After a brutal suppression of the 2020 protests, mass repression, and fake criminal cases, many Belarusians were forced to leave the country. In search of safety, people left for other countries, including Ukraine. After the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, when the territory of Belarus was used for the invasion of Russian troops, missile launches, and fighters’ takeoffs, Belarusians all over the world faced discrimination and equation of them with the Lukashenka regime.
Yauheniya Douhaya, a Belarusian who left Belarus and lived in Ukraine, tells the stories of ordinary Belarusians, who do their best to help Ukrainians fight for their country’s independence, and explains why Belarus is not Lukashenka.
“We must stand for our people, we have to talk about them, WE have to protect them, support them, be proud of them and ourselves too. This is the inner core and support that will help us withstand. And before saying that “well, the Belarusians are to blame, we have to accept it,” you should think about Katsia Andreyeva, Volha Harbunova, Marfa Rabkova, Dzima Navazhylau, Iryna Leushyna, Yahor Martsinovich, Andrei Skurko, students, human rights activists, partisans, anarchists, mothers of many children, thousands of political prisoners and murdered people. Just imagine that these people will be told that they are fascists. And it’s important for us to defend our honor by all means,” Yauheniya writes in one of her posts.
With the author’s permission, we publish several stories about Belarusians, who were not indifferent and continue to support Ukraine in its struggle for freedom.
Nick Antsipau is a human rights activist and the co-founder of the MAKEOUT – an anti-discrimination project that improves the rights of the LGBTQ community in Belarus. When the war started, Nick, together with a team of Belarusian developers, created the ICanHelp.Host platform – a housing search for Ukrainians who escaped from the war.
“We have created the platform in three days. Now we have more than 12,000 hosts (people who offer housing) on our website, and over 2,600 families in need have found a place to live through our platform,” Nick says.
“I decided to stay in Ukraine because I like this country, I really respect the Ukrainian people and how they behave during the war, how they fight for their country. Yes, at the beginning of the war I was thinking of leaving, probably because I was confused. But eventually, I realized that I want to be in this country and help people and be useful, whatever happens. Since missiles are flying from our territory, why should I leave if Ukrainians don’t. Let them fly at us too then…” Mariya says.
Now the Belarusian is helping to repair ruined cities, including Bucha. In addition, at the beginning of the war, Mariya helped with the opening of a shelter and with humanitarian aid.
“On April 7, I returned to Bucha. For several days I tried to write a post, but I couldn’t find the words and couldn’t raise my hands to tell about all the horror that I heard and saw here. I did not return to this hell and the concentrate of human grief, pain and tears to “be known as a hero” or something like that. I understood the risks, the level of danger, and it seems that everyone who saw the photos of Bucha residents murdered and tortured by the “Russian world” also understood all of it. Those who probably know me well understand that I would not have gone any other way in my life.I don’t know what kind of nonsense about a “special operation” by the British these 2 mad men are trying to tell the world, but not a single local resident told me about the British soldiers for almost a week. But they told a lot about the Russians. Read it. Very briefly. As it is.Ustsina Ivanauna came with tears in her eyes. She lost her son. When the war began, Sasha (son) began to take the wounded to Vorzel by car, since there was still an opportunity to provide first aid there. On March 7, he was shot in his car. Apparently, it seemed that Ukraine was not being “liberated” well enough, and they also ran him over with a tank. At the moment when this mischievous and heartbroken mother was sitting in front of me, her son’s body was still in that car. It’s hard to call what is left of him a body. They lived in Hostomel.I calmed Ustsina Ivanauna down (as much as it was possible) from the view that the most difficult thing is ahead: he needs to be identified and buried, and now she has run out of all her strength. She went. She returns after a while and takes a flag out of her pocket. The flag of Ukraine. Crumpled, dirty in some parts, mostly torn, and says:– I brought the flag. You see, I don’t know where to put it.
– Why did you bring it? – I ask. –Maybe keep it for yourself.
– When these orcs came to my building and found it, they were strangling me with it. They wanted to hang me on it. I begged them not to do it. I didn’t do anything bad to them. I lived, raised children, worked.
And she threw that flag into my hands, as if it burned her hands. This is how I got this flag. I also don’t know at the moment what to do with it, but I am sure that it will be in the museum in Bucha, which will be built here so that the world remembers Ustsina Ivanauna and her son, who died saving people from the Russian military.”
