The most interesting is to come.
The ceremony of Viktor Ivashkevich National Award was held on March 17, the editorial office of Charter97.org, Warsaw.
In 2017 film director and public activist Volha Mikalaichyk, civil rights defender and legal inspector of the REP Trade Union of the Homel region Leanid Sudalenka, journalist of Belsat TV channel Volha Chaichych, coordinator of the European Belarus campaign and one of the leaders of the Belarusian National Congress Jauhen Afnahel and founder of Art-Syadziba Pavel Belavus became winners.
The president of the World Congress of Crimean Tatars Refat Chubarov, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Poland to Georgia and ex-Ambassador of Poland to Belarus Mariusz Maszkewicz, one of the leaders of Kastus Kalinouski Program at the University of Warsaw Viktor Ross, former secretary of the Embassy of Poland to Minsk Marek Bućko, leader of the European Belarus campaign Andrei Sannikov, Polish and Belarusian journalists took part in the ceremony.
Opening the ceremony, editor-in-chief of Charter97.org Natallia Radzina said:
- Today we award the Viktor Ivashkevich National Prize for protection of human rights. The Charter carries out the event for the 19 times! This year Charter97.org celebrates its 20 years.
Of course, now we face challenges. Charter97.org is blocked on the territory of Belarus. But we are are accustomed to it. We have been blocked, arrested, beaten; our founder Aleh Byabenin was killed... But we've made through it, thank God. And we will make it through now!
There have always been good people in desperate times. Today we meet together because of these people.
In times of social networks, it seems people like to criticize each other. Believe me, it is much better to praise heroes.
Because brave heroic people give us hope in the triumph of good over evil, conscience over meanness, courage over cowardice, freedom over dictatorship. The Charter-97 award aims at it.
We will be free in our country
One of the leaders of the program named Kalinouski at the University of Warsaw, former Ambassador of Poland to Moldova, Armenia and deputy ambassador to Russia Viktor Ross granted the prize to film director and public activist Volha Mikalaichyk.
- Dear friends, it is a great honor for me to grant the award to this woman, who really deserves it. Volha Mikalaichyk is film director, documentalist. She worked with stars of the Belarusian cinematography as Yury Khashchevatski, Viktor Ross said. - We have already heard that the sphere of activity of our laureate is not limited to politics, she protects the rights of women. I hope she will continue her activities. Volha told me that the time of special desire to serve the country coincided with the most desperate years of Lukashenka's reign. A lot of Volha's colleagues are no longer alive. I wish our winner to continue activity and congratulate with the award from the bottom of my heart!
Volha Mikalaichyk said:
- Great thanks to Aleh Byabenin, whose photo will always remain on pages of Charter-97. We will be free in our country, and Charter97.org will exist forever. Many thanks to the Belarusians who are always there for me. It's hard to be brave when you're alone. But you go outdoors and you know that your friends stand by your side. I wish this diploma and flowers reached Belarusians who have always been next to me. Long Live Belarus!
Fight as an opportunity to feel human
A great friend of Belarus, former Secretary of the Embassy of Poland in Minsk Marek Bucko granted the prize to the human rights activist and the legal inspector of the REP Trade Union Leanid Sudalenka:
- I think there are three types of people. The first is people who are born without realizing that they have any rights, and live without this. They do not even think over it. This type is especially common in the east. These are victims of regimes which govern their countries. They are constantly manipulated.
There is the second type. These are people who know they have rights, but believe that the state will violate them so it is not worth fighting. They go along with the tide and become a part of the system.
And there is the third type of people. I think that our winner belongs to it. They are people who do not tolerate injustice, violation of human rights, humiliation of dignity. Leanid Sudalenka is defender of rights of these people. He was called the lawyer of "spongers" by the Belarusian authorities. Everyone knows that we need to come to our winner to fight this system, the regime, Moloch. He will help to file a complaint, send it to Geneva, he will make the case public, he will go to court and a picket. During spring protests in Belarus Leanid Sudalenka helped to file 200 such complaints. It proves that our winner is a human-machine, who makes a big business.
Mass media rarely cover the protection of human rights. But an ordinary person, whose rights have been violated, considers Leanid Sudalenka as the last resort. He experienced numerous provocations; the authorities threatened to kill his family, but, I think, it did not stop him, the person who strives for the truth. I believe Leanid deserves this award.
Leanid Sudalenka thanked the "Charter-97" team for the award and said:
- I am very glad to be among decent representatives of our people. I'm pleased to get this award and if my mother was in the hall, I would not be capable of holding back my tears. This is the first award in my life.
We are very different, but do very important things for our beloved Belarus. Every day we are in small steps move towards democracy in our country. The moment when our children say they are not ashamed of their parents who fought for freedom and democracy in Belarus.
Once again I say thank you to the Charter-97 team, which noticed my modest work at the regional level. I promise I keep working on bringing democracy closer to Belarus. Thank you very much.
