Friday, July 27, 2007

Around Minsk

Belarusians love flowers, monuments and street sculpture. When the weather warms up they're all in evidence.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Jewish Minsk

Our tour of "Jewish Minsk" unfortunately left no time for examining all the positive artifacts of a rich cultural history that included a thriving Yiddish theatre scene even in the early Soviet years, during which, for a short period, Yiddish was one of Belarus' official languages.

After the pit at Yama, where 5000 Jews were murdered in one night and the trip to the site of the Maly Trostenetz concentration camp, as well as assorted other stops, we ended an emotional day.
The photos, from bottom right going clockwise show (1) detail from monument to German Jews brought to Minsk to be killed; (2) Yama; (3) sign at site of Maly Trostenetz, where 206,000(!) were killed by Nazis; (4) Yama; (5)Alla, the guide, explaining the monument at Yama, which includes a tribute to ordinary Belarusians who risked their lives to save Jews on that awful day; (6) Winding down at the Lido cafeteria afterwards with Lisa and Yvonne, the two Fulbrights, Yvonne's husband Mike, and Erica, an American volunteer at the Minsk Jewish Community Center.

US Embassy Film Fest

The Pubic Affairs Section of the embassy sponsored a showing of American films in the original language in a large cinema in Minsk - not an easy thing in Eastern Europe where everything gets dubbed in the local language. When they asked me to do the introduction to "Annie Hall," I expected a handful of people. What I found was a packed house of several hundred people! I'd like to think it was for me, but somehow I think it was for Woody Allen.

I gave a short address in English after handing out a transcript in English and Russian, which, much to my surprise, generated several requests for my autograph. Quite an ego trip for an English teacher, but just another example of the generosity and graciousness of the Belarusians.

The pictures show us back in the audience with Rena having a good laugh about something and me speaking. The gentleman next to me is a film critic from a local publication.