Galina Kazimirovskaia, 40, spent five days in prison and paid a fine equivalent to R $ 3,000 for singing at an evening neighbors’ meeting in a backyard in Minsk.
A conductor, she conducts the Volny Choir (Free Choir), one of the forms of micro-protest that has emerged to bypass the Belarusian dictatorship.
When the shocking crackdown swept through Belarus in mid-August, musicians and members of the philharmonic choir took to the streets and sang the hymn “Mahutny Bozha” (Almighty God). The action took place every day at lunch in front of the orchestra building, and people went there to listen. I watched the video on a social network and understood that one of the most needed things now in the country is to inspire people.
The next day, I called the members of the Concórdia choir, of which I am the conductor, and we went to sing alongside the Philharmonie. Many were crying while listening, and that was very important at that time, because we were all lost. It was impossible to stay at home, to go to work, to do everyday things. We were frightened, shocked by the violence, and this flow of sounds showed us the possibility of unity.
This lasted until the day we started being called by the police, and keeping the introductions was very dangerous. And that made it even clearer that people really needed music, because they asked us’ when will this happen again? Or?’.
Then the flashmobs started in shopping centers. I participated as a singer, with the others, just because I knew the songs and was part of like-minded people. It was the birth of the choral movement against the dictatorship, but we still did not know what would result.
In September, we realized there was something to be shaped, and a group of six people created the Volny Choir (Free Choir). What can we do? We are not soldiers, we cannot fight. But while we sing, we spend this time together and keep our spirits up. Music has become a kind of weapon.
We realized that there was a lack of hymns in the Belarusian language, from our national poets. This kind of patriotic song has been largely neglected in our country. Several compositions were put together, we expanded the repertoire, I made a lot of arrangements of new and old songs, a songbook called Hodnyia Pesni (Songs of Value).
These are songs that are close to the hearts of most Belarusians. They heard them somewhere in the past, but now more and more people needed to hear them. This was our direction for moving forward.
More and more new forms of protest have appeared. The meetings in the backyards, in the neighborhoods of the city, were very important. Music groups, singers of different styles and genres gather in the neighborhoods and perform for the neighbors, who drink tea and cookies and chat.
We go into the backyards and encourage people to sing along with us, to learn the songs, so that one day we can get everyone together in a huge square and sing our Belarusian songs.