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July 1, 2003

Ihar (Igor) Karnei , Vera Arkind, Ivan Mirski, Tamara Wasserman (interpreter) and Volha (Olga) Talapila (left to right) gather around the boyhood home of Ernest Hemingway on north Kenilworth Avenue.
The Oak Park Journal was one of many Media organizations that was chosen by the State Department and Agencies in Chicago to host several Media professionals from Minsk in Belarus.  While in the 
Chicago area these visitors from the former Soviet Union stayed with individual families for their visit and gathered each day to tour or shadow news reporters and agencies on their daily work.

Dist. 97 School Board Member Sharon Patchak-Layman, Oak Park Village Clerk Sandra Sokol, Micah Patchak-Layman (10) his friend Sam (10), (Back row, left to right) Ihar (Igor) Karnei,
Ivan Mirski, Vera Arkind, Tamara Wasserman (interpreter) and Volha (Olga) Talapila, and Joan B. Mercuri, President and CEO of the Frank Lloyd Wright Reservation Trust in Oak Park
Oak Park Journal photo

The Private Tour of the Frank Lloyd Wright Home
and Studio was a Thrill for the Visitors.  The Tour
took about twice as long as a standard tour since
the entire tour was translated into Russian.
Oak Park Journal photo

The Ernest Hemingway Birth Home on Oak Park
Avenue was a treat for all the Foreign Media.
Oak Park Journal photo
Half of our guests from Minsk knew who Frank Lloyd Wright was, but each and everyone knew who Ernest Hemingway was.  Hemingway is very popular in Belarus, Russia, and Europe (one of the most popular writers of all time...)  Hemingway had lived in Spain for a time, Cuba, and traveled to many other countries as well.

Many of our readers are used the writings of Charles Dickens and
many readers in the Old Soviet Union had read Ernest Hemingway.

Hemingway's kitchen looks as nice the day
it was lived in by the family.
Oak Park Journal photo

Hemingway's dining room, peaceful and inviting.
Oak Park Journal photo

Conni Irwin, a guide at the Hemingway Birth House in
Oak Park shows the visitors some of Hemingway's
Oak Park Journal photo

The Hemingway family library 
Oak Park Journal photo

Ms. Irwin, listens to question asked by the
Russian interpreter.
Oak Park Journal photo

The Hemingway Birth Home and Museum was a tremendous treat for these young readers and admirers of his fine literature.  The private tour of the museum also afforded the Foreign Media a personal chance to ask question on a one on one (with translation) questions about the young Ernest Hemingway.  The Museum and their staff were both accommodating and gracious in their hosting of this event.  We would encourage anyone who has not seen the museum to take the time and stop by.
Hemingway Birthplace House
339 N. Oak Park Avenue
Oak Park, Illinois
For further information call (708) 848-2222 
or toll free 1 (877) HEMINGWAY, 
or email at

Ernest Hemingway's parents' bedroom.
The microscope is there because his
father was a medical doctor.
Oak Park Journal photo

Mr. Mike Seefeldt, the Vice-Chairman of the Hemingway House and Museum personally takes
the visitors on a tour of the room where Ernest Hemingway was born and delivered into this world
by his father doctor.
Oak Park Journal photo

Mr. Mike Seefeldt from the Hemingway House and Museum
places an Indian arrowhead into the hand of a young person from almost half way around the world.  Ernest Hemingway
collected these arrowheads as a youth.
Oak Park Journal photo

Volha (Olga) Talapila wonders about the
skull.  She is told that the father of Ernest
Hemingway was a doctor and kept both
instruments and teaching tools in his home.
Oak Park Journal photo

Signatures of the Visitors from Belarus now
grace the pages of the museum.
Oak Park Journal photo

Conni Irwin, a guide at the Hemingway Birth House (far left)
Vera Arkind, Ivan Mirski, Vice-Chairman of the Hemingway House and Museum Mr. Mike Seefeldt (in back) with Mohan Garg, a member of the Board (in front), Tamara Wasserman (interpreter) Ihar (Igor) Karnei , and Volha (Olga) Talapila 
Oak Park Journal photo

Forest Park Village Administrator Mr. Matt O' Shea (second from the right, in the suit) Welcomes the Foreign Media to Forest Park and presents the group with Forest Park Hats and some other memorabilia from the town with a Big Heart.
Oak Park Journal photo

The Foreign Media is shown the workings of modern
Police department.  They are shown the GPS (Global Positioning
Satelite system) that shows where each and every police car is at any given time of the day.

Radio and Command Officer Lundt  along with Lt. Cody greet
and explain some of Forest Park's Police work.
Oak Park Journal photo

Ivan Mirski,  Chief of the Information Department, Alpha Radio, Minsk, Belarus, does the local crime report for the Radio station in it's only
fitting he should see the Forest Park Jail.
Oak Park Journal photo
The Foreign Media from Minsk in Belarus had a wonderful time in Oak Park and Forest Park and they wanted both communities to know how much they enjoyed their visit and the hospitality shown to them.  They had been to NPR radio in Chicago and the Daily Herald in the western suburbs, but they had not been put into jail until their visit with the Oak Park Journal.  The day before we had a chance to speak about some political issues, national issues, and some past history.  I told them about our own Sam (Momo) Giancana, the most powerful mob boss in a long time who is said to have helped John F. Kennedy win the election in Illinois and who dated Marilyn Monroe at the same time the President of the United States did.  We discussed the Cuban Missle crisis a bit and how the U.S. conducted the bay of Pigs and tried to have Castro killed, some have said with the help of the late Sam Giancana. We then spoke about Lee Harvey Oswald and how he was learning Russian in their town of Minsk and how Mr. Oswald married a girl from their town.  We were in Starbucks at the time and I did not see Oliver Stone anywhere nearby. 

