From Minsk With Love

They were easy to spot, because they were all sporting scarlet red Belarus hockey jerseys.

"This is my first [Olympics]," said Kunitski, 27, who hails from Minsk but now lives in New York. "I was dreaming about visiting one, and finally my dream came true. It's [a great] atmosphere. Just being here without being to any events, it's worth coming. And Vancouver is a beautiful city. It's our first day in Vancouver but already I can say it's one of the most beautiful cities I've ever seen."

"It's nice weather, and people are very friendly," he said. "When they see the sweater they say, 'Go Belarus.' Especially Canadians, they're very nice. It's [the] atmosphere of the Olympic Games, that's what attracts us."

His friend Pavel Novy concurred.

"We just got here this morning, but so far so good," said the 27-year-old, who is also from Minsk and now lives in New Jersey. "We see a lot of people, everybody's friendly. [We] have a lot of expectations about the city and Canada as well. It's actually my first time on [the] West Coast, my first time in Canada and the first time at the Olympics."

The Belarus hockey team was one of the Cinderella stories of the 2002 Olympics, overcoming the odds to advance to the semifinals.

This year's Belarusian team has four players from the NHL: Ruslan Salei, Mikhail Hrabouski, and Andrei and Siarhei Kastitsyn. It was beaten 5-1 by Finland in its first game, but the quartet of fans was undeterred. When the puck drops against Sweden and Germany, they'll be ready to scream their heads off.

This article appeared in
Belarusian Review, Vol. 22, No. 1
Copyright 2010 Belarusian Review
All rights reserved.

14 april 2010
Author: John Mackie
Source: Excerpts from Vancouver Sun, February 20, 2010