Belarus: between Ukraine and Evil Christina Karchevskaya
Gomel, Belarus

Since November 2013 the eyes of the whole world are on Ukraine. The changes that are shaking the country during these months are striking: peaceful protests end up with almost 100 people killed, authorities escape, leaving the traces of their luxurious life to peoples astonishment and rage, at the same time, under the motto of protecting Russian speaking minorities, when there is no evidence they are in danger, the Kremlin annexes the Crimean peninsula. The complete situation is above all a very fruitful ground for the discussions about the perspectives of a revolution in another Eastern European country in a similar situation, namely Belarus.

OneEurope wanted to get a profound and independent insider's opinion on this issue and asked a Belarussian journalist Christina Karchevskaya to comment on the current situation. Christina is an independent journalist, photographer, blogger, social media specialist and civic activist. Although she is a passionate explorer and globetrotter, Christina left her heart in Belarus and her life mission is to assist in the creation of a free democratic society in her beloved homeland. We are proud to introduce her today as our guest contributor.

"This spring came to the town according to the calendar: on the 1st of March. I've been tracking the events in Ukraine for the past weeks - the 2 last weeks of winter were totally exhausting, so I've decided to spend one day completely offline. But then I returned home and couldn't resist checking the news with half an eye... And it turned out that the spring has come not just with a sun in a window and with red tulips on the table, but it had also come together with sad news: the Kremlin has started the war in Ukraine!

The war. XXI century. Is it a bad joke? Am I in a bad dream?

The first thought that strikes me like a thunder: I know which side Belarus will be on. I understood in exactly the same moment what does the expression "buffer zone" means. My country may become a territory of somebody else's war! And of course you know who is that mysterious "somebody else"... We don’t even have an actual border with this “big brother”. 

Kyiv, Maidan Nezalezhnosti. 2014After many long nights and days in front of my computer, I decided to see how does the situation look like in reality, so I planned my short trip to Ukraine one week later. It was quite a shock for sure, especially Maidan in Kyiv. I have also met many old friends of mine in Lviv and in Kyiv, and their friends and parents, and I listened them, asking more and more questions. It was obvious for me where the truth is, but I needed to see real people saying the same things I've believed in all this time.  

Yes, the trip was quite a shock for me. But do you know what shocked me the most? It was the attitude to the situation in Ukraine (which I have just seen with my own eyes!) of different people in my hometown, in Gomel (southern east of Belarus). It is just 250 km north from Kyiv, and it turned out I landed on another planet! I had a feeling people don’t even want to think about it deeper, they were just speaking with me using the phrases from the national TV, which has always been very pro-Putin… 

Real quotes:

"Of course I heard about Ukraine, and I'm sad my vacations in Crimea is cancelled!"

"How could those barbarians protest during the great international event: Olympic games! Do you know, that even wars had been stopped earlier in the history? Yes, I heard some of Ukrainian sportsmen had left... But I'm sure they left because they were weak as a sportsmen!"

"I know people had been shot, but the protesteurs started shooting first! I heard it in the interview with one of riot policemen in Kyiv! They were shooting with a gum bullets only!"

"A war? Never heard about it. I know, that Crimea is already "ours", Putin has taken it, good for him! Crimea is Russian because Russians are living there!"

"Russia will survive without Ukraine, and Ukraine will die without Russia!" 

and of course:

"It is so good in Belarus, much better than in Ukraine! I was trying to give a bribe to the road police – they are not accepting it, because they are scared! I call it order in the country! And also we have very good roads!”

Kyiv. 2014Well, it is Kremlin propaganda in action. I guess I've never seen that amount of lies about the situation, never, even during our presidential elections, when it is so common I'm not even surprised anymore. And now... It is just crucial. I've met my friends whom I know for such a long time and I heard this propaganda lies from them and I've been listening all those clichés about "fascism" in Ukraine and felt petrified. I didn't know what to say, how to argue, it was pointless on every single step!

Why is it like this in Belarus? I will not give you a straight answer to the question. We have good people in the country. Good people, kind people, clever people. But we have a very difficult history, when we had always been somebody else’s “extra land”. Age after age neighbors could start a new war and split our territory without asking us. And then again. And again. And again. And our people had been dying in wars they hadn’t started! And many of our intellectuals and representatives of elite had been destroyed by both sides during the World War II. Nobody ever needed “smart” Belarus, because clever meant separated and independent! So as a result now we have many good, nice, smart people whose national identity is rather soviet/Russian than noble Belarusian with its culture and language.  FYI, almost everybody speak Russian. And if you want to see which “side” the person belongs to, right now you can just ask if they are they happy for Ukraine. Most of the times you will hear "Ukraine is never going to succeed. Putin does everything right". So Belarus will need more time so far! 

On the other hand, as far as the propaganda is so massive and strong this time, I believe it is a very good sign for Ukraine. Information war is a powerful thing, but come on, we live in the digital age, and people who want to know the truth, they will find the source to discover it.

Looking at Ukraine now, I'm incredibly happy, scared and proud of them in the same time, because after all those terrible months and weeks, after all this blood and human victims, there is no way back. And their future is not about going West or going East, it is even not about nationality or language. It is about being honorable, honest people or living in lies and theft. And those words are not metaphors! It really is an issue here. Soviet past made many people in post-Soviet countries a little bit thieves because of poor life, a little bit liars because of constant fear, people, who want to work as less and to earn as much as possible, and also people, who are not responsible for their lives and their future. "Someone will come and tell me what to do", "Why can't I steal this book from my office, everyone does the same!". 

I love Belarus very much. But it is obvious for me now how huge is the gap between Belarus and Ukraine, which is ready to become another country, free and honest country. Belarus can't change Lukashenka for almost 20 years, and now I can understand why. When Lukashenka's election committee counts votes again and again every 5 years, they make up new and new "democratically" number of voters for him, and normally it is above 70%. And those numbers are not exact numbers of real votes for Lukashenka. Maybe, these numbers represent the percentage of our population who agree to live in lies, fear and theft for another 5 years?...

Every single day I read the news about Ukraine and I pray for their successful future, because only Ukraine can now inspire Belarus and the rest of oppressed people in the whole world how you should live your life and how you are really responsible for your country no matter what they say from the TV-screens. God bless Ukraine! Hopefully, Belarus is going to be next."

We can all contribute to the development of a democratic society in Belarus and Ukraine, by supporting the Campaign Democracy Under Pressure you're raising your voice for all Europeans!

Learn more about the Campaign at http://belarusaction.wordpress.com/