Nobel Prize for Literature 2015, the Belarusian journalist and writer Svetlana Aleksievich, 73, is preparing a book on the protests against the dictatorship in her country and the violent repression of the regime of Alexander Lukashenko.
Before repression took hold in Belarus, the writer’s project – who devoted herself to the literary reconstruction of historical moments from testimonies – was a book about love and old age.
“It will have to wait. The most important thing now is that our revolution ends in victory as quickly as possible, ”she told the Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza.
Aleksievich said the work had made him cry: “Probably no previous book has cost me so much. I cannot control my tears while listening to the speeches of the young people, their last speeches during the trials where they are accused of “the worst things”.
One of the seven members of the transitional council created by the opposition after the presidential election in August 2020, considered rigged, Aleksievich was taken to testify by the dictatorship.
She issued a public warning of crackdown on her colleagues and then had to call for help so that her apartment was not invaded by hooded men from the dictatorship.
In September last year, when she visited Germany, she was the only leader of the opposition council not yet arrested or forced to leave the country. Aleksyevich has since lived in Berlin.
“I cannot go back to my homeland at the moment. If I returned, what awaited me would be the fate of Alexei Navalni, “she said in an interview with, referring to the dissident arrested by the Russian government upon entering her country.
Aleksyevich credits the new generation with Belarus awakening against an authoritarian regime installed in 1994, when Lukashenko won the first (and only free since) post-USSR election.
“There were protests in 2010, but they were quickly dispersed. Ten years later, these young people know the modern world, travel and use social networks. They see and know more than we do and want to live in a non-authoritarian state, ”he said.
The elderly are also characters of this revolution, like two women older than the writer who walked for a week to Lithuania, threatened with death in the small town near Minsk where they protested.
According to the writer, the 2020 elections were a turning point, during which Belarusians lost patience and refused to suffer further humiliations. The electoral campaign had shown strong support for Svetlana Tikhanovskaia, the electoral front candidate, but the dictatorship reported that Lukashenko won with 80% of the vote, which sparked protests.
“People realized that they couldn’t be silent anymore. As if they had suddenly regained their dignity, they resisted, went out into the streets consciously, ”she reports.
And then the crackdown began, “brutality hard to describe.” She says she was even more shocked to find that it was not Russian troops attacking the protesters, but Belarusian agents.
“I was helpless in the face of this violence, because even though I had been confronted with these stories all my life, I couldn’t believe my compatriots were doing it.”
Torture in prisons, “as was done in forced labor camps”, is another part of the testimonies collected by the writer. But she remains hopeful that the peaceful resistance will succeed and salutes the female leadership of this movement.
Besides Tikhanovskaya, who ran for office when her husband, popular blogger Sergei Tikhanovsky, was arrested, two women formed the opposition front and two others were on the transition council.
It was also spontaneous waves of women who put an end to police violence at the start of the demonstrations. “I think that thanks to this it was possible to avoid an even greater tragedy. If men replaced women, they could win, but at what cost? “, he asks.
Aleksyevich also hopes that journalists in his country resist the advances of the dictatorship, which has already blocked several media outlets and arrested and condemned reporters and editors: “Have courage and stay true to your ideals. The world is changing, and these values are important.
Although his name has already been chosen several times for Belarusian president, the writer says the ideal leader would be executive Viktor Babariko, detained since 2020 and sentenced this month to 14 years in prison.
“I’m not good at politics. I want to listen to people, talk to them, document them. This is my calling. ”She does, and although she expected difficulty in finding testimonies due to the risk involved, she says stories and witnesses continue to reach her. .
According to Svetlana, the interception of a commercial flight to arrest blogger Roman Protassevich in May showed that what is happening in Belarus concerns all countries.
“The world must keep talking about it and help protect as many Belarusians as possible, who do not want to leave the country. They want to live, work and teach their children there, ”she told the Polish newspaper.