Open Letter

to the President, Parliament and Government of the Republic of Belarus from the inhabitants of the Belovezhskaya Pushcha

Having read a fragment of the stenogram «En face to the people» about a direct telephone line with the President of our country in the «Soviet Byelorussia» newspaper, No 53, we, the inhabitants of the Kamenyuki village and other settlements of Belovezhskaya Pushcha, regretted very much that we were not able to reach an access to the President of Belarus, though we constantly dialed the telephone number, specified in the newspaper. Therefore we address this open letter with hope that it will be published, because everything what has occurred here is our pain, our trouble, our tragedy.

We live in a unique natural site of our country - the Belovezhskaya Pushcha, a pride of our state. Since early age we have taken pride of this natural phenomenon, we have done our outmost to multiply the reaches of this pearl. But other times are now. For the last several years six general directors have been in the National Park. At present Nickolai Bambiza is the leader of the Park. We will not judge his work achievements and preservation of the Belovezhskaya Pushcha, though with pain in the heart do we see, that both in the National Park and in the forest something wrong is going on. In this letter we wish to raise the question how the administration of the Park treats local inhabitants and local municipal authority.

Over the last two years hundreds of employees, local inhabitants, were fired from the National Park owing to the expiration of the job contract. Since once Mar'yana Andronova, the hostess of the Byelorussian Radio, referring to the administration of the National Park said that" there 160 "drunkards" were dismissed". But this is a terrible slander in reference to people, bookkeepers, economists, forest engineers, research workers and many other employees who had devoted their lives to the prosperity of the Belovezhskaya Pushcha. The majority of them got redundant to the new administration simply because they originate from the Pushcha, like the Pushcha and are devoted to the Pushcha. At present cooks, guard controllers, forest wardens are under the threat to be dismissed and tomorrow time for the dismissal will come to cleaners and other workers. After the local employees have been fired, the administration invites specialists and workers from other regions of our country to take places of the former team. However, an economic boost doest not bloom in the Park either. At the same time the criminality, which was pretty low now reached the level close to the urban statistics. For instance, in 2002, seven criminal offences were registered in the Kamenyuki village, whereas for the first quarter of 2003 already nine offences were registered, among them six cases are offences committed by the above mentioned new comers. This is because often people with unknown or suspicious past are offered the temporary work. Today our numerous families get the minimal salary, much less compared with the average statistical level in the Republic. How is it possible to survive on 60,000 - 100,000 rubles (equal to 30-50$), if it is necessary to pay 50,000 - 70,000 thousand rubles for the dwelling. In comparison to two years ago salaries were much higher. How to live, how to teach children, where to place oneself? The new workers, doing the same kind of job, get a much higher salary. Paradoxical as it is the administration of the National Park keeps to the strategy that only the new comers to get higher salaries. The local workers have no chances to receive assistance in building a new dwelling. Humiliating, referring as «cattle», idlers and other offensive words are the tracks of the policy to oust the local population from the National Park. Never before has the administration of the Belovezhskaya Pushcha treated the local population with such an attitude.

The present (new) administration of the National Park, now a team of totally of strangers, is indifferent to the village problems. Restraining and oppressing the inhabitants, the administration of the Park does not take care of life difficulties of the local population neither is it interested in the questions of how people are to keep the cattle. Even the haymaking patches, once used by the local employees of the National Park and pensioners, got useless, what the present administration had wanted all the time. Before the former administration would keep and protect the hay fields. But later in autumn the administration had tried to take away and to plough them up. After it had failed (people did not allow), in winter a maize corn for feeding the wild boar was deliberately thrown in to the haymaking patches, and the wild animals ploughed the ground all over. As a result the villagers were compelled to hand the cows over. But how to live in the countryside without a cow today? It is clear that it is impossible to keep a cow, if the hay patch is ten kilometers away from the village taking into account that people have no possibility to deliver it. The maintenance of the agricultural plots, planting and harvesting potatoes became a tragedy for the inhabitants because the National Park's administration refuses to help with engineering even if paid for such a service. Compared, there were almost no such problems a couple of years ago

For the last years the face of the central village of the National Park has distinctly worsened. For several years already none of the post lamps works in the main street, which favors the growth of criminality. It got already frightening to go out in the evenings. The administration alleges this situation to financial problems. But we read newspapers and see that the state annually allocates huge financial sums for the needs of the National Park. Is there really no money for a bulb?

