Events, facts, documents and evidence: For the last fifteen years, the Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park has suffered from a severe shortage of housing for employees. In fact, both the government and the national park suspended funding of new homes in the village of Kamenyuki as early as in the mid 1990’s. The last house financed from those funds, the home of the previous national park director, was built in 1997, then privatized and sold to new owners from Russia after the director was promoted to a new office in Minsk. To privatize that house, all the employee residences in the national park’s administrative center were converted to regular housing, enabling the occupants to acquire these for free or for a tiny amount of money, exchanging them for vouchers under the privatization program. After this, the employees who quit their jobs or moved could sell their apartments or houses to any willing buyer, such as retirees wishing to spend the rest of their days in a cleaner area or someone looking for a summer home. On the other hand, new arrivals were forced to either solve their housing problems themselves or accept whatever the national park had to offer, such as former employees’ homes bought back by the national park, which were, as a rule, of poor quality and lacked some necessary amenities.
|(1 - empty house; 2 - a house bought back by the national park and given
to a large family, with new extensions, September 28, 2009)
|(Houses built by the local residents, September 27, 2009)|
In 2004, the Belarusian media hyped the forthcoming construction of four so-called "president homes" for graduates and young professionals (see "Unprecedented house-warming in Belovezhskaya Pushcha") on the page news/1004.html. The project was to be financed under a government program. However, once completed, the house in Kamenyuki was given to retirees, not young professionals…
|(The "home for young professionals", February 8, 2005)|
The 100 room Hotel No.2 operated by the national park in Kamenyuki is a whole different story. It has been used by purposes other than accommodating tourists for the last seven or eight years. The hotel served as housing for new Belovezhskaya Pushcha employees and temporarily appointed managers the locals called "Talibs". All of its inhabitants were quickly relocated to a converted former air defense base in 2007 when plans surfaced for the hotel to be renovated.
Another case is a big old hotel in Kamenyuki built as a museum in 1950 and converted to a hotel in the 1960’s after the museum moved. It was closed for renovations in 1990. The work lasted for almost ten (!) years. The building now has seven single-, double and three-room apartments which have been distributed among employees and managers of the national park.
|(The former wooden hotel, February 7, 2005)|
|(The former wooden hotel, September 16, 2009)|
The plan of preparations for the 600th anniversary of Belovezhskaya Pushcha’s protection in 2009 provided for construction of new homes for new employees: fifteen houses in Kamenyuki and ten, in the populated areas located within the boundaries of the national park.
The construction was preceded by an ugly incident. By 2007, the national park’s management had run out of quality land on which to build estates and made the decision to seize the large vegetable plantations belonging to local residents. Some of the locals agreed out of cowardice or habit but most became indignant. In the spring of 2008, the locals met with senior officials from the presidential property management department who had arrived to look into their complaints. As a result, the national park management's decision was reversed. The wasteland north of the local timber mill was selected as a construction site instead.
|(Vegetable gardens, April 4, 2009)|
|(The meeting with the officials from the presidential
property management department, May 3, 2008)
Below: housing construction starts in the spring of 2009.
|(April 4, 2009)|
|(May 3, 2009)|
Half of the houses had been erected by August…
|(August 6, 2009)|
|(August 6, 2009)|
This is how the new housing development looked in early autumn.
|(September 9, 2009)|
With the houses now erected, interior and exterior decoration was underway.
|(September 27, 2009)|
Recent years have seen new housing construction in the forestry areas and other populated areas within the Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park. Unfortunately, we have almost no information about these operations due to the remoteness of those places and the management’s reluctance to cooperate.
The photographs below show the housing construction in the village of Lyatskiye, Korolyovo-Mostovskoye forestry area.
|(April 22, 2007)|
|(August 5, 2008)|
(To be continued)