Humans Of Minsk. Bold Lawyer, Stubborn Graduate And Button Accordion Player

There are about two million people living in Minsk right now. Some of them we meet in the streets, at metro stations, shopping centers and underground passages. Sometimes our eyes meet but the next moment we look aside.

If you really want to get to know a country – you have to get to know its people.

Humans of Minsk is a book of street portraits and interviews collected on the streets of Belarus’ capital.

Ksana, 30, a lawyer

I don’t like stereotypes. They mean that a person judges someone.

“By the age of 30 I decided that I wouldn’t judge anyone.

I’m neither a childfree, nor against relationship, but I’m not afraid that I won’t find a soulmate and stay alone with 30 cats.

And it annoys me if someone criticizes my choice. I’m a commercial lawyer and have been into hand-to-hand fighting for a year.

In the beginning the coach ran around me and shouted: “Beat them, beat, beat!” At the time I couldn’t touch anyone, not to speak of beating them.

It’s very hard for both men and women to deliberately beat a person even if you wear gloves, especially when they’ve never done it before.

My coach helped me a lot, he encouraged me all the time: “Beat the coach and you’ll get a free training session”.

Guys there also supported and helped me. I just can’t leave jurisprudence at work – my projects are always with me.

I constantly think about them and search for solutions. I often stay late to finish everything, but when one project ends another one starts.

Exercises help me to find balance between work and personal life. They shift the focus.

It happens you got hit on the head and leave the training very tired physically but relaxed morally.

This is because when you have exercises it’s impossible to think about anything but training.

I never had faith in myself. And I heard on Ted Talks that girls are brought up to be perfect. Boys are brought up to be brave.

A girl, if she knows that she can’t cope with the task, will abandon it more often, when a boy is likely to keep doing it.

Not all the girls are brought up this way, but I had similar stories with perfectionism. Training helped me to overcome this.

I came being aware that I didn’t have even the slightest idea about hand-to-hand combat. So be it!

I’m not supposed to do it – I’ll keep trying, and maybe something will come out of it.

Earlier I couldn’t get all these thought out of my head. I looked around all the timeand thought: “Oh my God, I’m a loser, the worst of all of them.”

Now I think: “Even though I’m a loser here, but there are other things that I do well.”

Then I stopped comparing myself to the others and just kept working. And it worked.

I always lacked that skill, yet it is always necessary for life. And not only I who need it.”

Grisha, 23, a graduate looking for a job

“I have speech problems because of a birth trauma.

I speak slowly and my pronounciation is bad. That’s why people don’t get along with me well.

It hurts my feelings. A medical committee wanted to take me to the mental health center Navinki, but my grandma didn’t let them do it.

I’m afraid of this place. I would have had a hard time there. I studied in a special needs school. We had a simplified program for sick children.

When I was 16, I went to a rehabilation camp and there were foreigners. I tried to talk to them and realised that I want to learn English.

They didn’t teach it in my school, not a single word. The children simply wouldn’t have managed to learn it.

A volunteer from the camp who I made friends advised me to study English by myself. I started with the alphabet and simple phrases.

Then I studied grammar. I bought textbooks and taught myself. I attended some language courses for a while, but they raides their fees, so I quit and started using YouTube videos.

I go to free group lessons, but there are not many of them. I like English, it sounds beautiful and improves my speech.

I like translating and would like to become an interpreter. My level is Pre Intermediate at the moment.

Kids from my class work as shoemakers and specialists at a garment factory. I’ve been unable to find a job for two years.

I’ve been classified as partially disabled with the right to work. After college I can work as a batching technician or packer. Every day I’m looking for a job online.

I don’t have wi-fi at home, so I go to Domino’s Pizza to use theirs. I call the numbers in job ads, but they don’t even listen to me and hang up.

That’s all because of my speech, it’s such a nuisance. I want to find a job so much. This is my biggest priority right now.”

Tamara Viktorovna, 68, a button accordion player

“I’m from an orphanage. After the war, there were a lot of us, homeless children. And, you know what, somehow all of us got on in the world.

Not so long ago our class of graduates have gathered in Samokhvalovichi village. This where our orphanage was – 30 people came, they even showed us on TV.

I’ve never seen my mother and I still don’t know why she left me. At the time the deputy principal of the orphanage planned to adopt me and searched for my mother and sisters in Tashkent.

After I had been born, she gave birth to two girls – Tamara and Rosa. When I was 15, I really wanted to find her, but in the end we’ve never met.

It is hard to be on your own in the world, when there is no one to help you. I have been working since I was 16. I had a lot of jobs.

I went to Kazakhstan to develop new ands, it lasted four years. In Kazakhstan, I learned to play a button accordion by myself.

I knew the notes a little and could play any song by ear. I was a member of a dance ensemble. I was dancing but couldn’t take my eye of the button accordion.

I even studied at the music school in Molodechno together with Yuri Antonov (*a Russian composer, singer and musician). He played a guitar, and I studied choral conducting.

It’s a pity that I had to give it up – it was impossible to combine it with my construction job in Minsk. I saved up money, bought a button accordion and played in my hostel.

I like the button accordion! It isn’t a piano, when it’s time – I just grab the instrument and that’s all. I played it even when I was in sanatorium.

You know how they liked my songs? They were extremely popular there. Sometimes women of my age just want to sing good songs to the button accordion.

I was walking by, and they shouted to me: “Tamara, hurry up and pick up the accordion!”

People of different ages invited me to cities and villages to play at their birthdays and weddings.

One woman invited me to her daughter’s wedding, so the young people escaped the restaurant party and came to sing along.

I can play and sing that way you will want to cry or I can get so excited people start dancing on the tables.

I never take money for playing. I get a charge out of it, I don’t need money for that. I have been working since 16 years and saved up enough.

And how much money one really needs? I’m good with my pension.”

Humans of New York (HONY) is as a photography project sarted eight years ago by photographer Brandon Stanton.

The blog had over 17 million followers on Facebook and around 7.7 million followers on Instagram as of May 2018.

Stanton has collected portraits in nearly 20 different countries including Bangladesh, Iran, Iraq, and Pakistan.

Brought to you by Darya Sapranetskaya, TUT.BY

Translated by Margarita Tishutina