Nastya, 17, was walking around the center of Minsk taking photos with her school friend. She said she is interested in Japanese culture and has begun studying the language. The biggest event in her life last year was developing a relationship with a Russian youth. She said they first met 3 years agoand mainly kept in touch via Skype, only seeing one another a few times over ghe years. In February 2014, he moved to Minsk to be closer to her.
This English-language student said the biggest event of the pasy year was a trip to Italy, her first visit to a foreign country. "I alsolutely loved it. People there are happy, friendly, open...not rushing around and angry at the world." She said she chose English as it's "the language of languages" and loves to sit and think long and hard how to most beautifully translate literature. When not studying, she plays experimental music with her bass guitar. The photo was taken in front of her university.
Anya was sitting in a tiny cafe next to a bus station one early morning with her fellow classmate Angelina when I walked in. Anya, who has Polish roots like many Belarus citizens, said she wanted to study landscape design in St Petersburg, Russia but her mother didn't like the idea of her being far from home. Thus, she settled for web design in Minsk. Anya said she hopes to go to St Pete once she finishes her Web design degree. Her friend Angelina though wants to go to west to Poland to continue her studies. When I asked about work in Belarus, they said web designers could find jobs, but the salary may not be high - a comment I heard repeatedly during my stay.
Victor, 59, was sitting on a bench in the center of Minsk and I approached him to get his views on the city. He ignorned the questions and talked about his painting career. He said as a university student in USSR, he - like other students - was sent to a village to help with the potato harvest. While taking a break in a village house, he noticed a typical Belarusian rug with flower designs on a black background. The babushka let him take it. Twenty years later, he came across the rug amongst his stuff and it inspired a painting in his 'Snow in Black Square' series. The series itself is a play on 'Black Square' by Kazimir Malevich, who lived a few years in Belarus. Victor's site is: www.vitart.net
Artyom & Denis perform chillout and ambient music outside their regular jobs. Artyom said he started experimenting with music while attending a military school and played trance for a while. I asked how he got into these other music genres. "I was resting with a friend by a river early one morning outside Minsk, when we heard ambient music and it inspired us."
Evgeniya and her boyfriend Vanya (left) were visiting the friend (right) who initially intoduced them. Evgenia said she is going to be a baker like her grandmother. She fondly recalled visiting her grandmother at work for first time at the age of 8. Her grandmother let her play with the dough. I asked Evgenia what her favorite pastery is. 'Eclair - it's the hardest to make, but it is the most delicious.'
Anna, an English-language student, was listening to 'Shadow Maker' by Finnish-rock group Apocalyptica as she walked toward her university, adding she 'can't stop listening to it. Higher up on her list of favorite groups is Canadian rock band 3 Day Grace. Anna said attending their concert in Minsk was the most memorable event in 2014, 'a dream come true.'
German was serving me cofee at a restaurant in the center of Minsk when I noticed the tattoos on his arm. They were from the film Spartak, a culture which is an inspiration to him. He said he is a mixed martial arts fighter and has taken part in 3 bouts. He has 'Fight til the End' tattooed across his chest.
Vladimir, 63, was playing in front of the Minsk food market on a cold, sunny December weekend. He said he retired from the state orchestra and occasionally plays at some private events, but prefers playing what he likes on the streets. He said he worked once as a musician on a US cruiseliner, a job his son found for him. Vladimir said he even played on the streets of NYC, once taking his trumpet to Chinatown, where he played a few hours. He said he prefers classical and Russian music though to American Jazz. "Russia has a lot of soulful music."
Elizaveta works at a cafe in Minsk to help pay for her university studies....and to save up for a Hungarian pointer dog, a photo of which is taped to the tip bowl. Elizaveta said she gives half her salary to her parents as payment for university. She said she would like to stay in Minsk to be close to family and friends, but 'decent, stable jobs' can be hard to find in Belarus. When I asked if she would consider work in Russia, she said she prefered heading westward as felt closer culturally to Europe.