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Łukasz Grajewski

Belarus Is Not Somalia – The End Of The ‘User’s Guideline’ Project

It was my one chance to really see this place. Now I know that Belarus is not Somalia’ – this frank admission of Adam, recent high school graduate, proves success of the project called ‘Białoruś. Instrukcja Obsługi’ (Belarus. User’s Guide).

The participants in t-shirts with logo of the project, source: bialorus-instrukcja.blogspot.com

The founder of ‘Belarus. User’s Guide’ educational project is Adam Rębacz, history and social studies teacher in IX Liceum Ogólnokształcące (High School), named after Klementyna Hoffmanowa, in Warsaw. Well-known for his penchant for tourism and cultural management, he decided to bring his students closer to Belarus. Adam got in touch with the Free Belarus Initiative, which then contacted Belarusian Yakub Kolas Lyceum. Within a collaboration framework of these two distinguished schools, a whole joint project for students’ trip emerged. The organizers moved from words to actions. On August 1, Polish-Belarusian integration-and-education-orientated team began a 10-day journey through Belarusian cities and towns.

The group of students consisted of nearly 30 persons, including chaperons. One had to face every day hardships: guess military leader Tadeusz Kosciuszko’s national identity, find journalist Ryszard Kapuscinski’s traces in Pinsk, visit writer Adam Mickiewicz in Navahrudak, not get lost in topography of Minsk, and, above all, have fun swimming and organizing bonfires. To make the ‘user’s guide’ more colourful, the high-school students were taking pictures however they could. Under the eye of expert photographers, they documented each stage of the trip. In coming autumn we will have a chance to check the results – pictures taken by participants and a report from the journey – on a special exhibition. The blog bialorus-instrukcja.blogspot.com shows that this trip was something more than just a short photographic adventure:

We are going to Navahrudak, and it’s already the halfway point of our journey. All are surprised by this country in a positive way. Hospitality, great food, amazing landscapes and meeteing Belarusian colleagues – we break stereotypes. After we went the first day to the pickup point, full of nervousness and silly comments behind the backs (why bother to go there anyway?), we decided to find a ‘user’s guide to Belarus. We are searching. Looking for people we can talk to and places that amaze us, and we get to know the history of this country. Are 10 days enough? Is it even possible to create an easy guideline how to live here? Clapping the rhythm, I look through the window and think that I’d like to come back here some day. To make a change. To take action!

During 10 days, the participants of the project went to Brest, Pinsk, Rozan, Mir, Navahrudak, Mereczowszczyzna (Kosava), Zalesie, Grodna, Minsk, Rakau, Niasvizh and Polack. You can find photos and descriptions of each visited place on bialorus-instrukcja.blogspot.com.

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Łukasz Grajewski

Socjolog, absolwent Studium Europy Wschodniej UW. Pracował w administracji publicznej, aktywny w trzecim sektorze (Fundacja Wspólna Europa, Polska Fundacja im. Roberta Schumana, Inicjatywa Wolna Białoruś). Autor licznych publikacji o Europie Wschodniej w polskich mediach.

Contact: [email protected]

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