I signed the Charter in November 1997.
For all of us, who longed to live in a free and independent Belarus, it was a breakthrough into the future we were dreaming about. It was a beacon in the night, the port, where our voluntary canoes had to come in time to change our world and win the fight with the last dictator in Europe.
Since then, Charter’97 has become for me ... a window to Belarus. After all, no matter where I am at the moment – anywhere in the world or at home, on my sofa – drinking my morning coffee, I open Charter on my computer Charter, because it is about Belarus...
The coffee and Charter will be there in the morning forever. I can read other resources for news... But Charter writes about what is essential for ordinary Belarusians, who are striding ahead under our conditions of good-natured Gulag. You can write your thoughts to Charter and it will publish them because they will find an echo in the thoughts of the rest of the people – common Belarusians, and, having read yours, people become solidarity with you and you're not alone any more...
And after that, Charter says to all of us, who have contradictions, that we are able to get together and try to change something – because others are not afraid, and they have already started, and they are crashing the wall of our prison, in which the usurper has transformed our European country for his 20 year reign.
Charter affects our life, shapes public opinion even there, where only old people and children are left, and a young man with a computer. Because we breathe the same air with Charter and it makes an event – seeing a few steps ahead, developing a reader in a non-intrusive kind of way, as a man gets interested.
And, most important, the mood coincides, the common nerve, like the wire of a high-voltage line, sounds in the air. And no matter who you are – a fitter or a professor – your voices will be equal on the Charter, as the voices of like-minded people, contemporaries, comrades-in-arms, who can stand on the square together in the circumstances of dictatorship, under conditions of severe pressure and persecution, under the threat of freedom and health, and win.
And even if something happens to you and you are in misfortune – they will just write about it on the Charter and people around the world will quickly read about you. Sometimes the Charter saves you, like an ambulance doctor, in a state of extensive heart attack, it saves our information space from the dumbness of our government tyranny, from information hunger, from the blindness in which people live under a dictatorship and do not know where to go and whom to follow in a state of despair and where society can develop, so that we lived well on our land – not worse than other Eastern Europeans.
The Charter is that huge Belarusian skyscraper, from which the country and the future, and millions of us are visible.
Volha Nikalaichyk for Charter97.org