I have been back in Canada for a little over a month and am starting to get caught up. I will try to post periodically with more information from this past trip, so check back often.
I was going through my pictures and found several where I had taken pictures of products in a store in Chausy to do some price comparisons. To put things into perspective; the average Canadian earns approximately $38,000 per year, in Belarus it is approximately $4,200 per year and of course in the Chausy region it is far less than this Countrywide average.
There are only a few stores in Chausy and all of them are quite small and have extremely limited choices. I took the following pictures in the main “department” store in Chausy. This is a look down one of the aisles:
Here is some toothpaste. The Sensodyne is priced at 8,030 rubles which equals $3.76 Canadian, the cheaper ones get down to about $3.35:
I went into the hardware and electronics department and found the following:
Here is a blender for $52:
A TV (somewhere in the 19 – 21 inch range) for $592:
If you want a DVD Player to go with that you will pay $93:
And here is a small microwave that can be yours for only $137:
I know you are thinking that maybe I picked out the most expensive of each item … well you would be right … because they were also the ONLY item of each of these electrical appliances in the entire store! Imagine if you were making $4,200 per year (or a lot less if you lived in Chausy) how long it would take to save up for one of these luxuries?
On the other hand cigarettes are cheap, anywhere from $0.40 – $0.50 per pack:
Of course the government subsidizes bread ($0.35 per loaf) and Vodka (you can pick up a bottle for $3.00) so at least you will be able to afford to eat and drink!
You are right , the prices are very high overall in Belarus! We are back from our visit there (April 25- May 7). It was a very interesting trip with many highs and a few lows. We are just at the start of figuring out what our small group can manage to do to help beyond the hosting program we already have in place.
We visited Minsk, Bobruisk, Volozhyn, Yurateshky, Lida, Drogichin and one village in the Gomel area. We visited an orphanage for mildly handicapped children, an emergency short term shelter for children removed from their parents, a summer camp site near Minsk and many of our hosted children in several areas. It was so great to meet the families!
We met with officials at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Pavel Shidlovsky was there) and Ministry of Humanitarian Aid- very formal, serious meetings! We also met with our old friend, Mikhail, at Hope for the Future.
We also met with Frank Schwartz and his wife, Galina. He runs a project called Voluntas, which among other things, tries to build handicapped accessable playgrounds made by a Belarusian vocational workshop. We also met with a very dynamic mother’s group who are attempting to get programs started at public schools to provide education to their handicapped children. We hope to make one of our projects an effort to put Voluntas and the mother’s group together by funding several playgrounds. Frank’s wife is working in the Grodno area to start foster and group homes for children in institutions.
So many wonder efforts going on but so many needs still unmet! Definitely overwhelming to our small group! We are still amazed at all that your group accomplishes!
You and Dave Shaw were right on with your advice- they were able to set us up with a very reliable driver and van for our group of 5 plus a translator.
Of course, we were there as diplomatic relations were shaky and now our kids have to get their visas through Moscow as the Minsk USA Embassy is not issuing them. They did help hook us up with alternatives and as of yesterday, all of our kids and chaperones have their visas!
We left via Lithuania- another adventure by public bus this time! We highly recommend a brief respite in Vilnius following a stay in Belarus!! It gave us time to regroup and also process what we had seen. It was also nice to have hot water again!!
Anyway, we will continue to follow your wonderful blogs on your spring visit!
Kate Van Dyck
Children of Chernobyl