How to tell a foreigner about Belarus and its history in English? Volya Dzemka, a Belarusian living in the US, shot a short video about her homeland and how it poped up on the map of Europe.
History of Belarus in 5 minutes? Easy.
History of Belarus is an excerpt from the 60-minute documentary The Songs of Old Europe.
It took five years for Volya to create the entire film offering an intimate, rare look into a very different world of Belarusian ancient folks songs.
“The film tells about the songs that survived through the centuries to our days in almost unaltered form and are still performed by Belarusian villagers.
Ethnographers and folklorists know that, but ordniary Belarusians, unfortunately, don’t realize that our songs are of such great value.
I want to tell the rest of the world that these songs are invaluable. They are to Belarus what the pyramids are to Egypt.
That’s no exaggeration. Some Belarusian folk songs originated during the same time period as the Egyptian pyramids and Babylon culture.”
The five-minute painstakingly detailed movie, both in English and Belarusian, tells about the main landmarks in Belarusian history.
When it was mentioned for the first time, its history within Grand Duchy of Lithuania, the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, the Russian Empire and the USSR.
It also helps to explain why Belarus was called Lithuania for quite a long time and how these two names are correlated.
Relying on her own knoweledge and using “Short History of Belarus” book by Vaclav Lastovsky as a reference Volya singlehandedly wrote the script.
It was later proofread by Siarhei Tratsiak, the historian and PhD. Senior Research Officer at the Historical Department of National Science Academy of Belarus.
Story behind the documentary
Volya Dzemka fell in love with Belarusian folk songs when, as a student, she saw a group of young girls perform them.
“My mind was immediately consumed by the unfamiliar harmonies, which are based on the ancient Greek musical scales.”
That fascination lead her to produce and direct The Songs of Old Europe, the first ever English-language documentary about Belarusian folk songs.
Volya has worked as a producer, director, assistant director and cinematographer on a number of projects, including films, music videos and commercials.
Dzemka is a native Belarusian who moved to Seattle in 2003, and who herself performs these songs with her local group, VOLYA (translated from Belarusian as “freedom”).