Union of Writers Seeks Support from Belarusian and International Community
At its sitting on 22 February the Council of the Union of Belarusian Writers rejected the ultimatum of the Presidential Office heads which had earlier requested that the organization leave most of the premises they now occupy in the House of Writers. The Presidential Office response runs as follows, "They are not being thrown out into the street, it's just that they've been offered smaller premises than they currently occupy".
The Presidential Office requested that the Union of Writers occupy 10 times less area of the House of Writers than they do now: 58 square meters instead of 614.
Thus, the organization can lose the library, the chair's study as well as access to the conference hall, says Alies Pashkievich, Chair of the UBW. There will be no room for keeping writers' archives, personal files of the writers.
(Pashkievich:) "We have thousands of writers' personal files, including ones of Yanka Kupala and Yakub Kolas (both renowned Belarusian writers). The offer we have been made suggests passing these files either to a vault or the archive. How can an organization with personal files kept in the archive continue to exist? We don't want to hurry our things into the archive. We' like to celebrate the 71st year since the Union of Writers was established, to say nothing of wanting to mark the 100th anniversary."
According to Mr. Pashkievich, when denied what they want, the Presidential Office, which was granted ownership of the House of Writers, threatens to take the case to court and have the writers' organization evicted for delayed rentals worth 133 million rubles.
The Council of the UBW does not recognize this indebtedness and appealed some other demands made by the Presidential Office's managers. Most of the writers are convinced that the authorities want to have the union evicted from the building and have the writers stop its activity.
Since it came into existence 70 years ago, the UBW did not work for only three years – during German occupation – said Valiantsin Taras, the veteran-writer.
Nil Hilievich urged involvement of UNESCO. Liavon Barshcheuski and Volha Ipatava believe that the authorities should return the entire House of Writers to the writers. The Council commissioned the UBW leaders to seek support from the Belarusian and International community and provide a response to the officials who treat their demands as an insult.
According to the representative of the Presidential Office Aliena Malaya, the situation has not been caused by some political order, the authorities do not intend to liquidate the UBW, it's just that the authorities started treating the Union like other public associations which have the right to 70 square meters of office premises provided at a reduced price.
(Malaya:) "They are not being thrown out into the street, it's just that we are giving them premises with a smaller area that they can pay for. More than that, they have it at a reduced price just like other non-profit making organizations."
Aliena Malaya is convinced that nobody has an interest in having the Union evicted, however, the organization should size up their ability to pay rental and utilities expenses because the UBW cannot count on any other benefits.
It should be noted that the members of the UBW Council could not gather for a meeting in the conference hall of the House of Writers. The warden of the building suggested they hold their meeting in a library room. Furthermore, UBW Chair Alies Pashkievich says that so far the Presidential Office has not made a decision allowing a gathering celebrating the anniversary of the Popular Poet Ryhor Baradulin on 2 March. Meanwhile, 12 writers have been accepted as new members of the organization in the meeting of the UBW Council, reports Radio Liberty.