‘Warm welcome is one that I’ll never forget’
●● SEAN continues his account of his trip to Belarus HAVING negotiated the Belarus border crossing, it remained to be seen if my friend Dmitry had managed to make the 400-mile journey to meet me.
knew money was tight and petrol is not readily available in some areas of the country but, sure enough there he was in his old four-wheel drive parked by the side of the road with a big grin
Ion his face. “Tonight we eat buckwheat and drink vodka,” he laughed. In fact as soon as he saw the clothing sponsored by Raging Bull, the vodka was out to salute me.
Truth is, was hoping for wild boar or venison and buckwheat did not sound too appetising.
Dmitry was even more delighted with the radio tags, which had been sponsored by the Irwell Valley Housing Association, and although this may seem to be an unusual partnership, it makes perfect sense to me.
have been working on a heritage trail for the company at Haughton Green, part of which involves an explanation that some of the wildlife
IIonce found in the area including brown bear, lynx and wolves, is still found in the area of Krasny Bor where Dmitry lives.
We were still in the very heart of the forest reserve and it was about five miles before we came to an enormous pair of elaborate wooden gates, and yes you’ve guessed it, more guards.
Dmitry had needed to obtain special permission and documents to be able to enter the forest to pick me up, but we were soon through and, for me, into the unknown.
could go on at length about marshland and eagles, daytime owls and vast rafts of water birds, and more types of woodpecker than could shake a stick at, including white-backed, Syrian, grey-headed and middle
IIspotted, but nothing prepared me for the visit to a tiny village, at least 10 miles off the very-beaten track, and 20 from the next hamlet of any size. It was a time-machine moment and we’d gone back 300 years or more, the only nod in the direction of our current century were the telegraph poles.
It was a cocoon in the midst of a much larger cocoon of a country and the only living souls were two women, both in their 80s, the men had long since died and the children moved to Minsk in search of jobs.
As I looked around one of the ladies came out to clear the snow from a driveway that no one ever uses, casting her eye in our direction. think she just wanted to say hello, so went over and did just that and received the biggest smile ever as shook her gnarled hand.
She beckoned me in and prepared black tea on a miracle of an old fire place, reminding me of my early years in Southern Ireland; complete with faded photographs in faded frames, religious icons and candles. From a small and battered metal tin she handed me, what surely was, her last biscuit.
We said nothing that either of us understood, but can still feel the hair rising on the back of my neck as write. It was a special moment, and as much as wanted to take out my camera, it would have been an intrusion on this memory.
Dmitry had arranged to meet two birding-friends from the capital city.
They had discovered the village when searching for great grey owls and then bought three of the deserted wooden houses and are attempting to get a birdwatching holiday centre off the ground by gradually improving the facilities to attract westerners. They could leave it as it is for me.
●● The village Sean visited in Belarus – about 10 miles off the beaten track