A team of professional artists, photographers and designers from Minsk with many years’ experience in visual media have presented their project “VEHA”, which is taking part in the Biz4all “Social Entrepreneurship Incubator” programme, which is implemented by ODB Brussels in partnership with TNU Network University, with financial support from the European Union. The project aims to process analogue photo archives, thus helping families preserve their visual history and pass on this heritage to future generations. “VEHA” provides helps with genealogical research, creates high-quality copies of old photos, structures the collected information and creates a uniquely designed “family book” – the book of heritage.
The project is managed by Lesya Pcholka. She is a psychologist by education and an artist working with visual media who is actively involved in the development of modern art and culture. In 2013, she opened the first charity store in Belarus called KaliLaska. The project got a lot of public attention and is still successfully working towards its mission.
|Lesya Pcholka, manager of the “VEHA”, photo: personal archive|
In 2016, Lesya Pcholka became the coordinator of “VEHA”. It is a sociocultural project, which aims to strengthen family links and preserve cultural heritage. “VEHA” draws attention to the disappearance of archive photos and gives each family an opportunity to preserve their visual history.
This is how Lesya Pcholka describes the project: “Because photography exists and it is readily available to anyone, every family collects documents of its personal history. We can see what our ancestors looked like, how they lived, what they were afraid of, what dreams they had. Unfortunately, printed photos have short lives. Just like with any dye, its pigments fade and lose colour, while paper disintegrates. Photos just disappear!
Everything I have been doing over the past several years has brought me to “VEHA”: photography, my work in a social project and living in Belarus. Yes, living in Belarus where people know so little about their history, their past, their traditions and the culture of their ancestors.
|Lesya Pcholka at a Biz4all training Photo: Vitaly Brazousky|
The interest in Belarusian identity originated during the social and political turmoil of Europe in early 1990s, which put an end to the bipolar world, where the Berlin Wall served as the physical and symbolic border for many years. Since Belarus constantly received new definitions of the national identity, treating its strictly etymologically, on the basis of the origin and people’s place of birth, is simply not reasonable.
History is a comprehensive concept, while people are more interested in private stories, especially the stories of their family and genealogy. Genealogy is a science that studies family ties, history and origin of families. Learning about their family’s past, any person feels a part of something big and important, which positively affects their personal identity”.
According to the project manager, its mission is to help everyone understand the path their ancestors went through and to find their personal history reflected in their family archive. Lesya Pcholka also stresses the importance of the project and its benefits to the society:
"Modern society favours adding visual reinforcements to information. It is photographs from the family archive that are the main motive for clarifying the circumstances under which they were removed. Photos strengthen family ties. They can give us an occasion to write letters to our close and distant relatives.
The history of photography goes back more than 190 years. Over this time, almost every family has collected a large archive. In most cases, the archive is an analogue one, consisting of prints, films and slides. In whatever form and however carefully you preserve it, the archive can disappear if proper measures aren’t taken”.
Lesya stresses that the family’s oral history is information you cannot find in historic archives. “Oral histories handed down from generation to generation may simply disappear if they are not recorded and saved. These can be family recipe, types of crafts that are disappearing, or a personal story about the family having gone through the war and overcoming challenges, or the origin of their family name. Our goal is to encourage the public to learn these stories and write them down.”.
|Project “VEHA”, photo: personal archive|
The Biz4all "Social Entrepreneurship Incubator" programme, which is being implemented by ODB Brussels in partnership with TNU Network University and with financial support from the European Union, has contributed a lot to "“VEHA”, admits Lesya Pcholka.
|Lesya Pcholka at the Biz4all training "Crowdfunding for Social Startups", 23.04.2017, Minsk Photo: Alyona Lis|
"I am grateful to Biz4all for being available and for the knowledge I received during the course. I received my main education in psychology, which is related to social issues but has nothing to do with business. I needed an opportunity to get concentrated advice and expert review over a short period of time, and a chance to speak publicly. I’m already applying them in practice and will continue to draw upon the materials I gathered during the course, discovering something new in them. At the moment, “VEHA” is at the final stage of implementation.”
Text by: Yaraslau Klimasheusky
|The goal of the programme is to develop a package of social entrepreneurship training programmes in Russian using innovative international practices, as well as the experience of Belarusian diaspora representatives who have become successful entrepreneurs in European Union countries and the USA.|
The publication was prepared within the framework of the "Social Entrepreneurship Incubator", implemented by ODB Brussels in partnership with TNU Network University (Netherlands), Belarusian Youth Public Union "New Faces" and International Civil Association "Union of Belarusian of the world “Motherland", with the fiancial support from the European Union.