dimanche 23 octobre 2011

Belarus/Lithuania: Pyatskuny / Norviliskes, the last frontier of Europe.

After Toussaint, Ms. Stanislava Soubatch envelope a bouquet of flowers in a plastic bag, throw it over the wire fence separating Belarus from Lithuania to his former neighbors that he lay on the grave of her husband.
She lives in the small village of Pyatskuny in Belarus, while his old neighbors live, his other half: Norviliskes Lithuania, former Soviet Socialist Republic, a member of the European Union and NATO.
The border bisects the village of Mrs. Soubatch one side is called Pyatskuny, Belarus, and the other, it is called Noviliskes, Lithuania.
"Our heart has remained on the other side of the fence," sighs Ms. Soubatch, 67. She did not visit the grave of her husband for over two years and can not attend Mass at the church, located in Norviliskes.
To get there, she should cover 150 kilometers to the nearest Lithuanian consulate, wait in line for several days, and pay the equivalent of 57 euros for a visa (almost the amount of his monthly pension).
And she would still do 100 km north to a border post and 100 Km again, this time in the other direction, back to Norviliskes ...
Her village is the only cut in two by the border. After the collapse of the U. R.S.S. in 1991, the border with Lithuania became international, but the traffic rules remained relatively lax and Belarusian villagers could spend the next Lithuanian religious holidays.
But in 2004, Lithuania joined the European Union and NATO, which has forced Belarus to wanting to get a visa.
Many Belarusians would like to travel to the West, but the EU refused to consider a relaxation of travel restrictions as President Alexander Lukashenko, in power since 1994 has not freed political prisoners and held free elections.
The inhabitants of the Belarusian side of the village are deprived of access to their former neighbors, the parish church and the cemetery.They often have no choice but to work at the local collective farm, and they depend on their gardens for food.
The Lithuanian side, the people of Norviliskes can travel and work in Europe, receive agricultural subsidies from the European Union, have money to repair their homes and buy new clothes.
Villagers in Pyatskuny can not even go up to the fence to talk to their former neighbors or make a package.
Simply leave a mark on the strip of land ten feet wide along the border could mean fined or ten days in jail.
Norviliskes has 35 residents, many of which have a cell phone. A Pyatskuny, 50 people, the only phone is in the village shop.
Despite their proximity, the two parts of the village live in two very different worlds.
"The iron fence at the border has become a symbol of the division between two civilizations," said Giedrius Klimkevicius, Lithuanian businessman, who restored the castle of the sixteenth century Norviliskes.
The dictatorial regime of pro-Russian Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, who denies any democratic reform and economic liberalization, uses a fortified border to prevent Belarus from leaving the country and foreigners entering the country as in Soviet times. He considers the border as the last line of defense against the growing influence in the former Soviet bloc.
Lithuanian border police work like other similar body in Europe, providing surveillance using patrol vehicles and cameras to catch traffickers and other illegal immigrants.
However, the Belarusian side, armed guards patrol with dogs and are allowed to open fire, even if they have ever done. Anyone attempting to climb the fence faces up to two years in prison.

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