Speech of Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya and Democratic Forces:
I'm angry, too.
We thought it shouldn't be this long. It shouldn't be this hard. There shouldn't be so many people lost.
We wanted a new country and a new future. And I, too, am angry that in response the Belarusians got revenge, violence and a crisis. I am angry that for the entire year the country's budget was wasted on debt and fuel for the repression machine – while groceries were getting more expensive and queues at clinics longer and longer. I am angry that we no longer can feel safe in our own home. I am angry when some people tell me it was all for nothing.
My heart aches, too.
For Vitold Ashurak, Dzmitry Stakhouski, Andrei Zeltzer, Anton Kachanau and all those who are no longer with us. For thousands of innocent prisoners for whom the greatest joy in life now is a walk in a prison courtyard or a letter from the outside. My heart aches for hundreds of thousands of Belarusians who were forced to leave their homes, fleeing the repressions of their own state. And for millions of Belarusians who stayed in the country and have to live in uncertainty. For every lone retiree on a meager pension, and for every fired employee for whom integrity proved more important than blind obedience. For the dying villages and declining regions with enormous potential.
I'm scared, too.
What if the regime takes yet another life? What if we are not strong enough? What if our children have to start all over again? What if this path, in which we have put so much work and love and faith, doesn't lead to victory?
I feel the same way. And I understand how easy it could be to give in to hopelessness now.
All of us sometimes feel as if there is not a single sliver of light in the darkness that has come…
But that's not true. All this time, even on the darkest days, I see the light – because I look at you. At those who say, “This is our land, and we're not going anywhere”. At engineers who create new things, not thanks to the conditions they are in, but in spite of them. At educators who teach truth, not ideology. At doctors who save lives, and not the reputations of their management. At media and civil society organizations that rise from the ruins.
Because I look at those who make businesses stronger and more resilient despite the pressure and score settling. At those who text me on Instagram: “Sviatlana, we just came up with a project to help Belarusians – could you support it?” At our grandparents, who once stopped watching state TV channels. At those who now remain on the dark side to secretly help the light. And even when I look at those who have not yet joined the people's side, but are just awakening to the present and starting to think about the future.
At those who have switched to the Belarusian language. At those who do not let Belarusian headlines disappear from the front pages of the world's biggest media outlets. At those who, while still in Belarus, are fostering new communities, as the old system is dying off. At those who continue to volunteer to help others.
I see this light and think: we are a nation of creators, not capturers. Whatever the hardship, we will create, and we will overcome it. True, the regime is not becoming more humane or lenient, but we can protect ourselves and use our strength. We're сreating, and we have the right to protect what we've created. This year has shown: our faith is like a Phoenix, whenever they try to burn us, it rises from the ashes.
I look at Belarusians and see the blinding brightness of the light. It emanates from those who have so much faith in New Belarus, that they've made it their calling to build it. From those who open the most different doors all over the world. From those who create for our people a phone book that now has many contacts in it. There is only one number left in the phone book of the person who lost the election. Day by day, it is only getting more expensive to call it. Just as it takes longer and longer to get a reply.
The light comes from those who mobilize hundreds of thousands of Belarusians through the “Pieramoha” [Victory] plan. From those who are getting ready to release and rehabilitate the imprisoned as soon as it becomes possible. From those who know how to hold new free and fair elections in 60 days, how to guarantee the separation of powers, and make sure Belarusian independence is never threatened. They are trying to scare us into believing that any changes will only bring about disorder and poverty. However, we've already agreed upon 3 billion Euro to secure economic stability during the transition period and launch the long-awaited reforms.
In 2020 we united. And we've been defending our choice for more than 500 days. But we are still blaming ourselves and each other. For leaving the country. For staying, but going underground. For keeping quiet. For speaking up, but not about the right thing. For being afraid. For acting, but not seeing a quick result.
But in 2021, everybody understood for themselves what it means to be Belarusian. Even when we've been pulled out from the crowd and left on our own with our choice, we haven't betrayed it. It is the regime who still acts as if today hundreds of thousands are demonstrating in front of the “Independence Palace”. And now our victory is not a question of chance or luck. It is a question of our determination. Of readiness to take the responsibility for the fate of our motherland and to march every day towards New Belarus that we've dreamed so much about.
Latushka: A Democratic Belarus, where, as Belarusian national hero Kastus Kalinouski said, “not the people [serve] the government, but the government [serves] the people”. And I believe that we will very soon choose the new government for the new and democratic Belarus.
Azarau: A Just Belarus, where a judge, prosecutor and detective are not conspiring among each other, but uphold the law, which is more important to them than loyalty.
Prakopieu: A Sovereign Belarus, where a military officer, a Special Ops major, is decorated with a Medal for Valor for his service of defending the motherland, but not for beating up a retiree or a student.
Lukashuk: A Free Belarus, where former state but now public media present different opinions, and you can watch open TV debates between government and opposition representatives.
Shchytsova: An Educated and Healthy Belarus, where schools and hospitals prioritize working with people, and not the paperwork.
Kavaleuski: An Authenitc Belarus, where civil servants, and all Belarusians, remember where they come from – Berazhnaye, Polack, Rechytsa, Slonim. And local authorities are elected by the people and not sent from the “upstairs”.
Mickevich: An Equal Belarus, where women choose for themselves where they want to be – in politics, in the family, on YouTube, or onstage. Where they don't have to fight for recognition of their achievements, respect and equality.
Liber: A Forward-looking Belarus, where businesspeople are sure of the security of their capital and investors line up in front of Belarusian startups and factories.
Ravavy: Where a worker's wage allows them to lead a dignified life, bring up children, and travel – and not discuss salaries of IT guys.
Khalezin: A Creative Belarus, which gives freedom and space for new world-famous figures like Marc Chagall and Sviatlana Alexievich..
Kaliada: … a Belarus that will once be an international cultural hub.
Furmanau: A Peaceful Belarus, where the walls of Akrestsina have fallen, Valadarka prison has become a museum, and the country has no and will never have political prisoners.
Tsikhanouskaya: New Belarus, where together with my family I will watch a New Year's address of the newly elected President. But before then, I will be with you. All of us. It only depends on us and you if this year will be truly New.