My paternal grandfather, Alexei Rozoff, was born in what is now Belarus, in a village outside Brest. I have no details about his youth as he died when I was no more than five-years-old.

In reference to the Treaty of Riga of 1921 Lukashenko mentions below, I have in my possession letters from a niece of my grandfather’s from 1937-1938 that were mailed from his former home. The postmarks on the envelopes are Polish.

As for the tragedy of twenty years later I’d recommend viewing the Belarusian film of 1985 Come and See. * – Rick

Call for raising young Belarusians’ awareness about nation’s tragic past

> “Even before all these turbulent events [post election] I talked about on many occasions and showed the map of 1921. At one meeting, with the map projected on the wall, I said that I did not want the country to face it again. I had a gut feeling. I didn’t have the facts then but I felt they were getting ready to rip us apart. I often said that Belarus is on a geopolitical battle line. Russia cannot lose us. We are the last bastion here.”

GRODNO – We need to talk more with the youth about the tragic past of our people, Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko said as he met with personnel of the Molochny Mir dairy on 19 March, BelTA has learned.

“We have not talked much to the youth about what our people have endured throughout their history, what sufferings they have experienced,” the head of state said.

The topics of glorification of Nazism and genocide of the Belarusian people during the Great Patriotic War were recently discussed at a meeting in Minsk. “They came to our land, they killed people, burned them alive in barns and houses in thousands of villages. It was a true, terrible genocide. They killed Belarusians, Russians, Jews, Ukrainians, everyone who lived here,” the Belarusian leader stressed.

“We are putting together the materials, and we will show them to the world, to those who teach us democracy today. It was the genocide of the Belarusian people. Our people went through a lot,” the head of state said. “They invaded our country and destroyed it during the four years of occupation. Imagine the circumstances our people lived in. They were unbearable. They lived in dugouts, they survived the best they could,” he added.

One of the questions was about the anniversary of the 1921 Treaty of Riga which divided the Belarusian lands, with the western part given to Poland. “Even before all these turbulent events [post election] I talked about on many occasions and showed the map of 1921. At one meeting, with the map projected on the wall, I said that I did not want the country to face it again. I had a gut feeling. I didn’t have the facts then but I felt they were getting ready to rip us apart. I often said that Belarus is on a geopolitical battle line. Russia cannot lose us. We are the last bastion here.”

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*From one of the screenwriters of Come and See:

And I decided to make a film about this tragedy. I perfectly understood that the film would end up a harsh one. I decided that the central role of the village lad Flyora would not be played by a professional actor, who upon immersion into a difficult role could have protected himself psychologically with his accumulated acting experience, technique and skill. I wanted to find a simple boy fourteen years of age. We had to prepare him for the most difficult experiences, then capture them on film. And at the same time, we had to protect him from the stresses so that he wasn’t left in the loony bin after filming was over, but was returned to his mother alive and healthy. Fortunately, with Aleksei Kravchenko, who played Flyora and who later became a good actor, everything went smoothly.

I understood that this would be a very brutal film and that it was unlikely that people would be able to watch it. I told this to my screenplay coauthor, the writer Ales Adamovich. But he replied: “Let them not watch it, then. This is something we must leave after us. As evidence of war, and as a plea for peace.”

— Elem Klimov