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In the new special issue we talked to Olya from the village of Opol. Now Olya lives in New Zealand, but she does not forget about her native village and talks about the unique Polesie dialect in her blog. In the new article Olya compared life in Opol and in New Zealand, and also told the “Not Today, Not Yesterday, Not Tomorrow” team about life in the village and the preservation of folk folklore.

Greetings! Introduce yourself, tell us about you?

Hi, my name Olya, I’m from the village of Opol in the Belarusian Polesie! I now live in New Zealand and have my own blog where I speak in my own Opol dialect about my life and also learn all one of the Polesian languages.

Are you an ambassador for Polesie in New Zealand and are you originally from Opol? We want to talk about life in the Belarusian village? Tell us what life in the village is like? What do the villagers usually do?

I grew up, lived, and went to school in Opol. I don’t know how to explain to you quickly what it is to live in the village))) For example, if you take away all the fun things you can do in the city and leave only two stores, one club/disco, one church, one school and a market on Sundays – that’s how we live there))) Of course, we also work a lot in the vegetable garden, whether you like it or not)).

Opol, photo from Oli’s personal archive

Are there many people left to live in the village?

Every year there are fewer and fewer people living in the village, because all the young people are moving to the city. In Opol, for example, there are just over 400 people living in the village.

Why do the Poleshuks people have their own dialect? What is it connected with?

We speak our own languages in Polesie. They are slightly different from each other, but we will always understand each other. We have such languages because of the historical situation and because of who our territories belonged to before.

Can you give me an example of a couple of words that are not in literary Belarusian, but are in the Polesie dialect?

For example, we can say in Opol – kulbaka, which is “cane” in russian, or we say krishane, which means soup, or there is a word toboyto, which we use if we agree with a person who tells you something.

Tell me about the folk folklore preserved in Opol? What is it?

There is not much of the local folklore as you will call it. Nobody passes this knowledge to their children. And of course from this I miss very much because all that our grandparents did – young people do not know how to do. But of course in every family there are chests and towels and aprons that were still woven and made by their grandmothers.

I know in the villages there is a separate kind of art, special singers (spiavunitsi) . Have you heard anything about it?

We also have such special women “mourners” who come to the cemetery during the funeral of a person and sing and cry about how sorry they are that the person has died. This is done to help people and relatives to cry and not to keep grief in themselves. My grandmother was one of these women.

Opol, photo from Oli’s personal archive

What is the main difference between life in the city and in the village?

Of course, the biggest difference is that in the village you know how to do everything when you grow up! And it doesn’t matter whether you are a boy or a girl, you can cook food, drive a tractor, plant and dig potatoes, take care of a pet, and if your clothes are damaged – you can mend them and so on, to put it simply you have almost nothing at hand so you have to learn how to do everything. There is no Uber to bring you food if you’re hungry))) So it’s all on your own! All by yourself!

Is life in the village expensive? How much money does it take to live for a month in the village?

I don’t remember much about how much it costs, but people grow a lot of things themselves and then freeze them for the winter or make canning. So, of course, you have to go to the shop less, but people still go there for sausage and bread and milk.

What products prevail on the tables of villagers, are they all ECO:)?

If your “ECO” is fashionable now, I can tell you that everything in the village is ECO! After all, the eggs are homemade, and the cow grazes properly, and potatoes and tomatoes are free of chemicals because they are their own!

Tell me about the feast in Opol?

Opol, photo from Oli’s personal archive

We have a lot of holidays and we love them very much, it’s just a place where you can eat all that delicious food!))) Of course, a lot of things are built around Orthodox holidays, but we celebrate weddings and Kupala night, and even if someone dies, swear God, we also make a big table, because if we don’t do it at all, there will be talks in the village.

Is it true that in villages people are more hospitable and it is a common thing to get a visit?

In general, if someone makes dinner at home or celebrates something and a neighbour comes by accidentally, they are always invited to the table and this is the common thing. Or for example, if someone on the street from neighbours kills a boar, they are always invited to crackling or share the fresh meat with neighbours, because it is necessary for everyone to be good!

Tell us about the nature in Opol?

Our village and Polesie in general is a very beautiful region! We have a lot of lakes, forests, and fields! I have never been anywhere where there is so much sky as there is here! And at night, of course, the stars and there are so many of them that you will not see such a thing anywhere! And also our Polesie is warmer than all over Belarus, so what is not a resort for you?))

And now let’s talk about life in NZ (New Zealand)? How to live in NZ, what are the characteristic features?

