On December 31, the elected leader of Belarus Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya addressed Belarusians on the occasion of the New Year:
“I’m angry, too.
We thought it shouldn’t be this long. That it shouldn’t be this hard. There shouldn’t be so many losses.
We wanted a new country and a new future. And I, too, am angry that in response the Belarusians got revenge, violence and crisis. I am angry that the entire year the country’s budget was wasted on debts and the repression machine. It was done at the cost of making food more and more expensive and doctors’ waiting lists longer. It makes me angry that we were deprived of a sense of security in our own home. It makes me angry when people tell me it was all for nothing.
I am hurting, too.
For Vitold Ashurak, Dzmitry Stakhouski, Andrey Zeltser, Anton Kachanau and all those who are no longer with us. For thousands of innocent prisoners for whom the main joy now is a walk in the prison yard or read a letter from the outside. I am hurting for hundreds of thousands of Belarusians who were forced to leave their homes, fleeing from their own state. And for millions of Belarusians who stayed behind and live in uncertainty. For every pensioner who is left alone with a paltry pension, and for every laid-off person who is simply not ready to be loyal. I am hurting for the dying villages and declining regions. For places with enormous potential and opportunity.
I am scared, too.
What if the regime takes another human life? What if we don’t have enough strength? What if our children have to start all over again? What if this whole journey – in which so much work, love and faith have been invested – doesn’t lead to victory?
I feel the same way. And I understand how easy it is to give in to hopelessness right now.
All of us sometimes feel as if there is not a single ray of light in the darkness.
But this is not true. All this time, even on the darkest days, I have seen light, because I have been looking at you. At those who say, “This is our land, and we’re not going anywhere.” The engineers who create new things, not because of the conditions in which they are put, but in spite of them. Educators who teach truth, not ideology. Doctors who save lives, not the reputation of their superiors. Media and civic organizations are rising from the ruins.
It is because I am looking at those who, in response to pressure and frozen accounts, are making the business stronger and more resilient. Those who write me on Instagram: “Svyatlana, we have invented a project to help Belarusians. Can you support it?” I am looking at our grandparents, who once stopped watching the state channels, at those who now remain on the dark side to secretly help the light. And even those who have not yet moved to the side of the people, but are beginning to realize what is happening and think about the future.
I am looking at those who have switched to using the Belarusian language. Those who would not let news about Belarus to disappear from the front pages of the main media outlets all over the world. Those who, even now, stay in the country, open new places and create new communities – while the old system is dying out. Those who stay behind as volunteers to help others.
I see this light and think: we are a nation of creators, not invaders. Under any, even the harshest conditions, we will manage, we will create. Yes, the regime is not becoming more human and soft, but the Belarusians can defend themselves and use their power. We create and have the right to defend what we have created. This year has shown that even if we are put in asphalt, our faith sprouts and destroys it with its roots.
I look at the Belarusians and see the power of light coming from those who believed so much in the new Belarus that made it their life’s work to build it. And whose shoulder is beside them every day. Who opens all kinds of doors around the world. Who creates for our people a telephone book with many contacts. There is only one number left in the phone book of the man who lost the election. And it is getting more and more expensive to call it every day. And the ringing tones are getting longer and longer.
These are the people who are mobilizing hundreds of thousands of Belarusians in a plan called “Peramoha.” They are preparing to free and rehabilitate people as soon as possible. Who knows how to hold new elections in 60 days, how to arrange the branches of power and make Belarus always independent. They are trying to intimidate us, as if any changes mean destruction and poverty. But we have already agreed on three billion euros to ensure economic stability during the transition period and to start long-awaited reforms.
Yes, in 2020 we came together. And for more than 500 days we have stood together to defend our choice. But we still blame ourselves and each other. For leaving the country. For staying behind, but going into hiding. For staying silent. For talking, but about something else. For being afraid. For acting, but not seeing quick results.
But in the 21st century, everyone understood what it means to be a Belarusian. Even when we were plucked from the crowd and left alone with this choice, we did not give it up. That is why the regime still behaves as if there are hundreds of thousands of people standing outside the Palace of Independence even today. And now our victory is no longer a question of chance or luck. It is a question of our determination. Our readiness to take the fate of the Motherland in our hands and head adamantly every day towards the new Belarus we all dream of.
Pavel Latushka: A democratic Belarus, where, as the national hero of Belarus Kastus Kalinouski said, “not the people for the government, but the government for the people. I believe that very soon we will elect a new government for a new democratic Belarus.
Alyaksandr Azarau: A fair Belarus, where judge, prosecutor and investigator do not work in collusion, but in harmony with the law which is above their loyalty.
Vadzim Prakopyeu: A sovereign Belarus, where a combat officer, major of Special Operations Forces, solemnly receives a medal for bravery – in gratitude for defending the Motherland from invaders, but not for attacking a pensioner or a student.
Zmitser Lukashuk: A free Belarus, where once state-run and now public media show different opinions, and TV airs open discussions between representatives of the authorities and the opposition.
Tatsyana Shchytsova: An educated and healthy Belarus, where the work with papers in schools and hospitals does not interfere with the work with people.
Valery Kavaleuski: An authentic Belarus, where officials and all Belarusians remember their native places – Berazhnoye, Polatsk (Maryia Maroz), Rechytsa (Andrei Stryzhak), Slonim (Ulad Kabets) – and local authorities are elected by people, not appointed “from above”.
Yulia Mitskevich: An equal Belarus, where women choose their place, where they want to be – in politics, in the family (Viktoryia Palchys), on Youtube (Tatsiana Martynava) or on stage (Marharyta Leuchuk) – and not struggle for recognition, self-respect or equality.
Pavel Liber: A promising Belarus, where an entrepreneur is confident about the safety of their capital, and where investors are standing in lines to invest in startups and factories.
Yury Ravavoy: Where workers’ wages allow having decent well-being, to raise children and to travel by themselves, instead of discussing IT employees’ salaries.
Mikalai Khalezin: A creative Belarus, which gives freedom and space to new famous people, who will be known all over the world like Mark Shagal and Svetlana Alexievich…
Natallia Kalyada: …Belarus, which will one day become the world’s creative center.
Dzmitry Furmanau: A peaceful Belarus, where the wall of prison has fallen down, a museum has been established at the Valadarka prison site, and there are no more political prisoners in the country.
Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya: A new Belarus, where I will be able to see with my whole family a festive address of a new legally elected president, male or female. But until then I will be with you. All of us. And it only depends on us whether this year will really be a new one.