GOMEL, 16 August (BelTA) – Three citizens of Grodno Oblast received certificates of merit from the Ministry of Emergency Situations of Armenia. Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Armenia to Belarus Armen Ghevondyan presented the certificates in an official ceremony in the Gomel Oblast Executive Committee on 16 August, BelTA has learned.
For courage and active participation in the rescue and response operations following the Spitak earthquake in 1988, Armenia awarded certificates of merit to Natalya Valitskaya (a cook of the Sovetskaya Belorussiya unit of the Rechitsa Bakery Plant), Lyudmila Veselova (a cook from Rechitsa District), and Viktor Negrei (professor at Belarusian State Transport University).
Armen Ghevondyan stressed that Belarus was among the first countries to offer Armenia help in that troubled time. Belarusians helped rescue survivors from ruins, tend to the wounded, build new schools, houses, kindergartens. The ambassador noted that he sees the meeting with Gomel Oblast citizens as another opportunity to express sincere gratitude for their help.
In the late 1980s, Viktor Negrei worked in Belarusian State Transport University. “When the disaster stroke, Belarus delegated a team of specialists to Armenia to help restore transport communications in order to resume deliveries of cargoes and goods. We needed to choose the most effective strategy to rebuild destroyed bridges and carry out a lot of other challenging operations. It looked as if not only people were crying, but so were houses, rivers,” Viktor Negrei said. Natalya Valitskaya and Lyudmila Veselova worked in canteens which were set up for people involved in the rescue and response operations.
Chairman of the Gomel Oblast Executive Committee Gennady Solovei also expressed gratitude to the award recipients. Although considerable time has passed since the disaster, the tragedy has not faded from the memory of the Belarusian and Armenian nations, he said.
The earthquake occurred on 7 December 1988. Within half a minute nearly all northern part of the country was ruined. More than 500,000 people lost their homes, about 40% of the Armenian industry was destroyed. The earthquake razed to the ground the city of Spitak and 58 villages, damaged the cities of Leninakan (today's Gyumri), Stepanavan, and Kirovakan (today's Vanadzor) and over 300 villages. The help came from all over the Soviet Union and 113 countries, humanitarian organizations and private persons. Belarusians were also among them. From the very first day of the tragedy, they were involved in rescue and response operations.More about Society