‘Warm wel­come is one that I’ll never for­get’

Macclesfield Express - - THE LAUGHING BADGER -

●● 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.

IIIIII

●● The vil­lage Sean vis­ited in Be­larus – about 10 miles off the beaten track

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