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Belarus in Focus
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28 Jan

Anna Prazhina, Afisha-Mir (Mir travel magazine), November 1, 2012 (Russia)

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A Letter from Belarus. Khutor Wolk

“You go past the direction sign to Polatsk, then past Hlybokaje, turn right off the main road at the sign Valki, and after the Paryzh sign go up the hill to your right. There you’ll see our khutor Wolk”. Those were the directions given to me by Evgeniy.

And there we see a farm in the middle of the fields that they call a khutor in Belarus. Misha-the-manager and Alla-the-chef come out to meet us with their broad pumpkin smiles. There is a dog barking behind their backs. Her name is Lisa and they keep her on a leash so that she does not lick guests in delight. She is a very friendly dog.

We go the dinner table set for us on the terrace. Alla–the-chef keeps bringing plates with potato pancakes with mushrooms, cepelinai with meat, homemade liver sausages, fried potatoes with chanterelles, that Misha-the-manager gathered in the forest, pours us tea and treats us to raspberry jam and honeycombs (Misha is also a beekeeper). I am trying to point out the fact that this food is enough to feed a squadron of solders, but arguments are useless. You have to eat well in Belarus.

Misha plays Vertinsky records on a gramophone, opens a bottle of wine and goes to heat a banya. In the evening we jump into our canopy featherbeds, our children climb on top of the Russian stove and we sleep for twelve hours without moving.

Khutor Wolk consists of a big main house, a kitchen-house, a clubhouse with a movie projector and a library, a banya, a blacksmith’s coal forge and a root cellar. It is surrounded by an apple orchard and endless fields. Storks are flying around. There are no fences because they don’t steal here. Even the poorest village houses are neatly and freshly painted in bright colors, and there is everything one needs growing in his garden, so you don’t even need to go grocery shopping.

Evgeniy is the co-owner of a small tourist agency in Moscow. Once he was passing through Western Belarus and liked the area so much that he decided to buy his own khutor to live there and to rent out to ecotourists. He bought a dirt cheap khutor with houses and structures falling apart from an old Polish lady, Wanda Wolk, and spent three years restoring it. Evgeniy wanted his future guests to feel that the well-off family of Wanda Wolk still lived there, that even ordered grain separators from England. He bought houses built in the early XX century that were for sale in the neighborhood and used their logs to restore his khutor, he cleaned and fixed old wooden trunks, ordered exact copies of the chairs that could not be restored at the nearby furniture factory, and had to redo the shake for the roof eight times.

The next day, a local guide Frantz Khomich took us on a tour to Paryzh where we climbed up the Eiffel Tower.  In the village of Mosar he told us stories about the priest Juozas Bulka who made the whole village quit drinking alcohol and opened a small John Paul II museum. We made a stop at the Trinity church in Dunilavichy where the unsettled soul of a Dominican friar showed up once in a while. So they say.

Khomich said that we should read his blog. I asked him where he went for Internet access. He gave me a bewildered look and said: “I have a perfect internet connection and Wi-Fi right here.”  “Right here” meant in the middle of his henhouse and strawberry beds.

Was it worth driving for seven hundred kilometers to eat some potato pancakes, go to a banya and climb up a ridiculous Eiffel Tower? Yes it was. From far away, Belarus seems to be an unhappy country with a dictator in power, a weak currency nicknamed “hares” and people living half-starving lives. But when you eat your tenth plate of pancakes you cannot believe it. The world here seems perfect and touching, and you cannot help asking the locals if there is a khutor for sale in the neighborhood.

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