Ales Adamovich (1926-1994) a major Belorussian author, essayist, critic, public figure. Academician, Doctor of Philology. One of the founders of the Belorussian PEN. Wrote in Belorussian and Russian.
Winner of the Belorussian State Prize and the prize of the USSR Ministry of Defense for The Story of Khatyn (1974). Winner of the Academician Sakharov Prize “For Civic Courage” (1994), and of the Literary Foundations’s Prize “For Dignity and Honor” (1997).
He spent his childhood in a little Belorussian village of Glusha where his father worked as a rural doctor. Glusha features in many of his writings. In 1930, his grandfather was branded as a kulak (rich peasant) and exiled to Yakutia. This created problems for the entire family. During the war of 1941-45 Ales Adamovich’s father served in the army while his mother joined the local partisan movement. The young Adamovich also saw action during the war, first as a partisan fighter and than serving in the regular army. After the war he took a degree in Philology from the Belorussian University in Minsk and for the next few years wrote extensively on Belorussian literature. His essays often expressed ideas contrary to the official ideology and established views.
In 1960, he published his first novel War under the Roofs, about which he said that “this story was first written by his mother’s whole life.” In 1963, Adamovich published the novel Sons Go into Action. The two novels form a dilogy and are based on his personal war experiences. During the 1960s, he was collecting material for his most famous book: Khatyn, which he first wrote as a script for a documentary film and then reworked into a novel published in 1970. The war was no longer depicted there in heroic terms but as a national tragedy. Adamovich said about the book: “I managed to show only a fraction of the truth, of what I witnessed in Khatyn, while the unfathomable ocean of people’s memories about the burnt village remained there invisible and inaudible to the world.”
In the 1970s, together with two colleagues he travelled around a hundred other Belorussian villages burnt by the Nazi and interviewed survivors. Those interviews laid the basis for the documentary book I Am from the Burning Village which became a bestseller around the world at the time.
Together with Daniil Granin, Adamovich used the same method to collect interviews with survivors of the Leningrad siege which they published in 1979 under the title The Blockade Book (Leningrad under Siege), a shocking account of the most trying ordeals in the history of WWII.
In 1985, the film Come and See, based on Adamovich’s The Story of Khatyn, received the Gold Medal at the Moscow Film Festival and was later shown in many other countries.
As a result of his attempts to investigate the Chernobyl disaster, Adamovich was severely prosecuted in Belorussia and had to move to Moscow where he continued his public activities as well as writing new revelatory works.
Adamovich founded the Belorussian PEN Center in 1989, was a co-president of the Memorial Society and the international organization to help Chernobyl victims. Among his many awards mention should be made of the Sakharov medal “For Civic Courage” and the prize “For Honour and Dignity”.
His Diary Notes (1945-1969; 1971-1980; 1981-1984; 1984-1986) were published posthumously.