19 January 2018, Friday, 8:53

Our December: Nightmare and happiness


The purity of the resistance made many of us believe in ourselves.

In the two years that have passed after 19 December I have been irritated the most by the whining on the issue that “they won! they smashes us! they destroyed us!”. Who destroyed? Whom? Where do these conclusions come from?

Of course, the past two years were the most difficult. But they were the happiest at the same time. These years has shown that we did everything right. And they lost, that is why they pressed us with heavy boots, tortures and verdicts. Winners do not behave that way. They do not care about the losers, they take pleasure of the victory. But losers, who, unlike winners, have guns, behave exactly this way: they shoot without distinction and not giving a thought.

Many years ago (well, everything that was before 19 December seems nothing less but remote past) someone of opposition leaders could approximately imagine that somewhere on this land there was some nation. Or at least there should be. And some of them could not even imagine what a nation was. And the nation thought the same way. Some said: it seems there are some weird oppositionists somewhere, but they definitely do not relate to us. Others did not have any idea of any opposition at all and did not suffer from that, although they did suffer from the authorities. The 19 December has become the day when everything has changed, and it has changed, as paradoxical as that, to the best.

They all suddenly got together. I do not even mean the square, but what was after that. People, who were unhappy with the authorities, but at the same time believed the propaganda that stated that opposition are those who went abroad and lived on western grants, realized how everything was in the reality. Because compassion is bigger than persuasion. The leaders who ended up in prisons have survived and keep surviving to a great extent due to the huge sacks of letters with the words of solidarity from people whom they never met before and who never belonged to the opposition. Those, who collected money for political prisoners and brought them to the BPF’s office, who brought water, cigarettes and warm clothes to the detention center in Akrestsina street, who stood there freezing near the prison walls taking parcels for strangers, - all these people did not think in the 'opposition-authorities’ categories: they simply compassionated and wanted to help as they could. And those, who sat in cells beyond deaf walls, did not think about the unbridgeable controversies between the authorities and the opposition.

It just suddenly became clear that we are all just people, who want to live happily in their country, not to be ashamed or afraid of it. And they with their sticks and bayonets try to drive us into a veneer, emery, celluloid world, where a person with healthy reflexes cannot even breathe, leave alone live. We are having hard times, sometimes up to the limit, - and we are helping each other. Because there is no other way. Otherwise it is bolshevism. Otherwise – it is not human.

I knew neither Iryna Pankavets, whom we spent couple hours in a police van and the detention center, nor Maryna Tsitova, who was a member of my husband’s action group. Neither did I know Aksana Stsiapanava, a classmate of Dzmitry Drozd, nor Maryna Adamovich. But we spent the Christmas Eve together last December. And we hugged each other warmly like old friends, whom we lost once and have found again. Now we will not get lost again. We know that we can always get together, and it will be warm again from the simple understanding that we are here and we are together.

That evening on 19 December will probably remain for many of us one of the most important in our lives, one of the most crucial, determining, irreversible – you can add the epithets yourself, the day (more precisely the evening) deserves countless number of them. This is the way the front-line soldiers, who came back alive, all their lives have been recollecting the war, because it was exactly at the war where they were the ones they wanted to be: the real heroes. There was a front line and the ultimate evil at it and they had to fight that evil. A pure moral situation. In the peaceful life it all turned out much worse for them.

I do not want to compare us all to the soldiers of the Second World War, but the moral components are very similar. On 19 December and after that we could see ourselves what we had always dreamt to be: courageous, noble, reckless, solidary, able to compassionate and self-sacrifice. It is, actually, who we are. It is just that we were too rarely lucky to see ourselves in the light of the most ruthless photoflash in the world. But we will remain in that picture even when in many years digital photography becomes for new generations something that discolored daguerreotypes are for us. We will remain there the way we would want to be.

Someone went to square protests for many years, another one came for the first time and managed not to run away, but stand against the eyeless protoplasm hiding behind the shields. Someone, like Max Viniarski, spent fifteen days imprisonments as regular as paying utilities bills, another one had been afraid of a prison for all his life, but got there on 19 December and felt his power. Someone always told what he thought, another one managed to shout it out loud in the square for the first time. They never met in usual life, but on 19 December they found themselves together. It was a happy day. And our physical crash, flavored with sticks and army boots, turned as a moral victory.  

For all that it is great that we had that in our lives – that dreadful, cold, bloody December, that unity, that compassion, that solidarity. And that purity of resistance, which made many of us finally believe in ourselves.

Irina Khalip, especially for charter97.org