War has never been anything close to me in 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 have always asked myself: “why is the war such a widely discussed subject?”. the answer to this question was found and it was as distinctive as every personal experience may be. It was the answer to the question “Who are you?” for me. According to your blood. According to your heart. Who am I? my father Leopold’s ancestors were Polish. his father’s name was Blazej. the surname, written on my grand- parents’ graves, Lienkievich, originates from a Lithuanian word meaning “Polish”. my mother’s bloodlines are of Belarusian (my grandmother Sofja Tarasauna) and russian (my grandfather grygoryj Ivanavich) origins. My different ancestors experienced the war in different, and at the same time, in similar ways. Poles from Western Belarus were not taken to the army – my father explains – because of distrust. My father’s cousin was the only one from my Polish part of family who worked for germans during the war and after the war 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 begins all over again every evening and you can hear explosions and Leviatan’s voice spread- ing over the museum. my father served here when the Second World War began for the Soviet Union. We stayed three days in the place where my father stayed for three years. My great-grandfather Ivan was an orthodox priest and an enemy of the nation. my grandfather’s family lost everything after my great-grandfather was taken. they had to search for birds’ eggs in the forest… But nobody died because of 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 fascists”. I agree with the books of independent historians that say that the war in Belarus had much more in common with a civil war than with world war. there were Polish home Army (the Armia Krajowa), the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, the Lithuanian Forest Brothers (Lietuvos Laisvės Armija), fascists and policemen and among them ordinary people. Almost the whole history of Belarus can be compressed to those four years, years of war. there is only “After”, 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 names of heroes. 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 the feeling that not every- thing 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 locals. not only jerks and careerists were in the police, but also those who wanted to take revenge for victimized relatives. Partisans were not saints too. the photos are only an attempt to talk about the war, about modern attitude to it. Answers, like experiences, are very personal