legend has it that a climber died here when the church was used as a climbing facility for the practice of a local tourist club. I heard this story at school. And so the White Church, for me, was associated with death – one of the most fascinating topics when you are a child.

And so, I drove into the village to find out what it was, the death. But instead, I met the drunken Ivanych, who was the only person living in this abandoned village.
He just went out on the road and asked rudely: "What are you driving around here for? How about buying a hut?" – and then he pointed to a hut standing on the shore of the lake.

"How much is it?" – I asked. "Three thousand" – the man replied with a rural accent. I thought to myself that it was quite a lot of money, so I asked if there was anything else. And Ivanych replied: "There's a hut on the mountain, it's very good, take it for a thousand."

I didn't know why I needed this house, but I was going to buy it. Later it turned out that the house was owned by my friend's grandmother, so the purchase and registration went smoothly. And as soon as I bought the house, I brought my German friends here. It was winter, no one had lived in the house for ten years. We started to heat the stoves with the wood from a fence outside and almost died. I heated the stoves for eight to nine hours in a row, they overheated and smoked the house. Later on, however, all these stoves had to be properly repaired – admits Matvey.

Katerina appears on the doorstep with a large bottle of champagne. She puts a bottle of champagne in the refrigerator, and we move to an open terrace under a transparent roof to have dinner. We are joined by our neighbors: painting student Sasha and smiling programmer Anya. There are almost no fences in Belaya Tsarkva, and when guests visit the house, it seems that all the residents of this village are just members of one big family.
– I am a gregarious person, – Matvey smiles. – In the city, when guests come over, the kitchen can fit in a maximum of 10 people. On my very first Birthday here, I had a group of twenty people coming over, and there was enough room for everyone. They gifted me a rubber boat, and we arranged a regatta on the lake.
It was then that it became clear that now we can have a party until the morning, turn on our favorite music, and no one will complain because there was no one there to complain.
That meant that there was plenty of room, literally and figuratively speaking, for almost any activity I had in mind.
Since then, Matvey visited the village more and more often, and gradually, over the course of five years, all his belongings moved here.

– I usually don't make decisions spontaneously. But little by little, I relocated all my life to Belaya Tsarkva. And just like that, the city's presence in my life slowly decreased, and the countryside took up its space. So I moved here without hesitating.

Matvey's wife Katerina appeared in the village a little later:

– I first came to Belaya Tsarkva 5 years ago. I just fell in love with Matvey, when he already had a house here. We started to come here more and more often, and then at one point, we realized that we didn't want to go back to Minsk anymore. So we began to live here. After a while, I felt that I wanted to do something for this place, and we came up with the SPRAVA festival. Last year it was quite small, but this year we are expanding the program. As for the future, we definitely don't want it to turn into a huge fest.

SPRAVA is, first of all, a festival of the place, and the place here is small.

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