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Belarusian Review

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In The Land Of Yanukovych

The residents of one Belarusian village were particularly interested in the results of the Ukrainian election.

The tiny village of Yanuki, in northern Belarus, has no post office, no stores, no school, and only four remaining residents, but it's the ancestral home of the Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.

It was from Yanuki that Yanukovych's grandfather emigrated prior to the October Revolution, hoping to find better fortunes in neighboring Ukraine's Donbas region.

But the residents here have not forgotten about Yanukovych's ties to their village.

When he last visited here in 2006, he made some vague promises about helping to build a dairy factory and houses in order to revive the area.

Antanina Babaryka, a secretary in the Vaukalatsk agricultural executive committee of which Yanuki is a part, says "he's one of our kinsmen. It's nice when someone like that succeeds in life. I met with him twice during his visits here and liked him a lot."

Babaryka recalled that Yanukovych was welcomed as an honored guest during his visits here in 2003 and 2006. He was treated with Belarusian dishes and taken for strolls around the old neighborhood.

As for his promises to assist in the area's renaissance by building 300 houses in the village, Babaryka says she doubts they will ever materialize, as the village has almost completely disappeared. Food deliveries are made to the residents twice a week and a doctor visits once a month.

"Goodness, what can one say of Yanuki! There are only three houses left there, where once there were as many as 36 -- and only four official residents," Babaryka said.

Of the four remaining residents, pensioner Maria Yanukovich (sic!) is the only one who owns a telephone. She says she is not a relative of the new Ukrainian president, but that everybody in Yanuki bears that last name.

While she keeps up with news of Yanukovych, she too is pessimistic about whether his election might improve the village's future prospects.

"Perhaps he did once make a few promises, but Yanukovych has Ukraine to worry about. We will manage on our own here. After all, we're not poor. We have a cow, we have bread -- we have everything we need. He has his own problems."

Maria Yanukovich says that areas around Yanuki are very picturesque: there are forest, lakes, marshes, and perhaps it might make a good tourist attraction for Ukrainians wishing to see the ancestral homeland of their new president.

  But, she says, there's nobody that could organize such a venture. Only pensioners remain and their children and grandchildren won't be returning to Yanuki anytime soon.

Meanwhile, the residents of Spitak, a small town in northern Armenia, are going to send a letter of congratulations to Yanukovych to express their joy at his apparent success.

Yanukovych led a Ukrainian rescue and rehabilitation team to the town in the days following a devastating 1988 earthquake.

On the 20th anniversary of the earthquake, Yanukovych visited Spitak and was honored by the Armenian authorities who named a square after him and made him an honorary citizen.

This article appeared in
Belarusian Review, Vol. 22, No. 1
Copyright 2010 Belarusian Review
All rights reserved.
Source: RFE/RL Belarus, Ukraine and Moldova Report, February 09, 2010

Branislava Stankevich in Yanuki and Naira Bulghadaryan in Spitak

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