Solidarnosc, Maidan and Charter’97
1:15, — Politics
Website charter97.org award the Viktar Ivashkevich National Prize for Human Rights.
Polish and Belarusian politicians, rights advocates, public figures and journalists, including legendary director Andrzej Wajda, editor-in-chief of Polish Gazeta Wyborcza Adam Michnik, president of the Foundation for International Solidarity Krzysztof Stanowski and vice-president of Warsaw Włodzimierz Paszyński attended the ceremony held February 20 in the charter97.org office in Warsaw. The organizers and guests of the event expressed their solidarity with Ukraine by wearing yellow-and-blue ribbons – the national Ukrainian colors.
Editor-in-chief of charter97.org Natallia Radzina, who opened the ceremony, suggested a minute of silence in memory of the victims of Maidan battles. She said:
- Today it is very hard for me to be the host of this event. Our hearts are in Ukraine where people are dying for freedom. Dozens of new victims and bloodshed in Kyiv… Let’s start with a minute of silence in memory of all the victims who perished on the way to Freedom. Glory to Ukraine. Glory to the heroes.
The editor-in-chief remarked that today website charter97.org cannot hold the award ceremony in Belarus and has to work in Poland:
- But my strong conviction is that this is not a coincidence that we have found refuge in Poland. The people of Poland still recall very well the dark times of martial law. Today, in the 21st century, Belarusians exist in similar conditions. Our national slogan - Long Live Belarus! – is still alive due to the brave and strong people.
We should not forget what these people, who sacrifice their freedom or even life, have done. That is why in 2013 we named the National award after Viktar Ivashkievich who passed away last year. Viktar gave his entire life to the fight for freedom of Belarus. His courage, dedication, principles, honesty guide us in our work, - Radzina said.
Famous Polish director Andrzej Wajda gave the first award of charter97.org to the company of the Belarusian Free Theater. He said:
- I am happy to have the opportunity to give this award, because I know the work of this theater in the difficult political situation of your country. We have been through everything that you are going through today. Our experience may be less violent, but we know for sure what it is to be such a free theater is a country that is not free.
Actors of the Belarusian Free Theater expressed their gratitude and dedicated the award to the participants of Maidan of Independence in Kyiv. Aleg Sidorchyk said:
- Thank you so much for the award. Indeed, the conditions where the Free Theater exists are hard. One could say that the state is using sanctions against its nation. Life is not easy for artists. A part of the company had to leave the country and move abroad. Unfortunately, actual politicians – those who possess some tools of influence – don’t take any steps to help Belarus. So we have what we have, even the tragic events in Ukraine. But our Theater will live because we feed not only on love to our country, but also on rage, hatred and fury.
Viktoryia Biran said:
- We are still convinced that art should be free and freedom should be creative.
Maryna Yurevich emphasized:
- We would like to dedicate our award to the people in Kyiv who are actually fighting for their freedom.
Sviatlana Sugaka said:
- It is not only the Free Theater who is getting this award today – it is the entire Belarusian people, including Mikhail Zhiznevski who has died at Maidan protecting the freedom of Belarusians and Ukrainians.
Editor-in-chief of Gazeta Wyborcza Adam Michnik gave the award to journalist Andrzej Poczobut. Adam Michnik said:
- For me, it is very important that I’ve got to speak minutes after Andrzej Wajda gave the award to the Belarusian Free Theater. In the 20th century, Andrzej Wajda has become in our country the person who taught us to understand Polish tradition, history and freedom.
Andrzej Poczobut, Andrei Sannikov and many other guests have tasted Belarusian “prison bread”. Andrzej lost weight in Lukashenka’s prison and I told him that the “diet” did him good, he did look better. I hope that Lukashenka will choke on the food that Andrzej ate in prison.
There are so many guests. Obviously, you have many friends in Poland, and some of them are here today. It shows that both the people and the state of Poland are on your side. I am proud of my country, my people, my government who have been able to help keep Belarusian civil initiatives alive, and who are able to support the Ukrainians’ fight for freedom as much as possible. It shows that the world is changing, and not just to the worse.
Andrzej Poczobut emphasized that the people who are giving the awards have themselves been repressed:
- The fact that those who are giving the awards today have experienced the time when there is not enough freedom, is symbolic: Andrzej Wajda, the well-known director who has raised generations of Poles and people from the USSR with his movies, and Adam Michnik who has also been repressed. I believe that sooner or later Poland and other western countries will pass the torch of freedom to Belarus.
