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Belarussian Community in Moldova

An exhibition dedicated to the 10th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Moldova and Belarus recently opened in the National History Museum. A lot was said there about the contribution of the people from Belarus to the cultural development of Moldova.

Among the most famous Belarussian families is the one that gave contemporary society two very popular artists: father and son. 2002 was marked by the 140th anniversary of Vladimir Okushko. His roots go back to the genealogical history of Belarussian landowners. Vladimir graduated from the school of sciences in Vilno and then studied at the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts. In 1897 he received an invitation from the city authorities to move to Chisinau where he settled until 1919. In Chisinau he established and became the director of an art school. Subsequently the school was transformed into a college and today it is the College of Art bearing the name of one of Okushko’s pupils, Alexandru Plamadeala.

Vladimir Okushko also insisted on the foundation of an Art Museum in this country. From 1906 to 1911 he held numerous expositions of Moldovan, Russian and Ukrainian artists, among them were I.Repin, A.Golovin, I.Brodski, K.Bogaevski, N.Pimonenko and others. Some of the most famous works by Okushko were devoted to Chisinau: Old Chisinau, The Outskirts of Chisinau, Countryside, and Clouds. For his special achievements Vladimir Okushko was decorated with the Order of St. Svyatoslav Third Class and the Order of St. Anna Third Class.

An outstanding person and Okushko’s adequate successor was his son, Rostislav Okushko, an acknowledged artist in the former Moldovan SSR. He was born in 1897 and spent most of his life in Chisinau. He studied in the College of Arts and in the Academy of Arts in Iasi. From 1934 through 1946 Rostislav worked as a teacher at the College he graduated from. Among his pupils were the future national Moldovan artists such as M.Grecu, I.Vieru, M.Petric, and such art development representatives as M.Burea, S.Cuciuc, and A.Childescu. The biographies of Okushko father and son can be found in numerous encyclopedias and articles.

From 1875 Alexandr Shimanovski, the son of a Belarussian priest, taught Russian and literature in the Chisinau Male Gymnasium No.1. For his special occupational merits he was also allowed to teach at the Female Gymnasium and the Lutheran Church School in Chisinau. Among Shimanovski’s pupils were the famous Moldovan doctor Toma Ciorba, the well-known Russian political leader Vladimir Purishkevich, Chisinau mayor Pantelimon Sinadino. In the period from 1902 through 1912 Shimanovski according to the order of the governing senate and the vote of the Chisinau Ruling Assembly accepts the position of the Justice of Peace in Chisinau. In 1899 the Russian Imperial Geographic Society awarded his research work entitled Materials on the ethnography of the Minsk province with a silver medal.

The second wave of Belarussians coming to Moldova took place after the Second World War. Chisinau lay in ruins and people of many different nationalities arrived here to assist in reconstructing the city. The Chisinau Agricultural Institute trained highly qualified professionals, including agronomists, winegrowers, zootechnicians, mechanics and engineers. There was a complete lack of means for initial development because everything, including buildings, was destroyed in the war. The first rector of the Chisinau Institute in 1945-1949 was professor Pavel Gerasimovich from Belarus. Under his management in the suburb Petricani educational farm No. 1 was built to hold theoretical and practical courses in vegetable growing and the selection of new sorts. At the second farm in Bihovat, practical schools for viticulture and high-quality grape growing were established. Soroca became the new place for a cattle-breeding farm school affiliated to the Institute of Agriculture in Chisinau. As the rector of the Institute Pavel Gerasimovich managed to create exceptional living and working conditions for the young professionals. What he began was enough to last for the following 40 years.

In 1951, a young philologist from Belarus Tatiana Vasilieva arrived in Chisinau, still under construction after the Second World War, to create the chair of foreign literature in the State University. Having acquired her Ph.D. in philology, she became a renowned professor specializing in British literature of the 18th-19th that devoted herself to her work and her students. Vasilieva’s classes were exciting and students simply wanted to go on listening to her. A fantastic combination of profound knowledge and high intellect gave her the status of one of the best professors at the State University. The seed she had planted in her students gives results today as high school teachers continue what Vasilieva began half a century ago.

The auto industry in Moldova was in urgent need of qualified experts and a school to prepare professionals who could build and exploit roads and transport. The Republican Automobile and Transportation College, directed for more than 30 years by Kuzma Kovzun from Belarus, found a solution to the problem. Kovzun himself graduated from the Chisinau Automobile College and later on from the Kharkov Institute. He applied his entire experience and knowledge to supply Moldova with highly skilled professionals. Over 1600 students under the guidance of 100 members of faculty majored in four different fields at the Transportation College in Chisinau. Many of Kovzun’s students aspired to become like their director. Nowadays they represent the workforce of auto repair and automobile service centers in Chisinau.

Through his entire career Kuzma Kovzun experienced the support of his wife Valentina Kovzun, who graduated from the Belarus State University and for more than 20 years taught Russian and literature at the Transportation College in Chisinau. In 2001, the school celebrated its 55th anniversary. By that time approximately 20 thousand people have become its honored graduates.

According to the President of the Fund of Slavic Culture in Moldova Igor Vasiliev, the contribution of the Belarussian people to Moldovan cultural and industrial development was great. Their skill, professionalism, and enthusiasm helped raise the country from the ruins of war and build an agricultural and industrial republic.

Ludmila Mamaliga
Natalia Corobco

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