Belarus family has close ties

By Cynthia Broome
Special to The Clinton News

Sergey, Dennis, Alexander and Natasha Asadchy of Belarus are pictured with their local hosts, Dr. Martin and Lea Harthcock. The Harthcocks first met Alexander when he came for a visit when he was only 9 years old.

Close ties with a Belarus teenager have led Clinton-area residents Martin and Lea Harthcock to open their hearts and home, raising enough money to bring an entire Belarusian family to Mississippi for a visit.

"Working with All God's Children, my husband and I hosted a boy for three summers, beginning when he was 9," said Lea Harthcock of Raymond. "We took this child, Alexander, as a grandchild, and we've been doing what we could financially to help his family because they have so little.

"I went to Belarus and spent a week with his family in Mazyr," she said.

"That's what made me want to bring the family over here. They were kind to us and I wanted to return the favor, so they could see what their child had experienced."

Harthcock turned to her Sunday school class at First United Methodist Church in Clinton as well as friends, neighbors and local businesses for help, and she was not disappointed. Contributions totaled more than $5,000.

Sergey and Natasha Asadchy and sons Alexander, 14, and Dennis, 7, arrived the same day as the other visitors from Belarus, and they will go home Sunday as well.

"We were surprised to even get to come and visit Mississippi," Natasha Asadchy said through her son Alexander, "and we thank all the people who made our family visit here possible."

David Greene, who worked with the Harthcocks to bring the family to Clinton, developed a lasting friendship with the Asadchys while visiting Belarus. He and Sergey formed a particularly strong bond because of their military backgrounds.

"He was in the Russian special forces," Greene said. "The military police unit I was in studied their tactics, and they studied ours. There is a certain kind of brotherhood there. It is wonderful when devout enemies become friends."

Knowing that Natasha Asadchy works for the Belarusian court system, Greene thought the family would benefit from seeing the American justice system and local government at work. He took the family to watch a chancery court session and to visit the tax collector's office.

"Seeing county government and courts working with the people was important to me," Natasha Asadchy said. "It will be of value in my work."

The family's visit has been filled with many other activities.

"We have enjoyed good food and family time," she said. "The Clinton fireworks were fantastic. And, Alexander has enjoyed discovering the MP3 player and downloads."

The trip also provided Alexander with an opportunity to visit the doctor who has been treating him for a thyroid tumor.

"He got a good report," Harthcock said. "His tumor is more stable than it was in 2006. If he needs surgery in the future, we will raise the money to bring him here for it."

"We have learned of the good people in Mississippi and have had good experiences with Martin and Lea Harthcock, our host family," Natasha Asadchy said. "The warmth, good feelings and fellowship will be with us always."

"This has been a wonderful experience for us," Harthcock said. "I would encourage others to do it, and I'll help them all I can. I don't mind raising money for a good cause."