Life in the Freezer

6 Jan 2013

Our time here will soon be over.  We’ve thoroughly enjoyed our visit and have been privileged to experience life here in Belarus where we have experienced the kindness of strangers and renewed acquaintances with old friends.

As we drove to Gomel, Dave commented that it was “just like driving through a Christmas card”.

Here are some of the things we’ve been doing…

  • Continued voluntary work at the Rehab Centre in Puchavichi, painting rooms and putting up coving, with more to be done when we return in the Spring.
  • Dave helping Artem set out his foundations for his new house, and prepare for the next stage of shuttering and pouring concrete when the weather is warmer.  Freezing temperatures and snow brought an end to work.
  • Visits to our friends in Minsk on the electric train (about 60 km away, and cost us less than £3.00 return for two people)

  • Our visit to Gomel, meeting up with Dima and Oksana Podlobko of the Living Faith Church, and helping to unload and deliver children’s gift boxes on behalf of Samaritan’s Purse.  It was a pleasure to see the joy and excitement on the childrens’ faces as they opened their present, treasuring the contents.The diesel in our car froze, as temperatures reached minus 18, resulting in a scary tow to the garage on a very short tow rope, for thawing and new cam belt.It was so cold there that our car had snow on the carpet inside it from our feet (which hadn’t melted for 2 weeks), with ice and snow on the windows (inside and out) as we drove along.  It felt like it had turned into a freezer!
  • Enjoyed celebrating Christmas and New Year in Marina Gorka with friends.





Snow has arrived

5th December – Snow has arrived here – so glad we have our snow tires!  What a difference they make.  No slipping or sliding here, in about 4 inches of snow.  Went out to the villages around Marina Gorka to visit five families.  Snow not deep enough to fill potholes off main roads – it just hides them.

One lady with several children living in a wooden house had an external wall so thin, it freezes in the winter – inside and out.  She works on a farm, hand-milking cows.  The hours of work are from 3.30 am until 8.30 am then from 4.30 pm until 8.00 pm. Another lady we met, who was widowed with children  earned 700,000 roubles this month (£50), which was lower than usual as the cows didn’t produce so much milk.

We got lost trying to find one village and ended up driving across a track  through a field in the middle of nowhere – and got stuck in a crater that was filled with snow – but were able to reverse out along the track.  We discovered that we were in the wrong village going across the wrong field!

Settling in and Getting Started

Tuesday 27th November 2012 – Marina Gorka, Belarus

We’ve settled very well into our flat which is warm, clean and quiet.  Given up looking for a plug for the bathroom sink – they don’t exist for such a small  sink plughole  (it’s a cultural thing to wash under running water) – so we’re using a bowl instead.  Dave and I are getting used to the way of live here and have been communicating with people as we go shopping on our own in local market, supermarkets (and Dave’s favourite place – building shops) without an interpreter.

  • Started helping at the Rehab Centre – Dave and I have prepared and painted one bedroom, upper walls of shower room and toilet.  Loads more to be done.  There’s no central heating or hot water there as they repair and install the boiler – just a log fire at night in the mens’ lounge and warmth from the kitchen.  We miss our friend Kolya who lived there in July 2011, and worked alongside us.  Sadly he died this year in a road accident.
  • I’ve been  assisting my friend Rachel with her business of decorating wedding receptions at local restaurants.
  • Visited friends in Marina Gorka and Minsk who we have known since the mid 1990s.  Great time spent together, renewingn acquaintances.
  • Dave has been assisting our friend Artem with his new build which is now at foundation level, giving practical advice and working alongside him.  There are very few building techniques that are familiar to Dave so much wisdom and discernment needed, especially when building a house on a shoe string.  Today received email help from our architect friend Alina in Barnstaple who has sent us info from a structural engineer colleague and links to a Carribbean code of practice for building houses.   A tremendous help.   We’re praying for warm(er) weather this week so concrete can be poured into wooden “shutters” for wall foundations.  Needs to be minimum 5 degrees C.  Today (Mon 27th) is minus 1.  Tomorrow and rest of this week looks promising – we regularly check out  Minsk weather at

Wedding Decoration Service by Rachel



First week – we’ve arrived!

We arrived at last in the early hours of Monday 5th November.  Had a good journey across Europe which took us five days and was like a much-needed holiday for us.   Upgraded to business class in Warsaw hotel as they had not received our internet booking, and asked a railway worker on the street if he could recommend a good restaurant.  He spoke Russian and took us to one that he was about to visit to meet a friend.  Food was great and everyone was friendly.

Polish-Belarussian border crossing went really smoothly (took about 2 hours to go through the various sections). Paid car insurance, tax and tax on goods we had brought with us.  What we didn’t know was that the import tax is based on weight and we had to weigh everything.  We were allowed 50kg each and had to pay tax on the remainder.  Not realising this we had fully loaded our car, thinking the tax was based on value.

Just outside Marina Gorka on the dual carriageway at midnight, we nearly drove into two men who had stopped to repair their trailer wheel  that had fallen off in the slow lane, with no lights.  Fortunately we were driving carefully through the fog. We stopped, gave them a torch and fluorescent jacket, and Dave reversed back and we used our hazard lights to warn oncoming traffic that they were there.

Our first week has passed quickly :

We’ve been staying with our friends Rachel and Artem .  Two of their boys (Sam and Jake) were  poorly (Sam recovering from pneumonia and Jake with ear infection problems) so we were able use our car to take them to hospital/doctors  for x rays and check-ups.

  •  Cleaned and went shopping for home items for our rented flat which we move into next week (Monday 12th Nov), and furniture from Artem’s mum’s dacha.
  • Checked out the Rehab centre on Friday to assess how we can help.  Plenty of work to be done  – plastering, filling, and painting.  See Rehab Centre webpage for pictures.
  • Visited Rachel and Artem’s new build home on the other side of town.  They’ve been working on foundations using concrete and steel piles.
  • Dave and I looked after Rachel’s boys then I helped Rachel decorate tables for a wedding, while Dave repaired the peeling wallpaper in our flat.

On our way and halfway there

Thanks to everyone who helped us prepare to leave such as Jules (great idea) and Tony and Pam who provided breakfast at their house at 8 am on the day of our departure and prayer with some of our CCC friends; and special thanks to Andy Raynsford (photo below) who made our lunch and helped us with cleaning the house and endless car-loading.

We’re really on our way now.  Left Devon on 31st, stayed in Dunkirque  – nice motel, then even better hotel in Lehrte near Hannover (internet bargain via  Motorway journeys mainly raining, no time for sightseeing.  Tonight (2nd Nov) we’re in Berlin – at Apart-Hotel Obergfell above a cafe which (unexpectedly has free wi-fi- connection!).    Berlin clogged with traffic  took ages to get anywhere near Berlin wall and became dark before we could see any sights!

We’re half way there, and have met some lovely helpful people and have been able to speak with them in French and German (even though took O’levels 30 years ago).   Dave and I are enjoying each other’s company, romantic evenings together,  and just relaxing and unwinding as we go along.

Temperature is getting lower during the day, from 13 degrees in France to about 9 degrees today in Hannover.

Driving to Warsaw tomorrow, staying in centre near railway station.  Thermals unpacked and ready to wear!

Aiming to arrive in Marina Gorka, Belarus on Sunday evening now.

Belarus Journal – October to January 2013

28th October – Snow tyres and thermals purchased, packing and finishing off work at home continues.  So excited – what sort of clothes do you take with you to a place where temperatures can go down to minus 30?    Departure set for 31st October by car via Eurotunnel, across Europe – France, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany and Poland to Belarus.