Friends, today, July 26, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya held rallies in Zhlobin, Rechyca and Homiel, along with Veranika Tsapkala and Maria Kalesnikava. Many thanks to everyone who came! There were so many of you, despite the weather! We know we are the majority. Together we have no fear!
Here are the main highlights of their speeches.
Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, Zhlobin
Each time people come to my pickets holding photographs of my husband, who is currently detained in a remand centre, I have to hold back the tears. I would very much like him to stand next to me or even stand in my place. But the circumstances were such that I, an ordinary woman, a mother, had to stand in for him. Stand in for my husband – a freedom fighter.
People, we need to learn self respect! For 20 years we have forgotten what it means to be called people. We don’t have the right to express our opinion. If your opinion contradicts the commonly accepted opinion supported by the authorities, then your place is in prison, then you should be rewarded with a fine.
It takes time to get involved in politics. Many of us have never been interested in politics, I was not interested, and Siarhei was not interested. We’ve moved towards this gradually. Siarhei was not registered … I got to know the country with him – from his videos, from your stories. And I could not give up on his life’s work. I also saw your glowing eyes. And I went instead of him, submitted documents and registered as a prospective candidate for the presidency of the Republic of Belarus.
My initiative group, half of which has been imprisoned, is now made up of about a hundred people. This is a very small team – they self organized. They continued to hold pickets collecting signatures without me, and without Siarhei. And these are the people who performed the feat – my initiative group, and all of you who stood in these kilometer long lines. You queued not to sign for Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, but to submit your signature for changes, for a decent life in Belarus.
Maria Kalesnikava, Zhlobin
The government takes credit for preserving enterprises at workers’ expense. But the credit should go to people who work at these factories. They work all their lives for very low salaries. Let’s together imagine a new country, where we will live once this nightmare that has lasted for 26 years is finally over.
Today the government ignores the law, and tomorrow they will ignore our pension. Today the authorities grab us in the streets, and tomorrow they will jail us for five years for no reason. Each day they will tighten the screws more and more. They are not ashamed of lawlessness, and things will get worse. Do we want to take this risk and keep the current government?
Veranika Tsapkala, Zhlobin
Look at the situation around the coronavirus: our head of state, fearing loss of power, tried to convince everyone that there is no coronavirus. And now, in order to retain his power, look at him again campaigning and stating that we have both a crisis and a coronavirus. Look at how our society organized itself: we set up foundations, people supported doctors with their own money. And, by the way, I don’t know if this is true or not, but I read in the media that in your city, in Zhlobin, doctors were forbidden to take any help from people. Is that at all normal? After all, in a situation like this one, the state should demonstrate solidarity with its people. What do we pay taxes for? Where is the money going, think! The money is spent on residences, private jets with golden toilets, and maybachs. The money funds the goals of one family, but not the people! We want to change that!
I know that during this crisis at BMZ, many people experienced reductions in salaries and seniority bonuses. At this critical moment, when people are most vulnerable, because we are working, we are putting our lives in danger, the state punishes us with pay cuts – this should not be happening!
Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, Rechyca
Siarhei traveled around Belarus, giving people the opportunity to speak up and showed it on his You Tube channel. They began to persecute Siarhei. It can be understood why they went after Siarhei – he is at the forefront. But they began persecuting ordinary people who joined him during the streams and gave interviews. And did they get in return – prisons and fines! It turned out that the Constitution does not guarantee us the freedom of speech!
Maria Kalesnikava, Rechyca
My father sent us a message. He served on a submarine. Today is a Navy Day. I want to read it to you. “My dear ones, I admire you and the activism of your supporters. Today is a Navy Day, and as an old sailor, I wish you seven feet under the keel for your ship and your crew. This is the oldest and most comprehensive wish. Good luck and much success! ” Thank you, dad!
The government concealed information about Chernobyl from us, disregarding the health of its own people. Now the same is happening with the coronavirus. The figures are underestimated manyfold, and, in fact, even the Ministry of Health does not know the real figures. Officials intimidated local doctors so much that no one knows the real numbers. Everyone is afraid of everyone. Nobody wants to take responsibility, but people are dying. People die, and the current government blames them for it, saying that they are fat, that they went to the bad places and didn’t fight for life well enough. This is monstrous!
Why do doctors, who are supposed to save our lives, do this for measly salaries? Is this normal? Why should the military who have studied to protect us, their own people, have to follow the shameless orders? Is this normal? Why should retirees, who worked their whole lives, have to live from hand to mouth? Is this normal? Why are the teachers, who raised our children, forced to forge ballots, forced to commit a crime? Everyone knows how important it is for every teacher when students look at them with loving eyes, and parents and society respect them. Now we cannot force our wonderful teachers to commit a crime! Is this normal?
Regime is not the main enemy to our victory. Fear is the main enemy. Do not be afraid! We are the majority, and together we are not afraid! We’ll make it through!
