"Your century-old grief is clear to me..."

Elena TRIBULEVA, "Vecherniy Brest" (The Evening Brest) Newspaper, No 109, January 19, 2007

Professor of Biology was pressured to leave a job in the National Park "Belovezhskaya Pushcha".

Last years big and small scandals are continually raised involving Belovezhskaya Pushcha. They were concerned of invasion of bark beetles that caused a very significant increase of extraction of timber in Pushcha and provoked a wave of protests on the part of "greens". This also covered legal cases regarding the facts of wrongful dismissals of the people. This was also an attempt of the new management of the Park to move the former director who was an employee of the Reserve for some tens of years from a house of the departmental property in the village of Kamenyuki. This was also a sensational story connected with killing of two bison shot by foreign hunters by mistake... In short, there were a lot of occasions to write publications. The continual problem is only to get information in roundabout ways. The present director of the National Park has a very selective attitude to the reporters. For this reason the opinion of a man who very recently took a post of deputy director general of that reserve concerning the current situation in Pushcha seems to be worthy that to publish it without any changing.

An Evening Brest's note. Evgeny Busco was born in 1952 in the Pruzhany district. After graduation of the forest-management faculty of the Byelorussian Technological Institute he worked in the National Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Belarus researching the problem "Man-caused pollution of natural ecosystems of Belarus by industrial pollutants" within the framework of the system of European ecological monitoring. He is one of the leading Belarusian scientists in the field of ecology and nature use. He is an author of six monographs, two school-books and more than 110 scientific papers. Being of 34 years old, he defended a doctor thesis for biology. In 1995, in the K.A. Timiryazev's Moscow Agricultural Academy, he defended the next theses on ecology to become Professor. Since 1992, he was a member of the Scientific and Technical Council of the National Park "Belovezhskaya Pushcha". In 2004 he was employed in the National Park as a leading senior researcher. A year later he was appointed deputy director general for science to become a head of the scientific department. In October of 2006, he was compelled to look for a new job because the Reserve's management has not wanted to prolong the term of his work contract. He is currently Professor of the faculty of engineering ecology and chemistry and he teaches at the Brest State University. He is married and has two adult children.

- Evgeny Grigorievich, it was very strangely rumored about the reasons of your leaving Pushcha. What was so very terrible made by Professor with the recognized prestige in the field of forest ecology to refuse him prolongation of the work contract?

- This isn't clear to me until now. I always thought that we, I and Nikolai Nokolaevich Bambiza, director of the Park, have quite friendly and even confidential attitudes, more than simply normal work relations. There were situations when we humanely helped each other to do something and I appreciate this up to now. The severance between us has taken place, I could say, because of your colleague-journalist. I had imprudence to give an interview to Valery Dranchuk, editor of some "green" periodicals acting for preservation of Pushcha. Frankly speaking, I did not suspect that Mr. Dranchuk is a person whom is forbidden to visit our National Park. In any case, I do not see something bad in talking to the metropolitan reporter about a topic which is close and interesting to me as to an expert. I have treated Valery to tea. We had good and interesting conversation, but the representatives of the Reserve's guard suddenly came into my office and removed out the journalist literally holding his hands. In few minutes later, a telephone call from the director sounded. He was in Minsk that day. He said "That's all, guy, look for the other job". I learned later that, let's say, the trusted people called him in order to report on my "puncture". This happened on June 27 last year and since that time I was given to be clear that after the expiration of my contract I will not work any more here. My attempts to explain the situation came to no result. I now realize that I was guilty because I received the objectionable journalist. Nikolai Nokolaevich has taken this as treachery and he constantly emphasized it at our meetings.

- It is known that he doesn't treat excessively to the people and dismisses the workers if any occasion occurs and even without cause.

- Unfortunately, it's true. Nikolai Nokolaevich never appreciated the people as priority. There wasn't of necessity to commit some offence that to fall into disgrace and to be dismissed. By the way, the director has only taken exclusive right to employee everyone including a charwoman. Once he's gone on leave while some people were staffed in the forest department and forest guard for that time. After coming back he has gathered the management for planning and has ordered to dismiss everyone who was staffed without his permission. This man has rare ability to aggravate the attitude to the people. And it is clear that those are right who have more rights.

