Belarus visitors teach students about censored news

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Howard Ruffner

Flag Legend: Piotr Kuzinatsou explains the meaning behind the Belarus flag to Michael Jackson’s drama class on Nov. 4. Students learned about the country's money and politics.

Students got a taste of a 10,000-year-old country on Nov. 4 , when five visitors from the European country of Belarus visited Media Academy.

Belarus, composed of 800,000 mostly Jewish people, used to be part of the Soviet Union but broke away in 1991.

The visitors spoke to fourth period Michael Jackson’s drama class and presented the class with their red and white national flag.

Visitor Piotr Kuzniatsou explained the legend behind the flag. It was created when a wounded man covered his bleeding head with a white sheet and then took the sheet off and waved it in the air to the people, symbolizing that he was alive.

“I liked the flag story,” said Media senior Shima Kaid. “It’s cool because it symbolizes such a powerful thing — being alive.”

In addition to getting a Belarus flag, Media Academy students also received foreign money from the visitors. Their money is known as the Belarusian ruble, and no coins are used. A dollar in Belarus would equivalent to 9,091 rubles.

“It was very generous that the guy gave us money,” said Kaid. “I mean, who gives out money to people that they don’t know?”

Belarus has been under the dictatorship of Alyaksandr Lukashenka for about 17 years.

“The radio, TV and newspaper are controlled by the government,” said Kuzniatsou.

The visitors explained that young journalists leave Belarus in part because they have no freedom of press and are obligated to watch the government’s TV programs.

Russia is the primary destination for Belarus citizens who decide to leave their country, explained Kuzniatsou.
Despite many differences, Belarus citizens also have much in common with Americans when it comes to popular culture.

“Young high school students listen to music such as Adele, Tupac and Eminem,” said Yauheni Puhach, one of the visitors.