Belarussian students on a "freedom summer school" in Poland

Poland hosts a summer school for students from the only high school in Belarus, which teaches in the Belarussian language and faces repression for that from President's Lukashenko's regime.

Joanna Najfeld reports

The Liberal Arts high school from Minsk is the only school in Belarus, whose curriculum is independent from the repressive Belarussian government. Aleksandr Lukashenko himself singled out the school for not teaching in Russian, which he wants to be the only language in Belarus.

The annual summer school in Poland is an occasion for the kids to study their own language freely, says Ewa Partyga of the Club of Catholic Intelligentsia, which organizes the Warsaw part of the project: 'The general idea is actually to help to develop freedom in Belarus. We are helping a school, which is just a normal school, for normal children, who wanted to learn in the Belarussian language and this school was closed by the government, by Lukashenko, just because they didn't want them to learn in Belarussian and we think it's obvious, and it's one of the human rights to learn in your mother tongue, so we are just helping them to do what they want.'

First summer school for Belarussian students was held in Poland in 2005. Since then, they would come every year for two to five weeks. They travel all over Poland, see places and meet people. Jan Malinowski is here for the first time. For him, Poland is a place, where he can educate himself much more easily than back in home. As part of the repression, the regime confiscated school property and the building has been taken over by a court: 'In our home city, Minsk, we learn at home. We don't have any school labs or other facilities. It's very difficult to study there.'

The headmaster of the Belarussian school, Wladimir Kolas adds that on top of better learning conditions, the atmosphere of freedom is important for his students: 'It is very important for them to have a possibility to learn in normal conditions, which they don't have back in Belarus. But on top of that, coming here again and again, they see how Poland is developing, and the direction in which it is heading - towards democracy, civil liberties and free market.' Young people can see themselves that the propaganda, which they see on Belarussian television is not true, he adds.

Ewa Partyga of the Club of Catholic Intelligentsia confirms, the Belarussian students find the Polish experience very significant: 'First of all, they like very much to come to Poland, they feel freedom here, and it's important for them just to be here and to feel the normal atmosphere of a normal life. And they are very much interested in all kinds of talks and in discussions, and they want to meet Polish kids but there are some problems with that because our kids are on holidays, but they are also going to museums, seeing Polish culture, and I know that they are asking during the school year if there will be an opportunity to come to Poland in the summer. So, it is important to them but it's also important that somebody supports what they are fighting for.'

This year's group consists of 70 students aged 14 to 18. In Warsaw, they will visit the Polish parliament, meet the Prime Minister and one ambassadors. The educational part will be complemented with field trips, sports, movies and social events.