To be an honest journalist in Belarus
Presenting the award to journalist of Belsat TV channel Volha Chaichyts, editor-in-chief of Charter97.org Natallia Radzina reminded that in 2017 more than 100 administrative cases had been initiated against independent journalists and freelancers for execution of professional responsibilities in Belarus. Volha Chaichyts was repeatedly detained during streamlines in Belarus; she was subject to 7 administrative cases within the year. Volha is awarded "Defence of Principles of Freedom".
- Volha, thank you for who you are. I know it's difficult to stay fair journalist in Belarus. But all the more, we need your work. This award expresses solidarity with you, your husband Andrei Kozel, journalist as well. He has recently been detained and beaten by policemen, Natallia Radzina says.
Volha Chaichyts told about problems journalists faced in Belarus:
-Thank you very much for the award. I'd like to say the pressure experienced in Belarus relates to absence of division of powers in the country. No one controls Lukashenka. The accreditation institute prevents media from doing its work properly.
The accreditation is the way to control everything that happens in the media, because no acute issues have chance to be covered.
Belsat has no accreditation. We are fined and face challenges in work. On the other hand, we do not afraid of losing accreditation and, for this reason, we can cover problems, which exist in our society. We are well aware of our influence on people. And the truth is that changes are coming.
I usually make plots about acute social problems and see that the situation is getting better on lower level.
Charter'97 is already a legend
Chairman of the Medjlis of the Crimean Tatar People Refat Chubarov presented the award to coordinator of the European Belarus civil campaign Yauhen Afnahel and said the following:
- I am very pleased of having been invited to present this award. For me, it really is a great honour. Sometimes it is very important that a person or a group see their role, their mission from aside.
I want you never to forget that you remain one of the most powerful centers of resistance to a totalitarian regime, which preserves on our planet. However, you are not only the center of resistance, but also the people who give millions of Belarusians an opportunity to preserve their dignity in the unbelievable conditions they are living in.
Charter'97 is already a legend. No matter what the authorities do against you, I am convinced you will reach the goals and fulfill the mission that you have set.
I would like to note that, in Ukraine, they always had deep understanding of what is happening in Belarus, and sympathized. However, to be honest, many people did not understand how to live in such conditions every day. This understanding came with the war in the Ukrainian land, when the Crimea was occupied. This came from the country which supports the totalitarian regime in Belarus. From Putin, the author of the project called "Lukashenka".
Very often I try to avoid harsh statements, but now I am speaking from my heart. We have one common enemy - Putin. One country, which pampers imperialistic plans against its neighbours - Russia.
I would like to sincerely greet all of you and to congratulate Yauhen with being in such a great team. Long Live Belarus!
Yauhen Afnahel said it was a great honour for him to receive the award from the hands of the Chairman of the Medjlis of the Crimean Tatar people:
- I am so honoured to receive the award personally from Refat Chubarov, who represents the people struggling also for the freedom of Belarus today. They are struggling in much more complicated circumstances than we are, under the occupation. Thank you!
I would like to thank Charter'97 for this award, and not only for it. Much was already said here about the year 2017, about last year's protests, which were the most massive in Belarus since the perestroika times. I think that the people coming out to the streets struggling for their rights is also the merit of the journalists, who professionally did their job, were sincere, principled and realized their responsibility before their readers and viewers. Some Belarusian politicians seem to lack such qualities.
We see the evaluation of this work now. The blocking of Charter'97, the persecution of Belsat journalists, the criminal cases against bloggers is the highest estimate that can be obtained from the dictatorial regime.
Today it's our turn. Those people, whom Charter'97 defended, the Belsatters, bloggers, should defend and fight for you.
It is difficult, but the way up is always more difficult than descending or falling. On this path, when we know that we are not alone and that the most interesting things lie ahead, it is easier to go. This way is simple, understandable and will exactly lead to the goal that we all have in common - a free, European Belarus.
Another laureate of the National Award for the Protection of Human Rights was Pavel Belavus, the founder of the Art Sidziba, but he could not fly to Warsaw because of participation in the preparation of the concert in honor of the 100th anniversary of the Belarusian People's Republic.
Sign and Example
Closing the ceremony, leader of the European Belarus civil campaign, one of the founders of the Charter'97 initiative Andrei Sannikov said:
- You know, I woke up today and thought: the weather is great, the Charter'97 award is presented solemnly and something else is happening around us... Hah, it's St.Patrick's Day today! In the actual fact, this is a great holiday. St.Patrick, by the way, was a slave, who started defending Ireland after he had been liberated from slavery. He defended his beloved country even though we wasn't Irish. There are many examples of what he did. He even argued with God, defending the Irish.
Much was spoken here about various dates. The centenary of the BPR, the great holiday, the 20th anniversary of Charter'97. I would also like to remind that 20 years ago Charter'97 received its first award form the governments of the United States and the European Union. And it was then when Charter decided to render material aid to the people. The first award of Charter'97 went to support political prisoners and independent journalists.
I always recall this with pride. We took this decision together with Viktar Ivashkevich. Few public organizations do so today.
You know, I recalled another famous saying. Beauty will save the world. I don't know about the world, but when I see beautiful laureates of the Charter'97 award - Volha Chaichyts, Volha Nikalaichyk, Natallia Radzina - I know that we will be saved by beautiful brave women and dignified men.