23 June 2024, Sunday, 5:38
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Only Enough Children For Three Days

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Only Enough Children For Three Days
IRYNA KHALIP

There will probably be no need to prohibit sale of alcohol any more.

“Our country has no future,” a friend recently wrote to me. She is a gynaecologist and determines the future with some very clear criteria — by the number of pregnant women registering, by the queues at the antenatal clinics, by the occupancy of maternity hospitals. That friend of mine wrote that a few years ago, five or six pregnant women had an appointment with her every day. Now, she writes, it’s good if one pregnant woman appears once every two or three days. The number of births has decreased by exactly half in recent years.

And this is a reality that cannot be covered up by any government statistics that tell us about the joyfully multiplying Belarusians, ensuring the future of our country. Women who registered as pregnant five years ago are now doing the same in other countries. Or they give up their plans to have a child simply because they don’t know anything about their tomorrow. What if a pandemic sweeps across borders, what can you do with a baby? What if they arrest you, how can you give birth naturally? What if they impose a Mongol-Tatar scale tribute for a once-penny donation, where will you get the money to feed your child?

Their husbands reason it in exactly the same way: if I go to prison, my family will be left without a breadwinner, so it would be better at least without children — it’s still calmer. Otherwise, later the children will share the fate of the kids of Antanina Kanavalava and Siarhei Yarashevich, running away with their grandmother when both parents were imprisoned. Or they’ll end up in an orphanage, like Larysa Shchyrakova’s son after her arrest, waiting for his father, traveling from somewhere in Siberia. Or they will forget what their mother looks like, like Palina Sharenda-Panasiuk’s youngest son. No, giving birth in Belarus is as dangerous as living and breathing.

I understand that the already existing children will be enough for some time to form ranks under the banners, fill military-patriotic clubs, and create a crowd of spectators in the Minsk Arena. But time is running out. Because Lukashenka is doing his best to prevent children from being born, students from studying, and young scientists from defending their thesis in our country. First, he cancels military deferments for those who dare to start studying abroad, and this means that at least until the age of 27, these young Belarusians will not return to the country, but during a decade of studying and working abroad, they will successfully grow roots, start a family, and get some loans. Returning at that moment will be not just unsafe, but pointless.

Earlier, these young people at least graduated from school in Belarus and left, having received a school certificate. Now, when education officials did some petty dirty tricks (more precisely, followed the orders of the officials doing big dirty tricks) and stopped issuing certificates to graduates, which are required by many foreign universities for admission, young Belarusians will begin to leave en masse, without waiting to graduate from school. They will enter Polish lyceums, where the path has already been trodden by thousands of other Belarusians, under a program like IB or A-level — Belarusian children have many opportunities. Many opportunities, all over the world, except in the homeland. And no additional certificates are required by any university after graduating from school in other countries. Their parents will leave with the children.

And if the abolition of the deferment of military service for students of foreign universities concerned only boys, then non-provision of the necessary certificates will also take girls out of the country. And on their first dates, these boys and girls will not walk in Gorky Park or on the banks of the Svislach, but along the embankments of the Vltava, Vistula, Seine, and Thames. At first, their former head teachers will be happy that they no longer need to cram 45 people into a form and make extra forms with all the letters of the alphabet (“and now the 10th form “Z” is marching to the cafeteria!”), everything will finally comply with sanitary standards. And then it turns out that no one is wearing the “graduate” ribbon, and the ceremonial line resembles a chess field at the end of the game.

In the absence of graduates, there will be no need to prohibit the sale of alcohol on the days of final calls and graduation ceremonies. And the economy will immediately burst into stratospheric heights.

Iryna Khalip, exclusively for Charter97.org

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