Great changes always began with the energy of the few.
The website Charter97.org continues publication of a series of interviews with the people who created the Charter'97.
Deputy of the Supreme Council of the 13th convocation, former political prisoner, well-known human rights defender and civil activist Valer Shchukin is answering our questions today.
— You were among the first 100 people who signed the civil initiative Charter'97. Please tell us how it all started. Why did you sign the initiative?
— You see, at that time it was the only effective method of struggle and I could not stay aside. Therefore, I willingly put my signature.
It's been 20 years now, so I do not remember all the details, but it seems that Dzmitry Bandarenka told me about the initiative. The main thing is that I joined it with great pleasure. I was even glad that now I could fight the regime following the example of Czechoslovakia, where there was the Charter'77.
I will make myself clear: every morning I start the computer and the first thing I type is the website Charter'97. Information can be obtained on other sites, but I start my day with the Charter'97.
— You are known as a participant of practically all significant opposition actions. What was the significance of the Charter'97 initiative for the Belarusian resistance?
— Great changes always began with the energy of the few. There’s a well-known phrase: "a flame starts from a spark". The main thing is that the flame ignited by the Charter'97 should not fade away. No one knows when it inflames with a huge glow — neither you, nor I. The most important thing is that this spark should continue to burn and never fade.
I do not know when the spark fired back in 1997 will turn into a real flame, but it surely will. It would be desirable, of course, to live up to the moment when everything goes on fire. I cannot call someone on the barricades now: my health does not allow me to be in the forefront at all the actions, but I cannot be in the underground either. But I assure you: if people put up a barricade, then I will definitely be there. I will crawl there, but I will come.
— For the "flame to flare up" - what can be done today?
— Stop being afraid. This is the most direct way, although it is not so easy to do. I myself remember the times when I tried to keep close to the observers during street actions. Then I realized: there’s no need to hide anywhere, we must act boldly. When the people stop being afraid — that they will be fired, they will be imprisoned, or something else — then everything will change right before our eyes.
On November 10, the Belarusian civil initiative Charter'97 celebrated its 20th anniversary. On this day, a document was published, which stated that it was necessary to be solidary and jointly resist the dictatorship. Many well-known Belarusians supported the initiative, among them — Vasil Bykau, Nil Hilevich, Henadz Buraukin, Ryhor Baradulin. More than 100,000 people signed the Charter.