Activist of the Youth Front and former political soldier Mikhail Musski accepted the award instead of Uladzimir Yaromienak from President of the Foundation for International Solidarity Krzysztof Stanowski who said:
- Uladzimir is not here today, but all prisoners, such as Andrzej Poczobut has been recently, are in our thoughts. It is not easy to give this award after Andrzej Wajda and Adam Michnik, but I am inspired by the place we all are right now. We should remember that Natallia Radzina and many other representatives from charter97.org have gone through prison and tortures. And today we can meet here, in this place, and on their behalf give this award to Uladzimir and tell him “Be strong”.
Krzysztof Stanowski emphasized:
- We should remember that this award is not only for Uladzimir, it is for his family and friends, too. We should remember every person who died at Maidan in Kyiv, because for us, they are the sign that we are together. Thank you. I hope that soon we will be able to meet with Vladimir.
Mikhail Musski expressed gratitude for the award on behalf of the political prisoner.
- Uladzimir Yaromienak is really grateful for the award. Unfortunately, he is in prison and couldn’t come here today. It is difficult to work and try to somehow express one’s position under Lukashenka’s totalitarianism. The absurdity of this situation is that a young person with one arm is accused of applauding, while a presidential candidate is thrown behind the bars for trying to do something better for our country. People like Uladzimir Yaromienak, Eduard Lobau, Mikalai Statkievich and other political prisoners sacrifice themselves to save the pride of the Belarusian nation. The best thing we can do in this situation is to show solidarity. And that is why I want to thank Natallia and the whole team of charter97.org.
Dyiana Mikulskaia, colleague of Viktar Ivashkievich who was at his side till the end, gave the award to ecologist Tatsiana Novikava. Mikulskaia said:
- I would like to say how grateful I am for the respect that you treat Viktar’s memory with. It is very touching. The fact that this award goes to such a young and beautiful girl struggling against a giant machine that is building the nuclear power station is very symbolic. Viktar himself was behind the concept of “ecologic Belarus”. He saw our country as “Europe’s lungs” where healthy, free, happy people live in an independent ecologic country. I would like to thank the organizers of the ceremony for this good kind memory of Viktar Ivashkievich.
Receiving the award, Tatsiana Novikava remarked:
- First of all, I would like to thank charter97.org for this really huge work that they are doing today for the civil society and Belarus. No other independent website has so many visitors. This job is done for Ukraine, too. Charter97.org is the only resource that covers the events in Ukraine every day.
I am glad that this award is named after Viktar Ivashkievich. He was an outstanding person. Together we started up the Belarusian ecologic committee. He really thought globally and positively, one could call him a dreamer. I believe that Viktar’s dreams can come true. And what we will do depends on whether Belarus will be ecologic, free and prosperous.
I need you to understand that I am no hero, no great person, I am nobody compared to the people who are today standing at Maidan, who have been standing there for the past three months in inhumane conditions. I hope that this award will help to do one important thing: to draw everyone’s attention to the construction of the nuclear power station in Belarus, because sooner or later this problem will concern everyone.
Former presidential candidate, leader of the civil campaign European Belarus Andrei Sannikov said:
- First of all, I would like to thank Natallia and charter97.org for keeping this tradition that we started back in the 90s. I would like to congratulate the laureates of the award, my friend Andrzej Poczobut, my friends from the Free Theater. I am very glad to meet Tatsiana Novikava. I met Uladzimir Yaromienak when we were suspects in the same trial and were placed in the same cell during the trial. When I started to read the materials on my case, scripts of Uladzimir’s interrogations struck me. I found out that he had come to the demonstration on December 20. Imagine: the whole country is shaken by searches and arrests, and he comes to the square to protest.
This ceremony is unusual. My heart hurts because of what is going on in Ukraine where people are dying. We know that people at barricades in Kyiv are fighting for our freedom, too.
Today is the first ceremony of the award of Viktar Ivashkievich. And this is not a coincidence: we remember Viktar as a fighter at barricades. I met him when it was physically difficult for him to take part in demonstrations, and yet he went there, on crutches, he participated and fought.
We should pay respect to the memory of another person, Zbigniew Romaszewski whose funerals are today. Another coincidence is that today we have the legends of the Polish resistance here with us: Andrzej Wajda, Adam Michnik, Krzysztof Stanowski. This is not just a symbol, this is the very solidarity that wins and that will help Ukraine and Belarus become free countries. Glory to Ukraine! Long Live Belarus!