With the publication of my series on Belarus earlier this week — go here, here, and here — I heard from many people who have worked in and around Belarus: mainly as missionaries and representatives of foreign governments (e.g., our own). What they have to say is, frankly, heartbreaking. There must be no more dismal place in all of Europe. (Of course, it is probably a Garden of Eden next to North Korea.) (Cuba is no picnic either, despite its fortunate location in the sunny, breezy Caribbean.)
One of my correspondents related what he called an “old joke” that “speaks loudly about the Belarusian people and culture.” Here goes:
A Russian sits in a chair with a tack on it. He jumps up, screams and yells, tosses the chair out the window, and kills half the people in the room.
A Ukrainian sits in a chair with a tack on it. He jumps up, screams and yells, grabs the chair to throw it out the window . . . but stops himself. He puts the tack in his pocket, thinking, “Hmmm, maybe I can use this . . .”
A Belarusian sits in a chair with a tack on it. And sits. And sits. And sits, thinking, “I deserve this.”
Belarus is one of the most brutalized, bloodied, and oppressed nations of the last 100 years. One can become perversely accustomed to it. But there also comes a time to shake oneself from the dust . . .