Andrei Liankevich. “Goodbye, Motherland”, 14.09 — 27.09

War has never been anything close to me in the emotional sense. It was a story about “every fourth man who died in Belarus”. But I have never sensed it personally. There was no sorrow, no pain I could feel.

I have always asked myself, “Why is the war such a widely discussed subject?” The answer to this question was found and it was as clear as every personal experience may be. For me it was the answer to the question, “Who are you?” Who I am in terms of the blood than runs though my veins and to what I feel in my heart.

My father Leopold’s ancestors were Polish. His father’s name was Blazej. Lienkievich, the surname written on my grand-parents’ gravestones, originates from a Lithuanian word meaning “Polish”. My mother’s bloodlines are of Belarusian (my grandmother is Sofja Tarasauna) and Russian (my grandfather is Grygoryj Ivanavich) origins.

Thus, my ancestors experienced the war in ways which are different and similar at the same time. The Poles from Western Belarus did not have to join the army, as my father explains, because of distrust.

My father’s cousin was the only person from my Polish part of family who worked for the Germans during the war and when the war was over he decided to stay in Poland. When the Iron Curtain fell we visited my uncle Anton in Poland. He lived in better conditions than we did. On our way to Poland, we waited for three days on the Polish-Belarusian border in Brest, the city where the real war starts again every evening and you can hear explosions and Leviatan’s voice all over the museum. It was here where my father served when the Second World War began for the Soviet Union. We stayed three days in a place where my father had stayed for three years.

My great-grandfather Ivan was an Orthodox priest and the nation’s enemy. My grandfather’s family lost everything after my great-grandfather had been arrested. They had to search for birds’ eggs in the forest… But nobody died because of the Germans. Even my aunt Sonya, my grandfather’s sister, survived the Siege of Leningrad.

Therefore, I have started my trip to the world of war, the world I understand and hate, as much as I hate the arms themselves.

Belarusian history started and finished with war. “We won. Good partisans fought against bad the fascists”. I agree with independent historians’ books where it is said that the war in Belarus had much more in common with a civil war than with a world war. There was the Polish Home Army (the Armia Krajowa), the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, the Lithuanian Forest Brothers (Lietuvos Laisvės Armija), fascists and policemen and among them there were ordinary people.

Almost the whole history of Belarus can be compressed to those four years, the years of war. There is only “after”, a long time after in 1991, 1994, 1996…

50% of streets’ names in Minsk are related to the Second World War, I mean to the Great Patriotic War. 30% are the heroes’ names. The Armed Forces parade takes place in Minsk every year despite the economic crisis and asphalt damages in the city caused by the tanks.

I have started my trip with a feeling that not everything can be so unequivocally good or bad during the war. It can only be complicated and unambiguous. Yes, that is true. There were many Jews in partisan corps, they were eliminated by fascists, sometimes by the locals. Not only jerks and careerists were in the police, but also those who wanted to take revenge on their victimized relatives. Partisans were not saints, either. The photos are only an attempt to talk about the war, about today’s attitude to it. Answers, like experiences, are very personal.

14.09 — 30.09
“Ў” Contemporary Art Gallery

Niezaležnasci Avenue, 37a
12:00 – 22:00, daily
Entry Fee: 2 BYN

14.09
Opening

“Ў” Contemporary Art Gallery, 19.00
Free entrance