Let us start first from the very start))). You are two lovely girls who once decided to run their own blog. How did you meet and when was the time when you decided to start doing this blog?
A mutual friend introduced Marta and me 2 years ago. We were both playing Frisbee in Minsk and never crossed one another until one day a Frisbee friend told me about Marta and how she has developed the ‘awesome Minsk map’ that I was a big fan off. So he decided to connect us and from there on we found out that we share the same passion: promoting Belarus among foreigners and Belarusians. I told Marta about my plan to start writing a book on Belarus that will have a positive connotation to it and soon after that we decided to use both our skills: Marta is a designer and cartoonist and I am a writer and both sharing a big love and passion for Belarus. So there it was, a blog on Belarus that is called Eto Belarus Detka, to Celebrate Belarusian Uniqueness.
This is Belarus, baby…. Why is this name? Who was the first to propose this name?
It was actually me who decided to call it Eto Belarus Detka, and it’s quite a funny story. When I lived in Minsk for 2 years ( I am from the Netherlands), I Couldn’t help but wonder why things were the way the were. So why do all people in the public transportation look so angry and sad, why is it that girls are wearing enormously high heels, why isn’t there any hot water in the summer for 2 weeks, why why why. A very good friend of mine kept answering to all my why’s with just one sentence: Eto Belarus Detka, accept it and live and love it. And that’s exactly what I decided to do, and even more!
How do you write together? Or do you work separately?
I returned to Amsterdam 7 months ago and Marta lives now in Minsk. I am the writer and she is the cartoonist. At least once a week we have a skype call in which we discuss all kinds of matters, plan topics, brainstorm about the cartoons and of course how we are going to share our mission ‘Celebrating Belarusian Uniqueness’ among the Belarusians and foreigners interested in the country.
What are you trying to achieve with this blog?
We have two missions, one is focused on Belarusians and one on foreigners. For the Belarusians we want to create a sense of identity, that people can laugh and see themselves through the eyes of foreigners. We hope that they will be able to appreciate our side and learn about themselves. Although I do believe that Belarusian are very honest to themselves, there are always things that you don’t see because you grew up with certain culture and mentality and live it. We want to put a mirror in front of the Belarusians and show them how unique they are. Our second mission is to educate foreigners on Belarus. Making them more aware about the countries geographical position (yes many don’t know or forgot what they were taught in school), culture and habits. Focus on all the things that makes them unique without touching the politics. We believe that many incorrect stereotyping is used to refer to Belarus and that’s what we would like to correct with humor and fun.
Who helps you in your work?
We have a wonderful team working with us. These people are our friends who help us with the translation of the blogs into Russian and Belarusian. The rest we do ourselves.
Do you consider your blog is a success? Tell us about your audience, their opinions about your work, their feedback.
Yes! Our website has been viewed over the last months over 100.000 times and its still very popular. Many people talk about the project and we try to involve our audience/fans in the project as much as we can. For example by holding competitions on who can come up with a new topic on Belarusian uniqueness etc. Its nice to see how Belarusians start to recognize our project.
Why do you think that Belarus is a quite nice place to live in? What would you reccomend to foreign guests in this country? Say, Top 10 things you have to see/do in Belarus?
I think for me it’s the Belarusian culture or mentality that attract me most to the country. People seem distant in the beginning but then once you have gained their trust they will be the warmest and funniest people you will ever meet. What to do in Belarus, hmm. First of all read Eto Belarus Detka for a good introduction into the Belarusian culture and uniqueness. Then:
1. Just walk through the big streets in Minsk, enjoy the space and the green and clean.
2 Definitely try out the metro; it’s a must attraction.
3. Visit the parks that are located in the city centre, they will not only fill your lungs with fresh air but you will also be able to see how Belarusians spend their free time.
4. Eat Draniki in Lido or Wasilki.
5. Take a train to another city, and its not about the other city that I am talking about, but more the train strip itself.
6. Belarusian Ballet or Opera is definitely worth a visit.
7. A bike trip in the forest.
8. Visit a dacha and banya if possible.
9. Look at the Lenin statue and the KGB building.
10. Try to get invited into a Belarusian home and experience their hospitality.
Do you reckon that there are opportunities for foreigners to start or continue career in Belarus?
Difficult but not impossible.
What are your plans in nearest future? You have mentioned that soon your blog will turn into a book. Tell us a little bit about this project
So after publishing many blogs on etobelarusdetka.com we received a lot of positive response. Also many people telling us to publish a book on all these topics.. We did not have to think long about this idea.. I got a contact at the publish house Harvest and so in 1 week time we were holding a contract in our hands that we can publish the first Eto Belarus Detka book as soon as we are ready with the chapters and cartoons. We have set a deadline to be ready mid June with the content and then its up to the publish house to publish the book. We hope that the first book will be in the shops somewhere in Juli already.
We have other big plans like writing a second book on Belarus but then for the European and American market.. Also turning Eto Belarus Detka into a brand and developing more products out of it.. Please follow us on our social media and website for more on Belarusian uniqueness!