- Last years the National Park "Belovezhskaya Pushcha" got a strong criticism about his activity shifted from the field of forest protection and scientific researches to the field of pure economic management. In particular, it is known that there never was such a little amount of the scientists in the scientific department over all time since the existence of the Reserve as it presents now. Is it true?

- According to a list of members of staff which comes into force after its approval in the Property Management Department of the President, 20 to 23 people should work in the scientific department of the National Park "Belovezhskaya Pushcha". When I headed the scientific department 16 employees were engaged in the researches. Now, as far as I know, about 12 people remained. This is surely the essential benefit for the budget of the accounts department. Yes, there was a time when the scientific department in Pushcha totaled 56 employees but, in my opinion, it is the extra amount. I considered and I consider that the Park should annually invite three to four young specialists from different high schools – botanists, zoologists, entomologists and so on – in order to employ them. There will surely be at least one of them who will stay for a permanent residence here. The today's science in Pushcha is still conducted thanks to such the enthusiasts interested in the scientific themes as Nikolai Cherkas, Andrei Abramchuk, Valentina Khudyakova and Aleksei Bunevich. But Nikolai Nokolaevich, let's say so, was getting caught in an endless loop to focus on forest-management faculty of the Technological University which he graduated (by the way, me too). And he only employed the graduates from there. This is not entirely correct. The graduates of this high school are mainly the foresters orientated into the practice and it is nearly impossible to entice them to deal with science because of incommensurably low salary. For this reason the Park suffers from very serious deficiency of the scientists.

- Your predecessors dismissed earlier say that Nickolai Bambiza does not love the science at all...

- Probably, it's true. At least, he opens the every planning meeting asking how the plan to harvest timber is in progress. This is incommensurably more important for him. I was told that when he ruled the Pripyatski National Park the employees of the local scientific department were engaged in different activities excepting for science. Probably, certain skepticism of the director has come from there. One day I have invited a dean of the architectural faculty from Minsk. He has brought some projects to construct a new office building of the National Park. As you know, the former building is now under reconstruction to get a hotel while the administration has been moved to the area of a timber processing plant. The scientific department, for example, was placed above a garage. And when powerful timber carrying vessels located below start motors working to a full power we get nothing to breathe because the chinks in a floor are almost of the size like a palm. The scientific library has been placed above a stoke-hole and the books are permanently covered with a big dust. In short, the Park does need the office building and we considered the projects offered. So, what is interesting, Nikolai Nokolaevich intended to allocate the rooms for the scientific department which are not the best in the new building. He said that each of the employees should be granted a soldier's stool and a wooden table and it is enough to be engaged in the science.

Sure, such the attitude gives offence. I repeatedly cited the experience of the Polish colleagues to Nikolai Nokolaevich as an example. So, in the Polish village of Bialowieza, there is the Mammal Research Institute of the Polish Academy of Sciences where each employee, even if he very lately graduated the Warsaw University, has a separate office with necessity equipment and a conditioner. And they study any little bird with very thoroughness that their researches allow them getting the international level. At to us, we weren't even any vehicles and we always got into serious troubles to visit forest for the researches.

- What is about rumours that Nikolai Bambiza intends to defend a doctor theses?

- I think that these are just plans for the future. Strong as his positions is now he certainly thinks of his business after he will leave Pushcha. He realizes that, having a scientific degree, he will feel more self-confident in the life.

- What necessity was to move the people from the office building so very urgently and to reconstruct it into the hotel?

- Of course, it was necessary urgently to develop a hotel business and to increase the amount of places for accommodation. In my opinion, this was unequivocally a strategic mistake. If there is need to build the hotels it should be done in the vicinity of Pushcha, not within its area. For example, it can be in the towns of Pruzhany, Kamenetz, Svisloch or Vysokoe. The hotels existing in Pushcha are accommodated as maximum as for 40 percents. I am not an expert on this business but I suspect when a hotel is full of less than 50 percents of the possible visitors it becomes unprofitable. This is a line of the administration of the National Park quickly to develop the tourist business. For this reason the lakes of Lyadskoe and Plyanta were cleared and deepened last year. There are now plans to create beaches there. An estate of Grandfather Frost comes from the same field. Near to it, by the way, an inn is planed to be constructed which should bring in an income and should attract the tourists in the long-term prospect.

