Belarusians in the USA

Belarusians began to arrive in America as long ago as the XVII century.

Up to the XIX century, their number was small. They came here alone or as part of small groups. For example, we can recall doctor Aliaksandr Kurytus (Kurchewski), a scientist and a teacher in New Amsterdam who arrived in the colonies in 1659.

But the XX century has changed this situation. The flow of Belarusians to the United States augmented drastically and is still very numbered.

In the XIX century, most Belarusian emigrants headed to America because of the economic situation in their country. So they were looking for a better and more prosperous life. And they were focused on creating businesses and earning money. That’s why emigrants started different self-aid organizations like the Jewish Voluntary Association of Mutual Aid “Ashmiany Brothers” (1882), which also helped Belarusian emigrants from Ashmiany.

Later, the wars, revolutions, and political disturbances in Europe of the XX century changed the character of migration. As a result, thousands of emigrants left their homes and tried to start a new life on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. They did it to save their lives and secure their children’s futures. Unfortunately, the beginning of the XXI century has mostly stayed the same in the life stories of the Belarusians who are still arriving in the United States of America. People flee from political repression just because they want a better life in their country – Belarus.

Here I can recall the name of Anatole Sankovich, who couldn’t return to Belarus but became a surgeon in Chicago and dedicated most of his life to saving people’s lives.

Or we have to mention Barys Kit, a long-standing member of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. His works helped America to get to the Moon. But at the same time, he could be arrested and sent to GULAG (Soviet forced labor camps, auth.) and finish his life unknown and without any contribution to humankind.

The United States of America saved the lives of these Belarusians. It allowed them to develop their talents and skills, and they contributed considerably to the Country and the World.

Belarusians have been grouped into many organizations. For example, we can recall one of the oldest – The Belarusan-American Association (BAZA), founded in 1949. It still exists and helps new waves of Belarusian migrants to start their new life in the US.

But at the same time, migrants don’t stop their activities and are trying to affect the situation in Belarus. People still want to bring freedom, genuine independence, and democracy to their country of origin. They are running rallies in the cities and towns where they reside. Belarusians sign claims and petitions to the government of the United States. Many activists established and developed connections with other Belarusian political groups in exile worldwide.

It’s no secret that these groups can support democratic movements in Belarus only because they now live in a democracy. And everyone knows that democracy demands sacrifices. We also must contribute to the country which gave us peace and surety in our future.

Millions worked hard to build the United States of America as a great and prosperous democracy. Hard labor and equality under the law – that’s what America meant to many generations of emigrants.

Thousands of Belarusians already understood this simple but fundamental idea. We must be confident that our Belarusian community will transfer it to our children.

Not every one of us may become a surgeon or a scientist. Still, everyone can be a respectful member of his local community. We can easily sacrifice some part of our time for charity. It is effortless to join any volunteer movement to make our neighborhoods’ streets more beautiful and comfortable.

America does a lot for us and can do much more. We are free to become whoever we want and climb to the summits, whichever we choose to climb. But at the same time, we must contribute to the country we are living in now. We must make it an even better place to live by sacrificing our efforts and labor as our predecessors did.

Mikhail Charopka