Vasil Hryn: "We live in the same tradition this land has lived in for centuries"

To get to the isolated farmstead to Vasil Hryn, you need to first come to Haradziechna, Valozhyn district, and then look for the railway crossing on your right. And if there is a clearly used road leading to the crossing, the situation changes to only two lonely tracks once you leave it behind. The further away, the greater the wilderness. You find yourself surrounded by nothing else but white fields and bare stumps of trees.

After a while, you can catch a glimpse of Zastsenak Skrypleva - a large wooden cross and a restored farmhouse with outbuildings behind it. There is a horseshoe hanging by the entrance and a portrait of a mysterious bearded man in the corner. I knock, the owner of the farmstead himself comes out and welcomes me inside. The walls are covered with old musical instruments, numerous diplomas, and even a calendar for this month with a picture of unmistakably no one else but our interviewee.
Vasil, history and English language teacher by training, once completed his master's and postgraduate studies in Minsk. But when his daughter was born, there suddenly was no time for science - he had to provide for the family. His engagement in sports tourism as a student determined Vasil's future life.
- While working at ski resorts, I saw how the owners work for their country, and I saw it not as a tourist but as a colleague who brought clients. And I got this itching in my head to organize something similar at home. I bought some nice boats and started working in water tourism.
- I first bought two kayaks, then four, then five… And when there were more than twelve boats, my nine hundred square meters of land in Zaslavl became a bit overcrowded. I started looking for a boat station. In 2013 I found my Zastsenak. On the one hand, I chose purely rationally, because the river here is suitable for boats, and I understand the local area. I will not say that I am a blood relative here, but I am sorta local, people even speak here the same way my grandmother did.
Stanislau Branislavavich, Zastsenak Skryplev's only native and Vasily's neighbor, appears in the room. He sits down at the table with us, and we continue our conversation. I ask if the neighbors are on good terms with each other.
- Well, we hit it off, there is nothing for us to be at odds over, really. I can give Vasil a little piece of advice here or help out there, - Stah says.

Vasil agrees.

- We are on good terms with Branislavavich, neighborly. And it is very important to live well with thy neighbor.
We do not strain one another. If we get tired of each other's company, we just go to our homes. We would sit down, read newspapers, listen to the radio, then get together and talk.
- When I moved here and met Stas, he started speaking in the local manner. And suddenly, the same talk poured out of me. It turns out I know all these words. As they say in English - this is my passive language.
Станіслаў Браніслававіч
I used to be ashamed of my accent, but now I realize that this dialect is a valuable trait too. It helps me to establish contact with the locals for sure. Both their prices and attitude become different.
Habitants of Zastsenak clean the snow off the ice, then look closely through it, until Stah suddenly shouts: "Good!" Vasil takes an ax and begins to cut the ice. Soon a huge fish is pulled from the hole. The prey falls into the fishermen's hands, and I see the eyes of the adult men glowing, their faces lit up with joy and inspiration. Meanwhile, the search for the fish continues, and soon the next frozen carp goes straight into the Branislavavich's pot.
- I like the peace of the countryside, - Vasil shares.

It is true. When you look at these snow-covered fields, a quiet river, black spreading trees, all the internal struggles quiet down. Peace literally fills your body.

But the village is changing rapidly. And I'm interested in Vasil's opinion on this matter. What future does he see for our Belarusian village?

- Older people will slowly pass away purely physically.
Urbanization will remain, but I will resist it as long as I live by maintaining the traditions, making festivals that the elderly can enjoy as well.
The festivals we organize are non-profit, but these events are needed to mark - fuck-all! We are still alive, and we live in the same tradition this land has lived in for centuries. I just want to live the way I want till I pass.
- If you take any Belarusian and any resident on the border of Switzerland and Austria, you'll find their minds are exactly the same. The only difference is the quality of life.

But in Belarus, we are in danger of a dead end. In total, there are 9.5 million people in the country. Minsk population is now officially 2 million, unofficially 2.5 or even 3 million, add major regional cities to it... What kind of imbalance is this! Economically as well.
In the past, even during wars or revolutions, people always had something to eat because Belarus is not a bare field. For instance, there are forests. But now the situation is different - everything is concentrated in the city. But what would become of it if you turn off the lights for even a week?
The situation is really dangerous. And our state strategists need to think about this as well. What is the reason for such a density of population?
- For example, Minsk is now crammed with cars and people, and it's not normal. All the money is pumped there, all the social capital. And the authorities have no strategy to mend this difference between Minsk and the regions. They have to think about it.
I question if it is possible to lead an eco-friendly lifestyle in the village at all.

- Branislavavich is my teacher there in some way. He has and does reprimand me if I want to throw something away. He tells me, "Don't! Sort it!" It seems to be a simple message, but in fact, it is what the whole civilized world abides by now, and it is impossible to live without it.

- Who do you reckon the future of the village is: people like you who moved here or the locals?

- People like me, people like Branislavavich and me, the locals who do not tank up and live on their land, work it to get some money, as well as the state, which creates the conditions for such life.
Verasen, Auhinia Mantsevich
read also