"From the outside, it may seem that the Minsk neighborhoods have given up. This is not the case. If there are no flags hanging in the "Kaskad" compound, it just means that we are not crazy." Euroradio spoke with the administrator of a chat room at the protesting Minsk neighborhood "Kaskad" about emigration, activist safety, and expectations.
Like a game
"How did protest activity in the "Kaskad" begin? How did you and your neighbors learn about each other?
"Everything happened in the street, very intuitively. We started gathering in the yard before the elections. Active discussions of politics began after the events of August 9-11, in the general chat room of the "Kaskad" neighborhood. A group of people corresponded in private. Later we, like-minded people, made the first private chat room.
More and more people joined in. We were already buying fabric together in the department store for the flag, and a local seamstress was sewing flags [the "Kaskad" neighborhood is known for its huge WRW flags, which were constantly destroyed by the law enforcement- Euroradio].
"When did you realize that chats could get you "locked up"?"
"At first it all felt like a game. We are not revolutionaries, nobody taught us that. Everything was done on a hunch. Then our neighborhood "activism" received a big following. Do you remember how the law enforcers were literally heckled out by the people from the windows when they came to our compound?"
The first arrests and detentions began, and then we began to take a more rational approach to our actions. The safety of everyone in the neighborhood comes first.
Searches, arrests, emigration
"Did you come under repression yourself?"
"Yes, we were searched and arrested for 15 days. The jail in Askrestsina is not a spa center, it's a psychological tragedy. After you come out of there, it is hard to avoid the consequences. But even in the TDF I met an employee who cut us some slack and said that he had "nothing against protesters."
Another employee there told me in frustration: "What are you all walking around for? Nothing will work out for us, we are a nation of alcoholics."
"Did you go abroad after that?"
"Yes, after the searches, the arrests, there was fear that there would be another knock on the door. I realized that I could do more while I was safe. The regime is wrong to think that Belarusians in exile are no longer a problem. No, it is possible to act from abroad too, to fight the regime."
"How do you participate in protest activism while abroad?"
"We run chats, channels, participate in overseas actions, and come up with actions for Belarus."
Has "Kaskad" given up?
"There's a feeling that the Minsk neighborhoods have already given up."
"Yes, from outside it looks that way. But it's not. About ten percent of the total number of activists have gone abroad. The rest are ready to act, waiting for the right moment. There are a lot of them. We keep in touch every day, coming up with actions. Even if not in the "Kaskad", then in Minsk and other districts.
Now, people's safety is paramount. It's great to go out and yell, but we'll get one less person. There is information that now each protesting house has a "watchman" assigned to it.
And the head of GUBOPIK, Andrei Parshin, lives in our neighborhood. Just recently, by the way, he was running around the "Kaskad" with a knife in broad daylight and cut the ribbons. Let him know that the "Kaskad" is watching him. His every move.
"What are your expectations?"
"We're very positive. We believe in the "Peramoha" (Victory) plan. Even if everything seems futile, the regime itself has turned on a program of destruction. So I hope to return to Belarus soon. My move cannot be called emigration, it's temporary.
The biggest flag in the world is hidden in a safe place and is waiting for its moment.