Dzmitry Halko is a well-known journalist in Belarus. In 2014, Dzmitry was well aware of what was happening in Ukraine, and even then he lived in two countries (Belarus and Ukraine) and saw the war from the first days. The journalist was already finding volunteers and bringing them to the military. In Belarus, Dzmitry faced the system and decided to leave the country in order not to end up in jail. He was sentenced to four years of imprisonment for allegedly assaulting a policeman. Dzmitry left for Ukraine, where he settled and got a job as an analyst at the Center for Strategic Communications and Information Security. In the first days of the war, Dzmitry and his wife Iryna were thrown out of their house as citizens of an aggressor state. Dzmitry says that he has no anger about this, all his anger is directed at Lukashenka and his accomplices.
“I believe that the only correct response to any problems that the Belarusians in Ukraine may now face is to get involved in activity to win. This is our war. The fate of our entire region depends on it. Either the empire will fall, or it will bury us all. In general, the fate of the future of the world is decided here. Georgian restaurant Radio Tbilisi in Stoyanka (a town near Irpen) was my starting point for volunteering. The cooks didn’t run away from there, they stayed there to feed the military and local residents. They needed food, and my friends and I brought it. We were in Chernihiv the first morning after the city was liberated. I saw a line of hundreds of people asking for help, saw what they were given. It turned out to be a very small set: dried fish, mivina [quick-cooking noodles – ed.], and a carton of milk.And then a girl came to me, who had some seriously ill elderly people under her care, and asked me to bring medicine for them. As a result, we brought not only medicine, but also food kits for several houses. In total, we made about six humanitarian convoys to Chernihiv. But the toughest task was a trip to the village of Zdvizhevka (Bucha district, Kyiv region). At that time not all Russian troops had yet retreated, the territory was not cleared. We were in Havrylovka with a humanitarian convoy when Viktor Tregubov called me and asked me to help his friend, a woman with 13 cats, who was under occupation without leaving her house, he didn’t know for sure if she was alive. The scouts told us that our people had not yet reached there, the terrain had not been explored, so we would have to go at our own risk. And in order to get to that woman, we had to walk a real road of death – with all the dead bodies on the road, and in one of the cars we saw a whole family… Just before we arrived, a mine exploded near her house,” Dzmitry says.
On August 12, 2020, police beat Tsimur Mitskevich to such an extent that doctors had to put him into an induced coma. Later Tsimur became a suspect in a fake criminal case. Tsimur’s mother died, and the young man disappeared from the hospital. He was found only in January: it turned out that the boy had escaped from Belarus. Now Tsimur is fighting in Ukraine.
“That’s how life suddenly changes. When beating and breaking children, they don’t take into account that children grow up, but the punishers get old,” Yauheniya Douhaya writes.
Liya and Dzima
On August 10, 2020, Liya and Dzima‘s car was shot near the Minsk stela. Dzmitry was brutally beaten, and his girlfriend Liya was also physically abused. During the conversation with the couple, Liya told Yauheniya Douhaya that she spent several days in jail on Akrestsina in sneakers full of glass. A criminal case was opened against Dzmitry, and the couple left Belarus. Now Liya and Dzima help refugees from Ukraine. Liya goes to the refugee center and plays with children there. Also, the young people take animals rescued from Ukraine and find them new families.
A Belarusian Ihar is the head of the volunteer project “Operation Solidarity.” Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, supporters of horizontal society, solidarity and cooperation from different cities of Ukraine united in this project. Now volunteers of the association collect humanitarian aid and funds for the fighters of the Territorial Defense, support initiatives, and help refugees.
“I tried to leave Kyiv on the second day of the war, but in the train I realized that I didn’t want to go anywhere and would be with Kyiv and the country until the end, so I stayed in Lviv while I needed help with the huge flow of refugees and went back, came home,” the woman says.
Aliaksandr Klachko is an activist from Baranavichy, who is not indifferent to the fate of Belarus. In 2020, the man suffered from repression. Now Aliaksandr is fighting in Ukraine against Russian aggressors and feels he is in the right place at the right time.
“If I return to my hometown of Baranavichy and can breathe the air freely, walking along the well-known streets from my childhood, it will mean only one thing: the illegitimate regime of the dictator Lukashenka is OVER,” Aliaksandr says.
A Belarusian Veranika is only 25 years old. In Belarus, Veranika was arrested under the well-known administrative article (23.34 of the Code of Administrative Offences of Belarus). Now Veranika is in the battalion of Kastus Kalinouski. The girl works in the warehouse, her task is to dress up and equip everyone. Veranika recently received her military ID.
Military ID of Veranika Yanovich / Facebook: Yauheniya Douhaya
These are only several stories of caring Belarusians, who suffered from the repression of the Lukashenka regime, but continue to fight the Lukashenka and Putin dictatorships for the freedom of the Ukrainian and Belarusian peoples.
На русском языке:
Беларусы против войны: как неравнодушные беларусы помогают Украине