The shortage of money resulted in the absence of heating of the House of Culture for the whole winter season. Today its roof leaks, the building is about to collapse and is nearly unfit for the use. Now with closing the House of Culture for the major repair, they rumor that the House is not needed at all. Though it is still the children's musical school. Talented children who participate in regional contests and festivals take music classes there. This year they had to play in gloves, for in rooms the temperature was below zero. So were the conditions in the sport hall where the village youth spent their time practicing sports. The Park's administration offers the local municipal committee, who also reside in the House of Culture, to vacate the building. But this building was constructed in the Kamenyuki village with the plan to offer musical classes, sports and local justice (as the only state body responsible for vital problems of the village and surrounded settlements).

Since the Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park is under the jurisdiction of the President's Property Management Department of the Republic of Belarus, we suppose that relationships of the administration of the Belovezhskaya Pushcha with local authorities and local population should set the example for other departments and organizations of the country. According to the official policy of the governing bodies, all the economic and ideological activity should be directed for the improvement of the territory, of the well-being of the population so that in the end the Belovezhskaya Pushcha is a virtue in itself, where the youth does not flee. This is a direct link to the preservation of the Belovezhskaya Pushcha. Alas, the situation is quite the opposite.

Dear President, Deputies of the National Assembly, Members of Government, executive experts of ministries and departments! We ask you to protect the Belovezhskaya Pushcha and its local inhabitants against lawlessness and arbitrariness of the administration.

The inhabitants of the Belovezhskaya Pushcha
April, 2003

E.I. Mozgova, I. Sacevich, N.L. Prokopovich, T.N. Protasevich, N. Chereshko, I.I. Vlasyuk, N.A. Shohalevich, A.G Kapinevich, A.Ya. Novogran, S.A. Novogran, O. Kislyak, V.P. Meshchanchuk, G.I. Kapkova, A. Shcherbakov, L.F. Demyanchuk, A.N. Svirid, Gricuk, Ya.L. Birizkii, A.K. Shvec, I.N. Kislyak, I.A. Gerelyuk, M.F. Shohalevich, U Demenchuk, Yu.V. Dackevich, S.M. Shohalevich, Kalinevich, S.S. Sedun, A.A. Sergeev, E.A. Smoktunovich, N.A. Prokopchuk, P.N. Protasevich, S.G. Krivizkii, O.A. Radchenko, A.K. Gaevskaya, Shershunovich, N.Ya. Litvinchuk, S.G. Beskrovnaya, A.A. Dackevich, N.P. Yuzvuk, A.I. Kozodoi, L.L. Vlasyuk, Yu.A. Kapkov, A.V. Radyvanyuk, V.S. Haritonyuk, V.I. Kislyak, M.T. Yarockii, N. Timofeev, R.V. Abramchuk, E.V. Myshlennik, H.A. Kazulka, N.I. Eremcov, L.P. Kislyak, Prokopovich, I.V. Severinchik, R.P. Kaplinskaya, Belyakova, V.A. Shevchuk, G.G. Bek, T.N. Kazulka, A.A. Sidoruk, T.N. Prokopovich, Pashina, A.N. Kislyak, O.I. Apreleva, A.I. Smoktunovich, S.L. Abramchuk, G.E. Berlovskaya, S.I. Demenchuk, T.A. Sacevich, V.I. Homich, Solovei, B.B. Bedok, A.I. Kislyak, N.Z. Novikova, A.V. Sidochik, V.V. Myshlennik, Parafenyuk, Dron', S.S. Gordeyuk, Dackevich, R.V. Melyuh, N.M. Gricuk, V.I. Panasyuk, Semenyuk, A. Stasyuk, I.N. Kryazheva, Panasyuk, V. Macko, V.M. Filonyuk, V. Shohalevich, A.V. Gricuk, G.P. Kovalchuk, Vakula, N.A. Nikityuk, and others

In total 191 inhabitants have subscribed this letter

The letter is addressed to:
1. The President of Belarus
2. The National Assembly (Parliament)
3. The Government
4. Brest Regional Executive Committee
5. The General Public Prosecutor
6. The Constitutional Court
7. The State Control Committee
8. The President's Affairs Administration of the Republic of Belarus
9. The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment Protection
10. The Chairman of Union of the Writers
11. The UN Office in Belarus
12. Foreign embassies in the Republic of Belarus
13. National press