21 November 2018, Wednesday, 5:48
Support the Charter-97 website

The Ginger-Head


Any protest action seems less colorful without her.

If the ginger curly head is not seen among the protesters, there comes a feeling that not everyone have gathered. If that ginger-head is there, at a picket, demonstration or rally - time to start, everyone's here, no need to wait. In the actual fact, she is a protest action by herself. Of course you have already guessed whom I am talking about. It's Volha Nikalaichyk. The documentary director with a prohibition for profession. The constant participant of all protest actions and the key player in many of them.

It's her who stands in a picket near the Smaliavichy administration, where they are going to sell the country-house, seized from Nina Bahinskaya, at the auction. It's her who stands near the Russian Embassy with a poster, supporting Nadiya Savchenko, a prisoner in the Russian jail. She holds a picket near the concert hall, where the Russian propagandist Solovyov is having a creative party. She cooks borshch for a charity action, to raise some money for the Ukrainian fighters. She is everywhere, always. For the last two years, the sum of fines imposed on Volha Nikalaichyk for the participation in various actions reached about Bn 20 K. This is 20 thousand bucks, simply put.

I called Volha yesterday. "The mobile number is temporary blocked". Right, she had her mobile communication blocked upon the demand of the officers of court. But this was long ago - Nikalaichyk has no debts to this bloody regime. All the fines have been paid, the house is put on sale, all the court enforcement proceedings are closed. And the mobile number is still "temporarily blocked".

I called her home phone. "Yeah, right," - Nikalaichyk says. "There are no debts under fines, but the courts prohibit to unblock the mobile communication. Herein, the requests have been sent to all mobile operators, although I used only one. Is there any sense to go and by some other sim-card? They will sell it, no problem. And block it straightaway, following the demand of the court.

My friends say: let's go together, I will show them my passport and buy a sim-card with it, they will not be able to block your number this way. Yeah, right, I say - and then, after yet another protest action, they will start checking who was there by the signals of the mobile phones, and then summon people for interrogations, like they did after December 19, 2010. I don't want to set anyone up like this."

This is how she lives now - without a cell phone. Just like in the old times. It's not bad, livable - people managed to keep up with the street phones and 2-kopeck coins. The street phones were everywhere back then though. Nikalaichyk has the prepaid card for a street phone. However, there's not much sense in having it... "Can you imagine that," - Volha chuckles. "They are arresting me in the street, and I am like, pull over near the street phone please, I need to make a call!"

The other day, Volha came round the "Viasna" office. She is a hypotension sufferer, so she suddenly felt bad right in the street because her blood pressure went low. She couldn't call the ambulance - the mobile communication is unavailable for her in her home country. Fortunately, she was passing by the ambulance station at the moment. She managed to walk there, and got help. They helped her, registered the case, and she left.

And she keeps going without stopping. She left for Ukraine to work and earn money. And at the same time - to volunteer. At night the ginger-head Volha is on duty at the Kyiv railway station. There, volunteers were given a space where they can feed and give hot tea to the ATO fighters traveling home (because of a wound or on leave) with a change in Kyiv. There everyone who goes to war can eat and keep warm. Does anyone else wonder that Nikalaichyk is right there, with glasses of hot tea, on duty at night? And for all the actions announced and undeclared, dangerous and not so, national and local, she comes to Minsk. I spotted the information about the start of the action "Selfie-Independence" dedicated to the BPR 100th anniversary, and the first photos, on the Internet . I mechanically started looking for the ginger curly head. Here it is, in the first picture. Who would doubt that?

Some friends of Volha are worried: what if she will leave for good after she sells her house? She patiently explains to all of them: "I sell the house so as they would not break in any time of the day. They will have no place to break in. And they will not steal my mother's tea-set. As for Ukraine, I go there to earn money, shoot movies. What do they worry about? See, it's a prison for me here, it's dacha for me there."

It's a prison for her here. And every time Volha Nikalaichyk returns to prison voluntarily. Because, the ginger curls must necessarily shine under the sun at any protest action. Otherwise, there will be no quorum.

Iryna Khalip, specially for Сharter97.org