Results of a students of the ISHR (Belarus) Young Human Rights Defender School operated on the basis of the Brest State College of Communications interview dedicated to the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II and conducted by Natal’ya Baydakova, teacher of social and humanitarian disciplines at the College, member of the ISHR (Belarus) since 1996.

©Giles Thomas

Results of an ISHR (Belarus) Young Human Rights Defender School students World War II survey

Students were asked the following questions:

  1. How is the memory of those who died during the Great Patriotic War honored in your locality and your family?
  2. How did you participate in events dedicated to the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II on the Eastern Front?
  3. What lessons did you learn from the main results of the Great Patriotic War and World War II?

12 people of 16 to 18 years old answered questions: Ivan Vasilyuk, Stanislav Rudnitsky, Maria Rynchuk (all from Brest), Denis Zhukovich (Byaroza), Arthur Korob (Baranavichy), Anton Kosyak (Pinsk). Maxim Kulaga (Davyd-Haradok), Ivan Lobovich, Eugene Soroka (all from Brest District), Ruslan Likhovidov (Kobrin), Kirill Pitchuk (Stolin District), Ilya Samoilovich (Pinsk District).

Students answered the first question multifacetedly. Monuments, obelisks, commemorative signs are installed in each settlement of the Brest Region, there are mass graves (for example, in Pinsk 244 soldiers are buried in a mass grave). Steles were erected for the liberating soldiers (for example, in Kobrin you can read, “The feat of the people to live forever. On July 29, 1944, the city of Kobrin was liberated from the Nazi invaders”). This day is considered as the Day of the Town there. In the villages of Zdzitava, Smalyarka, Bronnaja Hara of the Byaroza District, strict and piercing monuments in memory of the victims of the Holocaust are installed. Museums and memorials were created (“Brest Fortress-Hero,” “Khovanshchina,” others).

There are always flowers on mass graves and eternal flames. Rallies are held to commemorate those who died during the Great Patriotic War around them. The best schools bear the names of the heroes of the Great Patriotic War, as well as streets and squares, parks and public gardens of cities.

On the night of June 21–22, Brest never sleeps: at 4 a.m. everyone is trying to see a reconstruction of the events that occurred at that time in 1941 in the Brest Fortress. Thousands of people on May 9 stand in the formation of the “Immortal Regiments.” Meetings are organized with eyewitnesses and veterans of the Great Patriotic War.

In every educational institution, there is a memorial detachment that constantly keeps a memory watch at eternal flames. Military-historical routes and excursions to places of military battles, partisan and underground warfare have been developed. In May, residents of small towns and regional centers put 1418 candles, exactly as many days as the war went on, at obelisks in memory of the victims.

Families sacredly honor the memory of relatives who went through the events of the Great Patriotic War. They store photographs of those years, front-line relics and awards in family albums. They necessarily lay a festive table on Victory Day, remember those who died with a minute of silence, visit memorial places, bring flowers on mass graves, and participate in patriotic actions.

The students named the main event – the ”Front Album” competition, in which they participated for two semesters, whose results were summed up on May 4, 2020. The work was dedicated to the 75th anniversary of the victory of the USSR over Nazi Germany.

Throughout the year, painstaking work was going on writing the pages of the front-line album, since each family has or had people who survived the terrible years of the war. Most liked the idea of recalling the story of their family: to leaf through old photographs, talk to their loved ones, and then present an illustrated story.

The participants managed to revive vivid, memorable memories from the life of the older generation associated with the Great Patriotic War. It is important to note that the events described were not necessarily heroic, telling about a feat. These were episodes from life related to evacuation, overcoming hunger, and other deprivations. The presented memories were retold by students from the bottom of their hearts, and the work done was reflected in the College’s information materials.

Answers to the final question showed the unanimity of the survey participants. Each in his own words expressed the main idea and desire – to never experience the horrors of war, allow the repetition of Fascism and crimes against humanity. There can be nothing worse than a war. It is worth honoring the memory of those who defended the world. All countries and peoples of the world must live in friendship, understand the value of human life, and then humanity will be afraid of no threats. By joint efforts, all this will save the world as the greatest value not allowing a new world war.

Brest, July 6, 2020

Natal’ya Baydakova

The interview was conducted as part of the implementation of the “Tell me about the war” ISHR project in Belarus.