In Mahiliou, the celebration of Freedom Day has been moved to late July. According to the organising committee, it is not the time for staging mass events amid the outbreak of COVID-19 in the world.
Freedom Day (Dzień Voli) is an unofficial holiday in Belarus, which is celebrated on March 25 to commemorate the creation on that date in 1918 of the Belarusian People’s Republic (BNR). It came into existence at the end of the First World War, when Bolshevik forces left Minsk and the city was occupied by German troops. On March 25, 1918 the Provisional Government (Rada) proclaimed the independence of the BNR. After the Red Army re-entered Minsk, the Communist government replaced the Rada; its members had to emigrate. The Lukashenka regime denies Freedom Day and often prevents the opposition forces from celebrating it.
The organising committee in Mahiliou intended to hold a solemn event on the occasion on Sunday. They rent a rest and recreation area, invited musicians and prepared a festive programme which included, among other items, an excursion and a quest. However, the celebration is likely to take place on July 27, 2020 – this day will mark the 30th anniversary of adopting the Declaration of State Sovereignty of Belarus.
No one needs a ‘feast in time of plague’, Uladzimir Shantsau, a member of Mahiliou organising committee, stressed.
“Taking into account the latest developments, we cannot go as low as the authorities did, we cannot pretend that nothing is happening. We are not going to bury our heads in the sand. The Declaration of State Sovereignty was the first document of independent Belarus. So we decided to reschedule the Freedom Day celebration for this date [July 27]. We hope that the situation will have normalised by July 27, and it will be safe to invite people to show up at mass gatherings,” he said.
The local organisers released Freedom Day postcards, sent them to local parties and public NGOs; part of the poscards were distributed to passers-by on the streets of Mahiliou.