Maria Kalesnikava - about romantics, new Belarusians

The coordinator of our headquarters, Maria Kalesnikava, gave an interview to Radio Svaboda journalist Anna Sous’ and participated in the project “Women Only”. We bring to your attention the main points of the conversation.

What can romantics do?

If by romantic we mean a person who believes that something can be changed, then, of course, Viktar  mitrievich and us are all romantics. Viktar Dmitrievich, most likely, is also a visionary, because he always calculates very accurately and evaluates, thanks to his rich experience of being a top manager, all the risks and possible consequences. He repeatedly spoke about this in his interviews, that for him this decision was very conscious. And at some point, as a person who adheres to certain values, he realized that if he does not take responsibility and does not change the situation that is currently going on, then what would he live for?

How can we put our comfort level on the same scale with the fact that if we do not change this, then it will never be changed in our country? And I think that many of those who support us right now have come with this exact message. And I, as a musician and as a person who creates a large number of projects that highlight some flaws in society, in reality or in power.

My artwork will be worthless if I say: “Oh, that’s it, you have a mess here, I am going to my place in Stuttgart, I’d drink champagne on the balcony and look at the roses!” It makes no sense to make art, through which I’ve been talking about freedom for my whole life, about how difficult it is to create with censorship, if at the moment when I can help and change something, I will keep myself aloof.

And I’m almost sure that many of my colleagues have exactly the same motivation: “If we can help, we must do it, despite the level of comfort, the loss of the level of comfort, or the loss of some petite life pleasures.”

“Beyond Politics” and New Belarusians

During the time I lived in Germany, I realized: the concept of “a person beyond politics” simply does not exist in Europe.  Means, any person who lives in the country is part of the political process. And all citizens have the right to make an impact on what is happening in the country, express their agreement or disagreement. And it is the absolute norm. It looks kinda of odd when you say, “I’m beyond politics” there.  I have not even met such people.

I believe that Belarusians and their identity have changed a lot over the past 10 years. We can see this even from the situation with Covid-19, how people are able to organize themselves and help each other in a very short time. Or the situation with water: as soon as the first news about water deficiency came out, hundreds of people immediately began to help each other. In such a way of activity, they do what the government should. The state must take care of its citizens. Ordinary citizens take on this role right now – and it’s already the beginning of politics.

What to contrapose to repressions by the authorities? What is the headquarters plan?

In general, it seems to me that self-organization of people who came out on Thursday when they detained Viktar and Eduard, in the line of hope, in the chain of hope, says itself – there is no need to invent anything. People themselves relate to what is happening. It is even impossible to regulate.

Or the situation with store. On the first day, they arrived with a paddy-wagon and threw people there, and on the second day, twice as many people came there. It is clear that this situation will now probably always happen – the more they will take us, the more we will come the next day. Because no one agrees to tolerate what is happening and no one will take it for granted.

Of course, nothing has changed from the side of the authorities. This can only be countered by some legal methods, we are absolutely sure about it. The experience of previous quarter century shows: we are going out to the square, everyone is being beaten – and thrown in the paddy-wagon. And nothing else happens. Well, probably some kind of sanctions are imposed, but nothing else changes in the country.

Now, due to the fact that the protests and disagreements are taking place from the bottom, there is a chance to show the authorities that they have to finally reckon with us and fair elections, fair vote count, and admission of all alternative candidates must be ensured. Because 3.5 million people are relatively 50% of those who can vote. Their votes must also be counted, and each of us must be sure –  the elections are fair. Otherwise, the government itself will see the reaction of people, and nothing will need to be done with it.

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