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Conversations with God

Multilingualism among the Catholics in Belarus in the Late Twentieth and Early Twenty-First Centuries. Sociolinguistic study


Ewa Golachowska

The book discusses the sociolinguistic status and prestige of the Polish language and the changes in the national identity of Catholics in Belarus due to the switch from Polish to Belarusian in the Catholic Church. The research shows that the national identification of Catholics in Belarus is changing. The oldest generations most often self-identify as Polish. For those from the middle and youngest generations, the link between nationality and their religion is not obvious as being a Catholic does not exclude a Belarusian self-identity. Belonging to the Catholic Church results from being baptized in the Catholic rite, while national identity can be defined in many ways and re-defined by various life experiences. Catholicism has proven to be a less debated and more durable category than nationality.

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This book is the result of fieldwork. This means that it is the interviewees who are its most important element, while my role is confined to listening to and interpreting their words. I would thus like to express my gratitude to them for finding time for me, allowing me to get so close to their lives and sharing their very personal accounts. In Belarus, hospitality is not limited to just setting aside time and sharing one’s story with the visitor. I thank my interlocutors for their unconditional and spontaneous kindness, and for their care for my comfort and safety.

My particular thanks go to my colleagues from Minsk, Dr Olga Gushcheva from the Belarusian State University and Dr Julia Gurskaya from the Minsk State Linguistic University, who helped to organise the research and were always ready to advise. I would like to thank the parish priest of St Nicholas Church in Svir, Father Bogusław Modrzejewski, whose organisational assistance and spiritual support were invaluable to me. I am also grateful to Dr Małgorzata Ostrówka for accompanying me on my travels in Eastern Belarus.

The inspiration for my research came from discussions with colleagues from the Institute of Slavic Studies of the Polish Academy of Sciences, Dr Anna Engelking and Dr hab. Anna Zielinska, as well as Dr hab. Zofia Sawaniewska-Mochowa. We are all students of Professor Elżbieta Smułkowa, who taught us to look not only at language, but also at...

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