I was later informed by sources that private property is not too
common in Belarus and that there are currently 3 journalists that
are missing.  When I searched the internet for news on Belarus,
the results were interesting and disturbing.  Belarus has had little change in the past decade, they are still having trouble from the
fallout from Chernobyl.  You can not openly criticize the government
and the president Alexander Lukashenko has been in office too long
according to many.  Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko has made it possible to stay in office much longer than the original law in the constitution and has recently passed a law or edict that no other
person in Belarus may call himself "President".  It is said that now a
president of a Bank will call himself the CEO or CFO of the bank and 
that President will only be associated with his name;  Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko.  How does that grab you?

I wish our guests a safe return and good luck with reforms in the
country of their birth.

Below are recent Headlines concerning Belarus and some Press
releases from the United States Embassy in Belarus.

"Belarus - Belarussian Closure of Russian TV Station Indicates
 Worsening Relations", 9 July 2003, WMRC Daily Analysis

"Belarus bans US media support group", 10 July 2003, Agence France Presse

July 10, 2003
Minsk, Belarus 

Embassy   U.S.-Belarus

Nine years ago today, Belarus held the last election recognized by the international community as being democratic in character. Relations between Belarus and the rest of the world were excellent and the prospects for progress  were great. 

Unfortunately, since that time competent international organizations and other experts have concluded that every electoral process conducted in Belarus has failed to meet democratic standards. Belarus’ relations with the rest of the world  have suffered greatly due to this and other policies and practices that bring about the self-isolation of the country.

The United States Embassy takes the occasion of the anniversary of the 1994 election to urge the Belarusian authorities promptly to take the concrete steps identified by international experts to bring Belarusian electoral processes into line with those applicable throughout the region and with democratic criteria.

Leaders who are honestly elected will be respected, and there will be a return to the bright prospects for improved relations between Belarus and the rest of the world that existed when Belarus was on the path to democracy

Trafficking in Persons Report 2001

The U.S. State Department July 12 released a congressionally-mandated Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report, offering a nation-by-nation account on the commerce in human beings and what governments are doing to combat it.


Belarus is both a source and a transit country for trafficked persons, primarily women. Young women are trafficked through Belarus from Russia, Ukraine, and
Lithuania to other counties in Europe, primarily Germany and Poland.

 The Government of Belarus does not meet the minimum standards due to a lack of resources and corruption. The new Criminal Code, which went into effect January 1, 2001, penalizes trafficking in persons for the purpose of sexual or other kinds of exploitation, as well as the hiring of persons for sexual or other exploitation. The penalty for trafficking is substantially less than that for rape or forcible sexual assault. At the time of this report, there was one open criminal case, and 12 cases had been proven. In theory the Government has programs to assist victims of trafficking and provide witnesses; however, in
practice this does not occur. Victims are detained and/or jailed until the investigation identifies them as victims, and can be prosecuted for violations of other laws. The Ministry of Internal Affairs conducted one seminar on trafficking in October 1999 and another in April 2000.

U.S. State Department Release

Throughout the history of bilateral relations with Belarus, the U.S. Government has consistently encouraged the development of democratic institutions and a more open society, and has taken very seriously the honoring of commitments made by the government of Belarus to human rights, including freedom of speech and freedom of the press. The growing neglect of internationally recognized practices in the above fields by the Belarusian authorities has led to the criticism of Belarus in the Department of State's Human Rights Report and an eventual review of U.S. policy towards Belarus.

To assist democratic reform in Belarus, the Embassy has set up the Democracy Commission program to assist the nascent independent media and NGO sector and promote rule of law. The Public Affairs Section administers the Community Connections program and other public   exchanges, brings to Belarus American experts to advise on democratic initiatives and reforms, and helps administer the Internet Access and Training Program (IATP). Many of the democratic initiatives in Belarus are  co-sponsored by U.S. Government agencies and private organizations, such as the Eurasia Foundation and the International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX).

The human rights situation in Belarus is taken very seriously by the  international community. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) established its Advisory and Monitoring Group in Belarus in February 1998; the Group's mandate is to assist the Belarusian authorities in promoting democratic institutions and to monitor and report on this process.


Strategic Offensive Arms Elimination...........16.00
Emergency Response Training/Equipment....5.00
Industrial Partnerships.................................. 20.00
Defense Enterprise Fund.................................5.00
Defense and Military Contacts........................7.53
Material Control and Accountability................3.00
Science & Technology Center.........................5.00
Export Control................................................16.26
Continuous Communication Link.....................2.30
Site Restoration (Project Peace).....................25.00

Total Belarus..................................$105,090,000.00

The above figures are all in Millions of U.S. Dollars

Other Information from the CIA is found by clicking here.