Bye Minsk, I Don’t Need Return Ticket. Why Young People Keep Leaving Belarus

The last one turns the lights off. Brain drain, the exodus of the young affects many countries all over Europe and Belarus is no exception to the rule.

The author of the student newspaper History Campus decided to look into the problem and find out  how many young Belarusians are leaving the country and what is morst important, what exactly drives them.

Below is an excerpt of the text with alarming numbers and real stories.

First step out the door

Many of my peers were talking about studying in other countries in order to stay there later. But I did not give meaning to it until I learned, that my classmates who had previously only dreamt about leaving Belarus now actually went to universities abroad.

I became interested in the question: how many of my generation (can) see their future living outside of Belarus?

I turned to the statistic data collected by the National Population Committee of the Council of Ministers. The numbers are clear. Today almost every fifth resident of Belarus is between 14 and 31 years old, whereas three years ago, every fourth belonged to this group of young people.

Emigration has the greatest effect on these declining numbers. The birth rate also decreased by 21% compared to 2015.

Looking for high-quality education

But why do they leave? I asked some of my friends who decided to seek their fortune abroad and translated their answers.

My friend Anastasia said: “Belarusian education has so many drawbacks. First, it is not necessary to have a fixed set of subjects whatever profession you are going to get. Second, students at schools are not motivated in any way. And this has its reasons.

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After all, teachers who make an effort to be innovative and creative in their teaching methods are rarely encouraged by salary increases. This demotivates them to some extent. Moreover, due to low salaries of the teachers, intelligent and capable people do not want to enter this profession at all.

This can create a decrease in quality teachers in the future in Belarus. At the end of school my father asked me if I would prefer to be educated in Poland rather than in Belarus. It was not a question for me: Yes, of course”.

No politicians needed in an autocracy

Another friend told me: “I want to be a politician. Yes, we have universities that educate political scientists. But what will I do after studying? Where to find work?

Our state apparatus is so well established, they feel comfortable without political scientists. The only possible prospect is to work as a teacher of the same political science institute at university, and I do not want that.”

I agree with them: Belarusian education is in great need of changes. Recently, I got aware that not only the young generation is leaving, but middle-aged generations (from 31 to 50) do so, too. What are they looking for?

Exchanging Belarus for Berlin

I asked my aunt Ali who emigrated to Berlin about five years ago. She told me:

“You know, sometimes when you feel uncomfortable in the place where you are, it is not necessary to stay any more. Much is said about the notorious Belarusian friendliness, hospitality and openness. Maybe it is true, but it exists parallel to our reality. What is indeed common are rudeness, tactlessness and general alcoholism.

In addition to everything, it is not only about wages, but rather the ratio of prices in the country with wages. The prices of food, clothes and other goods are approximately the same as in neighboring European countries such as Poland or Lithuania, but the wages are five times less compared to Poland.

For instance, the average salary of a teacher in Belarus is $200-300 per month. Doctors enjoy the highest salary with about $500. It is impossible to live without thinking about the prices when you come to the store and realize that to buy one product you need to give up the other.

In other words, the Belarusian ‘climate’ is not favorable for living.”

Can there be a future in Belarus?

These are the voices of only a few people that I know who left Belarus. After all, how many do think and will act alike? Changes in education, an increase of wages and freedom of speech are vital for the modern Belarusian society.

I often think about what will happen to our country in a few years, when most of the educated, cultural, talented population of the country will leave their homeland in search of a better place.

Despite the situation in our country, not everyone says “It’s time to leave.” My friend Diana wants to stay and said:

“Since I do not want and am not going to leave my home country, I can certainly say that the migration of Belarusian youth does not affect me in any way. It’s a personal choice where to turn one’s dreams into reality or to seek a better life. But I will be glad if, over time, they will return to go to Euroopt (our most popular product shop) and celebrate Midsummer in our home land.”

Where I was born, I am most useful?

Thanks to those people, our country will not die, even if its population might be halved. I believe that young people like my friend Diana can make changes in our motherland. It is just the question of time.

Personally, I have always adhered to the Belarusian proverb “where I was born, I am most useful.” (Дзе радзіўся там і прыгадзіўся) The older I get, the more I learn about how our state works, the more I actually doubt whether I would give up the opportunity to live outside Belarus.

Nothing stands still. For the changes to begin, the first step must be taken. Who will make it if not we, the young generation?