US Professor Expelled from Belarus
11:15, 18/07/2005, Charter97.orghttp://www.charter97.org/eng/news/ Several days ago another Westerner was expelled from Belarus — Dr. Terry Boesch from the USA. For two years American professor was teaching international law and business in the Belarusian State University, and undertaking various volunteer activities to help the country’s people. He and his family were given just two hours’ notice that they are being expelled from Belarus. Terry Boesch believes that the Belarusian authorities are aiming at ousting all representatives of humanitarian and education sphere from the USA and Western Europe. “The irony is that I have tried to do all that I can to help the government of Belarus to help the people of Belarus. I believe I am the last Western voice in Belarus trying to listen to the Belarusian government, and to work with it to help this country. But I am convinced now the situation is hopeless for the Belarusian government. There is no turning back now. I hate leaving the great people of this country, but today is the beginning of the great purge of Westerners by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, before he runs again for president next year, in 2006,” Terry Boesch wrote to the Charter’97 press center. Here is the text of the electronic message by Dr. Terry Boesch received by us today.
-- On Friday (July 15) I was given just two hours’ notice that my two young daughters and I are being expelled from the country of Belarus. Upon arriving back at our flat/apartment, I immediately telephoned the American embassy in Belarus, which began making calls to the Belarusian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Internal Affairs ministry of Belarus. It is hoped that my daughters and I will have at least till Monday of next week to leave the country. My name is Terry Boesch, age 40, and I have been in Belarus for two years, under visa with Belarus State University, teaching international law and business, and undertaking various volunteer activities to help the country’s people.
Recently I held the largest international student conference in the history of this country, with more than 550 students from 27 universities and 6 countries, on the topic of Global Trends in Business. I have also created programs that combine professional-English lectures with detailed courses in business, management, law, leadership and ethics. But on Friday, at the end of the work day, I was called to the international relations office of the university and told that the government of Belarus has ordered me to leave the country, on the same day.
I immediately placed an emergency telephone call to our American embassy in Belarus. I spoke with two people that I know personally as well, who were very helpful. Our embassy immediately began making telephone calls to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Internal Affairs of Belarus. It is hoped that my daughters and I can now leave Belarus on Monday of next week, or just one working day from today.
I am joined in Belarus with my two young daughters, ages 10 and 13, who have attended Belarusian school and been tutored by Belarusian school teachers. For the past three months I have felt increasing pressure in the university, following the Belarusian president’s recent appointment of a former Minister of Education as the new rector of BSU.
More than teach, I have donated more than 40,000 books and textbooks from America to schools and libraries in Belarus. I helped in a large Chernobyl project. I donated work for the United Nations office in Minsk. I helped with the translation of a Belarusian language project for the National Library. I helped select 100 school teachers and medical persons from Belarus to travel to the US to study recent developments in education and health care. I helped place students in work and study abroad programs throughout Europe and America. In the past year I brought to Belarus more than 11 American guest lecturers, potential investors and even the president of the World Trade Council. Last Summer I traveled to Nigeria to help select 53 students to attend university in Belarus on academic scholarship. Ironically, just last month I met with the governor of the Grodno region of Belarus, to discuss creating a high-tech park in Grodno. Three times during the meeting the governor invited me to “come to Grodno.” But now, instead, I must flee to Lithuania for sanctuary.
I admit that I have been covered widely in the Belarusian media, including an extended biographical article in the country’s largest state newspaper, being on national television five times, and on radio stations several times. But I have never one time complained against the government of this country, and instead try to find positive things about its policies or personalities to comment upon.
To describe how I feel at present, I would say: “I have donated thousands of dollars, and thousands of hours, to help Belarus, and now my reward is to hear my children crying that we may be arrested if we don’t leave the country.” I confess that tonight I, too, cried, when one of my male students called me, and with his voice cracking, he said, “Terry, this is awful; but I will always remember the meaning that you have had in my life.”
As for me, I have avoided politics at every level. I have never met an opposition leader, nor spoken at any kind of anti-government rally or audience. I even avoid contact with the United States embassy in Belarus, so as not to be identified with the American government.
I have 4 degrees, including a master’s degree from Troy State University in Alabama, a law degree from Valparaiso University in Indiana, and an advanced-law degree (LL.M.) from Loyola Law School in Chicago. I practiced law in America for 13 years before moving to Belarus in 2003. I am a World Trade Council member, and formerly owned two businesses in the American state of Indiana. Nearly one hundred years ago my family emigrated to America from Poland and Germany, so for me it was as “a dream come true to live and teach among Slavic people.” As a child growing up in America during the Cold War years of the 1960s to 80s I never thought I would be able to live in Eastern Europe. So, it kills my heart to now have to leave this place. I have spent here the past three days crying with students, friends and even secretaries at the university.
Seen in context, last year the Belarusian government closed down the last independent university in the country, European Humanities University, displacing 1000 students without any recourse. At that time the Belarusian president accused the university of “training-up too many opposition leaders” as students. The government later expelled a British professor from the country, who had taught in a state university. Two weeks ago Belarusian KGB agents stormed a summer English camp taught by American high school kids, detaining 23 students while “inspecting their documents.” I have spoken to the director of the camp, who told me that his Belarusian director was under such fear that he nearly left the country to flee to Russia to hide. This week the Belarusian government declared that it will no longer issue one-year visas for any western humanitarian aid worker in the country. Recently the president of Belarus in his speeches has openly started to refer to others as “my enemies” or “our enemies.”
The irony is that I have tried to do all that I can to help the government of Belarus to help the people of Belarus. I believe I am the last Western voice in Belarus trying to listen to the Belarusian government, and to work with it to help this country. But I am convinced now the situation is hopeless for the Belarusian government. There is no turning back now. I hate leaving the great people of this country, but today is the beginning of the great purge of Westerners by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, before he runs again for president next year, in 2006.