Veranika Tsapkala, Rechyca
Security is one of the biggest concerns. Look at what methods the current government is using, how it is manipulating. I was forced to relocate my children after the prosecutor’s office, and the law enforcement agency visited my childrens’ school to carry out an inspection. They know that one of my children (I have two sons, who have just finished the first grade) is very attached to me. Extremely attached! We sleep together, he is my soul, he is my heart. And it was against this child that they began to conduct an investigation. They began to collect information about what kind of mother I am! Shame! We – both Sviatlana and I – do not want to leave this country, we want to live, raise children in this country, we were born in this country and want to be useful in our country. We want our children to grow up in a prosperous, peaceful and safe Belarus.
It was a rocky road. It was a very difficult journey. Siarhei is under a lot of pressure, while detained in the remand centre. They create unbearable conditions for him there. He has been in solitary several times, for no good reason. He was thrown into solitary because of the cobwebs, because he hadn’t shaved, when he did not have shaving accessories. I am sure this was done to apply pressure on me, so that I give up. There was a call, during which they told me that they would imprison me, that my children would be sent to an orphanage. It was pressure. Several times I was one step away from giving up. But I could not betray you. I have not been able to betray your belief in change. Because Siarhei opened people’s eyes, and then people rallied. Siarhei started a stir, but then, you, people, did everything yourself! Your leader was imprisoned, but you did not give up!
I will share the names of several people who worked in Homiel and the Homiel region. They worked absolutely for free. We have not spent a dime to collect the signatures. People volunteered, spending their own money. Yura Vlasov, was jailed for 45 days only because he held a solidarity picket in support of Tsikhanouski. Only because a person stood up for an unlawfully convicted person, he was jailed for 45 days.
Just imagine! Tatiana Kanevskaya supported us a lot, collecting signatures. Alexander Shabalin, Dmitry Rudenkov, Alexander Vashko and everyone else who worked in Homiel and the Homiel region, thank you all very much. These are just some of the names that I am now sharing. There are so many of them!
It was a rocky road. When your husband is in a remand centre and every day there are new arrests among the members of the initiative group, every day these people, who simply helped to collect signatures, are searched. And you are sitting at home, you have children, and you understand that any moment they will also come for you. And you understand that your children will witness it, and you work out where you will take them, and you figure out how to make sure they will not come for you at night. All the time you are tense, all the time. This is just mental and emotional abuse! When they came to search the mother of Siarhei Tsikhanouski … People, she is 70 years old! They kept her for a day, without sleeping, without eating. They conducted a search at the summer house, at night, there were ten people and she was alone. It was just a nightmare! 70 years old person with a sick heart! It is not enough for them – in the morning they went with her to her home. It’s just a shame!
The first time they searched Siarhei Tsikhanouski’s office, they did it carefully and found nothing. And as I understand, to revenge for the fact that they did not find anything, they came a second time. They broke everything there, they broke all the tables, they broke the cyclorama, which took Siarhei a very long time to build, to shoot there, to record his videos, they just punched holes. They turned everything upside down, they tore up the sofa. I saw it – they’re just monsters. This was not a search! How would you call this? It’s just psychological pressure: look, we are capable of such vile things! And that didn’t stop me!
My husband is in jail. After these threats, I was forced to relocate my children, because I know that the authorities will stop at nothing. I didn’t tell my eldest son anything, my daughter is still little. Our daddy went on a business trip, we draw pictures for dad and write letters for him, dad will soon come back. But when the child, they are all surfing the Internet now, watched my performance on YouTube … He now understood everything. He sent me a message yesterday that once again turned my world upside down and convinced me that we must persevere to victory. I’ll read it to you now: “Mom, are you all right? I feel bad for you and I am scared for you. ” Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings come great truths : our children are scared!
I don’t want to live in a country where my children are scared. But I want to live in my homeland. Therefore, the only way is to make my homeland a country where one can live without fear. It’s not scary to live, it’s not scary to walk, it’s not scary to talk.
Candidates are not the threats to the authorities. We are all a threat to the authorities! We are the people, residents of our beloved homeland!
Maria Kalesnikava, Homiel
How many Tabakerki do you have in your city? A lot? Or, perhaps iit would have been better to plant trees instead? A million dollars spent on a toilet, not a hospital. Apparently, the authorities believe that you need luxury to urinate. Why do they think so? Because they don’t ask us what we need. They do not discuss with the townspeople what they need. They decide on their own what we want. Instead of supporting small businesses, mayors build apartments for themselves, and register these apartments as if they belonged to their relatives. Do we need such mayors? What is the point? We want to choose our own mayors. We are proud of Homiel, its plants and factories. But we are sad about the situation with enterprises and their workers.
Now, more than ever, Belarusians have a choice: either we stay at home and await an even greater crisis, poverty, roadmaps to unification with Russia, or we all give our best, fight and fulfill our dream – the dream of a happy and free Belarus.
Veranika Tsapkala, Homiel
They constantly scare us with maidans, constantly scare us with Russian troops, and NATO troops. But all this is coming from only one person. Have you ever heard this from any of the opposition candidates? And you will not hear this, because we all want to live in a peaceful and prosperous Belarus. We want to raise our children here in Belarus, and we do not want to leave.
Photo: Pasha Krychko