A year and a half ago I moved to NZ and here I live now. I can’t say that it was very easy for me to adapt although I travelled a lot and know English and I came here with my husband who has relatives here. I still can not get used to the distance from home and from everything in the world))) to go somewhere you need to plan in advance at least a couple of months! Of course it is very beautiful here, so little touched by man nature, which they preserve as much as they can and it is very cool! In terms of living standards, it is certainly more here than in Polesie, but the prices are different – an average house to buy will cost about 1 million dollars local))) it’s a horror for me!

Are there a lot of emigrants? And how do emigrants live in NZ?

There are a lot of emigrants here! Most of all from Asian countries. Those who are younger and know the language well, it is not difficult to adapt and you can find any job because the local population is not very much.

New Zealand, photo from Oli’s personal archive

What language is predominantly spoken in NZ, is there a dialect?

They use two languages as state languages: English and Maori (these are the locals who lived in NZ before the British came). Usually everywhere in society they always speak and translate all expressions into two languages. And this probably relied on me too when I started my blog because why is it that when people in other countries care and restore their heritage – we don’t. Although actually most of the people here speak English.

Tell us about folk folklore? How well preserved and integrated is it in society? Compared to Opol?

A lot of money is spent here every year to restore the traditions and culture of the local people. Wherever you go there will always be a part of the hall dedicated to the Maori people’s culture. New Zealanders respect this and try to teach their children to respect part of the history and culture of the country where they were born. Of course I would like that one day I came home and went to any museum and there they sing songs about Poleshuks and teach the history of Polesie and modern artists organise their exhibitions about Polesie! Unfortunately, there is no such thing in Belarus yet. And unfortunately Russian culture is taking over even my favourite village.

About culture? What is popular in NZ, music, movies, theatre?

What’s popular in NZ is what’s popular in the world! My mum asks me from time to time Olya, are there roads there?))) Well, of course NZ is very far from everything, but if you imagine a very developed country, it’s all there!

Do NZ people like to party? What is the weekend like?

New Zealanders are very family oriented and I’ve not seen many places where they spend so much time with their families! ! At the weekend you can often see them gathering at mum and dad’s and spending time together while they cook their barbecue)) ) of course there are concerts and festivals too! Lots of people live a cultural life too!

Oly, photo from Oli’s personal archive

Are New Zealanders an open, hospitable people or not?

They are very polite and friendly people. If you need something or need help they will always be there for you and I like that. But also New Zealanders are not very open and they will not call a stranger to their home).

Is life in NZ expensive? How much money do you need to live a month in NZ?

Life in NZ is very expensive. I hear a lot of complaints from local people about the last government. The country is in crisis and prices are rising every day. On average, if you rent a one-room apartment and want to go to cafes or events on weekends you need about 6-7 thousand local dollars minimum for two people. I, for example, still haven’t got used to the local prices and they shock me every time I go to the shops.

Are the products tasty compared to Opol’s?

Local produce such as avocados, meat, eggs, and citrus are delicious! I can say I’ve never had it anywhere else! But compared to Opol cucumbers, tomatoes, cottage cheese and fragaria there is nothing in the world! And that’s what I really miss here(((.

Are there villages in NZ? And how do they differ from Belarusian ones? And how much of life is ecological?

Here there are also smaller places in terms of population, but they do not divide anything into town or village, they just call it by its name))) in NZ farming is very developed and a lot of people live in such a way that they have their own big or not so big farm and sell food. Both the state and the locals care a lot about the environment and of course I have not seen this anywhere else. They start with the fact that when you fly to NZ if God forbid you find some other overseas food or seeds you can be deported or put in jail even for the fact that you tried to damage their flora and fauna.

New Zealand, photo from Oli’s personal archive

Tell us about the nature of NZ?

Well of course their efforts are visible everywhere. Because the nature here is very beautiful and unique. It seems sometimes that you are in a dinosaur film, so distinctive and untouched by man!

And one last word to the readers?

I’m very glad that I had NZ in my life, because maybe without this experience about how to love to preserve and modernise your heritage and culture I would not have started to make my own project about my native Polesie village Opol! I wish that one day people in Belarus would start to see the beauty in the villages, start to take an interest in the distinctive Poleshuks languages and not say that you are not educated and why you don’t speak russian, start to create new fashionable projects on the basis of these traditions, thus showing the whole world how cool, modern and rich in culture and power we are! And if you haven’t heard about my blog yet, join now and let’s laugh together and learn the Opol dialect together to create something very cool together in the future!