Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Belarusian city of Brest has 13 namesakes across Europe

Brest image from, with caption: Brest Oblast is the western gate of Belarus. It borders Ukraine in the south and Poland in the west.

A photo exhibition From Brest to Brest, Like From Heart to Heart opened at the Saved Artistic Artifacts Museum in the Belarusian city of Brest on 29 March, BelTA has learned.

The exposition features around forty works by journalist and photographer Irina Shepelevich. It is a kind of creative report about two driving tours across the European cities, towns and villages bearing the name of Brest. The tours took place in 2014 and 2015. The travelers covered the total distance of over 12,000 kilometers. They visited 13 Brests in eight countries, including Poland, Germany, France, the Czech Republic, Macedonia, Serbia, Albania, and Bulgaria and came back home with a load of new contacts and cultural cooperation proposals.

Brest City Hall, diplomatic missions, and partners of the project supported the initiative to establish twinning relations between the namesake cities and towns. An idea was voiced to set up All Brests Association. The initiative found support from the European namesake cities and towns. It is expected to be implemented by the 1000th anniversary of the Belarusian Brest.

Meanwhile, the materials collected during the tours became a basis for scientific research. Its findings were presented by Alla Rossinskaya, research fellow at the Saved Artistic Artifacts Museum, at the opening of the exhibition. She told the guests of the event that the French city of Brest founded in 856 was the oldest settlement among the namesake cities and towns. It is followed by the Belarusian Brest founded in 1019.

“We were very curious to learn about the origin of the placename in each case. In all the Slavic countries historically inhabited by the West, East and South Slavs ‘Brest' means ‘birchbark' or ‘elm'. The Germans associate the name with a swamp tussock, the French Bretons with a hill, the Albanians with a belt or generation,” Alla Rossinskaya explained.

The namesake cities and towns have much in common. All of them cherish the memory of their defendants. All Brests were affected by the First and Second World Wars. “The Great Patriotic War began at the walls of the Brest Fortress, and the Czech Brest witnessed the last large-scale battle of that war on 8 May 1945. There is another surprising coincidence. The French city of Brest was liberated from the Nazi invaders on 27 July, and its Belarusian namesake was liberated a day later, on 28 July,” Alla Rossinskaya added.

The public diplomacy project will be continued. Preparations for its third stage and already underway. The travelers will visit another six Brests, including those in Montenegro, Croatia, and Canada.

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