Photos: Sergei Gapon/UNDPBelarus

Initiative “In team race to a common goal”

Public Association of Cyclists "VeloGrodno"

Funded by the European Union and implemented within UN "BELMED" project .

Every morning Irina starts off with a bicycle, which is her main means of transportation, rain or shine. She puts on her versatile clothes, sneakers, sunglasses and goes to the pharmacy, where she has been working as a pharmacist for 19 years now.

– For years I was thinking of buying a bicycle, but hesitated. And then I found a shop next to my home and I bought it. I walked home riding the bicycle next to me: it was kind of scary to pedal right away.

At first, when I just started to ride my bicycle, cars honked at me, men smiled and waved. It is difficult, of course, to explain such a reaction. However, after 4 years of riding (Irina has been commuting exclusively by bicycle for 4 years now, approximately. – Ed. note), the vigilance has reduced. Apparently, cycling quickly developed in Grodno.

And then, by chance Irina saw an announcement about a bike ride to the Grodno fortress on the Internet and thought: why not? She had no bicycle enthusiasts among her friends, so she went for the ride all alone.

– I was afraid, because the distance was about 30 to 40 kilometers, I had never ridden so far. But then I thought that I could quit the ride any minute.

“It’s better to try than to step back and regret”

Irina took all the essentials with her: water, snack, and even the emergency tire sleeve. She set off for the ride with the people she never knew. At first, it felt a bit awkward, but soon Irina found common grounds with the cyclists. She got to meet new people, she is friends with some of them even today. This is how Irina joined the Public Association of Cyclists "VeloGrodno".

– I was pleasantly surprised: well elaborated route, it was comfortable to ride, and we had an interesting excursion at the final point. It was then that I realized that one can travel in Belarus, not only beyond.

This kind of rides became a part of my life ever since. This is how I found a lot of friends with different background. Some of my old friends joined in the cycling movement as well.

I work in the sphere of medicine; I think it is my responsibility to promote healthy lifestyle. I did feel the change on my own self: my body became more resilient, now I’m not afraid of the cold, rain and snow. It is a special pleasure to have control over your body.

There are a lot of emotional gains as well. I go to the country side to admire nature very often: forests, fields, rivers. This distracts from problems and worries.

“No thoughts, just feel great”

In her pharmacy, Irina is the only pharmacist who rides a bicycle. At first, the colleges were surprised, and then started to follow the changes in the girl’s life with interest. Now Irina has the support even from the management of the Grodno RUE “Pharmacia”.

– I participate in bike rides from time to time.  I won the first place at the end of the season at the latest Maratony Kresowe. The marathon included 13 races: I won the first place in 10 of these, and the second place in another two races.  

Each race was about 15-20 kilometers. Irina rode a total of 205 kilometers. So far, pharmacist Irina has been participating in short distances, but she is dreaming of participating in the 100 kilometers marathon.

Text: Aliaksandra Savinich/UNDP Belarus

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