Evening train from Biała Podlaska to Warsaw. And before that, a long, exhausting trip from the Belarusian capital to the border town of Brest, from Brest to Terespol – the border on the Polish side and only after that comes “Biała”. I don’t know why there was an unnecessary change in Biała Podlaska, and because of that now, there is no way of reaching Terespol from Warsaw on the afternoon train. The way of reaching the destination is long and not very comfortable, although cheap. Now you have to wait for a moment in the train and soon you’ll be in Warszawa Centralna (Central Warsaw). You leave the train and there it is – the Polish capital. Up to now, at the train station, not all underground passageways and platforms have been renovated, but the station is almost ready for the European Football Championship in 2012. You breathe in not particularly fresh, but free air. The “air” which should be also present in Belarus, but, unfortunately, is not. Poland and Belarus created the common history, but now the countries have gone their own, different ways. They might seem to be very similar countries, only Poland is more to the East. But this factor had a great influence.

They say that Belarus is in the centre of Europe, but this regards only its geographical location. Now it cannot be said that it is a European country. As soon as you cross the Belarusian border, a different Europe appears, but it cannot be seen even by the half of the Belarusian population. Unfortunately, Belarus is not a member state of the European Union, therefore, to enter the area of the Union, the Belarusians need to obtain a visa, which is not cheap. The situation is the same on the other side – people who want to visit Belarus have to have a visa in their passports.

You leave the station and see the glowing, night-time Warsaw. Again, you take a breath and smell the same scent of freedom. People are unrestrained, independent. In Warsaw, and in Poland in general, people behave somewhat different than in Belarus. Above all, this is greatly influenced by the membership in the Union. There are almost no limitations, each citizen is entitled to live happily, as he/she wishes. And if someone wants to go to a different country, there are no problems with it, as there are no borders between the European Union member states. Therefore, anyone can visit a country interesting for him/her and even stay there forever.

As there are no obstacles in visiting one country or another, Warsaw is visited by many tourists, who see the picturesque places in the city; students going for a foreign exchange; businesspeople who recreate their own companies and cooperate with the Polish ones. Therefore, in Warsaw, you can hear many foreign languages, and so every person in Warsaw knows at least one foreign language.

I would like to remind that as a result of the Polish-Soviet war and the Peace of Riga in 1921, the western part of Belarus remained within the Polish borders, while the Eastern part became a part of the USSR, as BSSR. Despite the fact that the Belarusian nation was united more than 70 years ago, there is still a difference in the mentality of the inhabitants of the Westerns and the Eastern lands. I think that a long time is needed to achieve even the living standards achieved by the Poles. Not to mention other European countries. Once we had an almost common country, and now each country has chosen its own path. Like other Europeans, the Belarusians value freedom and are willing to fight for their rights. Luckily, they have very nice neighbours, always willing to help. Perhaps the choice is ours only. Who do we think we really are: the Europeans?

Nastassia Biarnatskaya

Translated by: Mateusz Pazdur