Dear Cr Bill West, Mayor of Cowra,
The Hon Michael McCormack, Federal Member of Parliament for Riverina,
Ladies and gentlemen,
I’m pleased to represent here the Republic of Belarus as a Guest-Nation of the 53rd Festival of international understanding.
This is a great idea to have a World Peace Bell placed in Cowra and held annual Festivals that bring together different Nations. It is not possible to ensure peace on our fragile planet otherwise than through understanding between diverse cultures, traditions and religions.
We, Belarusians, know indeed what the war is.
Belarus became one of the countries that suffered most in World War II. Hundreds of thousands of soldiers died on the battlefields. Hundreds of death camps and Jewish ghettos were created by Nazis on the territory of our country. Nazi invaders destroyed hundreds of Belarusian villages, more than 400 of them were burnt together with inhabitants. During the WWII Belarus lost more than 2.5 million people or one in four inhabitants.
The pre-war amount of population of Belarus was reached only in 1960s.
Belarus is a new country for Australians. We gained our independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union, though our history is stretching back to X-XI centuries. In the early Middle Ages today’s Belarus was known as the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Its official language was Old Belarusian. In the 14th — 15th centuries the Grand Duchy of Lithuania became one of the largest States in Europe and was an important political player in the region.
Throughout the 19th and the 20th centuries Belarusians came to Australia in search of a better life. There were at least 19 native Belarusians fighting in the ANZACs.
An important wave of Belarusian immigrants up to 10 000 men and women has arrived in Australia in 40-s – 50-s last century. A large number of them were previously dragged to forced work in Germany. Others willingly or out of necessity collaborated with the Nazi occupants and that is why left Belarus before it was liberated by the Red Army.
Some of Belarusian immigrants during this period started their new life in Australia here in Cowra region in the Migration camp. A lot of them worked hard to become Australian citizens and contributed to create this prosperous country.
Let me address some words in my language to the Belarusian community present at this event.
Шаноўныя суайчыннікі, беларусы Аўстраліі! У кожнага з нас свой лёс, волей якога мы апынуліся ў гэтай цудоўнай краіне. І якіх бы палітычных поглядаў мы не прытрымліваліся, перш за ўсё мы ўсведамляем, што з’яўляемся сынамі і дачкамі нашай маці-Беларусі, перш за ўсё дбаем пра яе росквіт і пачэснае месца ў сям’і іншых народаў.
25 years ago diplomatic relations between Belarus and Australia were established. The exchange of messages between Mr V.Makei, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Belarus and The Honorable July Bishop, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Australia has marked the anniversary of this event.
Belarus participation in this Festival will open up our country, its history and rich culture to Australians. Together we will contribute to our better understanding and promoting wider relations between our countries.
I wish good luck to the 53rd Festival in Cowra!