On the one hand, the estate and the lake improved for the recreational purpose are very good. However, Pushcha should attract the people in another way, namely due to natural uniqueness and originality. One day a group of 30 Swedish ornithologists visited us. So, they beforehand asked in the letter that Nikolai Charkas guides them in Pushcha. They know him as an expert in the field of ornithology. Besides, they were very interested in seeing great gray owl while Nikolai is able some how to beckon this bird, let's say diving the opportunity nearly to stroke it by hand. This is what is necessary to develop and to accent in Pushcha. The beaches exist everywhere. But if suddenly the great gray owl will vanish in Pushcha, the world will surely become poorer.

- Do you regret you was forced to leave Pushcha?

- I do regret. I am a man of science and I felt to be in my element there. I had huge plans. I put two basic tasks. The first was to improve the quality of the workers. Agree this isn't normal when no one employee of the scientific department has prepared and has defended a doctor these for many years. I therefore incited the people to focus a concrete result of the work. We issued a book of collected papers "Belovezhskaya Pushcha". I obtained a license from the Ministry of Information of the Republic of Belarus allowing the publishing activities in order to include the book of collected papers in a list of High Certifying Commission of the National Academy of Sciences. In this case everything what is published in this book by the young scientists from Pushcha would be considered a scientific paper and would positively influence upon the final result. And we have managed to make much in this direction. I know that at least Aleksei Bunevich, all life devoted to study bison, and Nikolai Cherkas dealing with ornithology should defend the theses this year. They have made a big scientific ground. They need only to systematize and finalize it.

And the second objective which I put for myself was as maximum as to attract in Pushcha scientific organizations and institutes. I know very many people from the scientific society of Russia and Ukraine. I recently was lucky to get acquainted with Zhores Alferov. I don't consider the task impossible to organize an international conference with participation of the famous scientists. And I had time to make it. In April of the last year the International scientific and practical conference "Ecological and economic mechanism of preservation of biodiversity on especially protected natural areas of the Republic of Belarus" was hold with participation of the scientists from Poland, Ukraine and Russia. Then we hold so-called the Romanov's Reading. Since 1957 to 1966 Vladimir Sergeevich Romanov headed Belovezhskaya Pushcha and he contributed much to both Pushcha and the Belarusian science. Later he became Rector of the Technological University. Last year Vladimir Sergeevich was 80 years birthday. Unfortunately, in September of 2006 he has gone but shortly before his death we discussed the current situation in Pushcha and he promised that he will not allow my leaving from Pushcha. Unfortunately, he had no time...

So, having consulted with the colleagues, we have hold the Romanov's Reading "Forest management, forest ecology, wildness protection" in his honour in the summer. The very serious event with participation of the scientists from four countries has turned out. We planned annually to carry out the events like this in order to use such measures for examination of the current problems of the science. It would be a success since the scientists from Lithuania and Germany already intended to join these conferences and events. Agree this is huge plus to raise a Park's image. I repeat I was in my element. The Academician Parfenov even told one day that I as a scientist got second wind in Pushcha. He was sure that I will get success here. Unfortunately, I have failed.

- Do you think that what you have begun will not be continued?

- As to defending scientific theses by my former employees, I hope that all of these will be Ok. As to the other things… Please, realize that a very young guy heads now the scientific department. He is 28 years old. He is only at the end of the post-graduate study. His today's major task is to write the doctor these and he is simply not capable to think of other things. He has yet no any communications in the scientific world and he has no experience to organize serious events, not mention the international level. I am therefore afraid that this stage will lead the business to the end.

- And if you suddenly will be offered to come back?..

- I would return. The work in Pushcha for me as a scientist meant and is meaning very much. I think I even would manage to convince the director of necessity to pay more attention to the science and not to get caught in an endless loop of only economic activity. The truth is, however, his top-chief from the Property Management Department of the President has told once that Nikolai Bambiza is not that director whom could be advised something and who will follow someone. Nevertheless, it managed together to do the work well until that case. This was my business and it is a very pity that all was finished in this way

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