19 June 2019, Wednesday, 7:06
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The Movie. Yauhen Afnahel. "A Man from the Free Belarus"

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YAUHEN AFNAHEL

Belarusians are the nation with great love for freedom.

Famous movie director and human rights activist Volha Nikalaichyk shot a video movie called "A Man from the Free Belarus", about the legendary participant of the Belarusian Resistance, coordinator of the European Belarus civil campaign Yauhen Afnahel.

The director beneficially set the movie in the snowy, half-empty Minsk. The protagonist is walking along a city street, surrounded by the wind, the dark gray sky and the frozen river Svislach. The shots from the "Beowulf" movie comes to one's mind: "I came to kill your monster Grendel and liberate your land from the curse."

However, the film refers to more fundamental things than the one-time victory over the local evil. Yauhen Afnahel speaks about the things that everyone is concerned about, also those who would never confess having such thoughts: how to be strong, free and happy.

"Belarusians simply should feel the pleasure of this life, it's not complicated. Just enjoy your life. And this is possible only when you live the real life, when you don't bargain with your conscience, don't hide anything, and don't tell lies," - the protagonist says.

"If you live a normal human life, the issue of whether to go to a street action or to stay at home, whether to put up with these authorities or to replace them, will never arise. Then changes will happen.

When you participate in the Resistance, speaking up your ideas and views - this comes for most Belarusians as something unusual. The 20th century, when hundreds of thousands of our people were killed, taught us to keep silence. The silence was hammered into the nation. Breaking this silence, speaking up is, in the actual fact, a fantastic and awesome feeling. The feeling that you can do anything, achieve whatever you like and that your life belongs to you, and you enjoy living it."

The photo gallery used in the film brings the viewer to the time of the most striking actions: here Afnahel unfolded a white-red-white flag over the Independence Avenue and casually speaks on the phone; here he, together with Uladzimir Niakliaeu and Maxim Viniarski, leads the rally on May 1, and overhead is the reproduction of Raphael's "Last Supper" with Christ and Judas; and here is the first Outraged Belarusians' March and the Square is again crowded with people. Nina Bahinskaya fights for a white-red-white flag with a riot policeman packed into the "armor", young people with the flags of the European Belarus light a fire to inspire the procession - every shot of the film hits the target.

Yauhen Afnahel recalls how he joined the Resistance:

"My first rally was to Kurapaty. My father took me to this action when I was a kid. Herein, I knew about the white-red-white flag and the real history of Belarus already back then.

What is happening now is called the resistance. It was in the 90s, in the early 2000s, it is happening now. No matter who belongs to which party. It's just the majority of the people are against the things that are happening in our country, and the active part of these people participate in the Resistance movement."

The action of the film is transferred to the house, built by Yauhen Afnahel, in the yard of which he chops birch firewood. At the background, the words from Liavon Volski's song "My Dear Homeland" sound: "Our studious people are working, our flag is waving above". This allegory is not accidental: friends keep telling about the fantastic hardworkingness of Afnahel, and on the roof of his house he installed a "Pahomia" weathercock.

"We have our own state, our language, our Resistance movement. In early 90s most Belarusians used to think that they need to go back to Russia, now most Belarusians stand for the independent country. This is a normal evolutionary process of the development of the nation, and we will achieve the normal, European, independent Belarus," - Yauhen Afnahel is saying, brisking up the fire under the firewood in the mantelpiece.

"Every nation gives birth to heroes. But no nation can do it all the time. The former heroes died, they left, having done a lot for Belarus. But now is the time for new heroes: new people are born, new leaders are emerging. Belarusians are a very freedom-loving nation. Practically every 30 years there is a new upswing: 1918, then the time of the Second World War, the Belarusian "partisan war", then the late 80's - early 90's, and finally - the present time.

Some may say: behold, there was an uprising, it was defeated - and what next? However, every previous uprising made the following one possible. Without Kalinouski's insurrection, there would have been no national Renaissance of the early 20th century. If there were no Renaissance in the beginning of the 20th century, there would be no Belarusian People's Republic. If there were no BPR, there would be no BSSR and no attempts to restore independence during the Second World War. And without all this, there would be no Republic of Belarus. This is the continuity of generations."

The transfer of the idea of Resistance from generation to generation was also in the Afnahel family.

"I was named after my grandfather Yauhen Afnahel. He was one of the leaders of the Minsk underground resistance. He was in charge of printing illegal products: Belarusian-language newspapers, leaflets, appeals to people. The underground printing house was on the bank of the river Svislach, in the center of the city. The grandfather was killed a few days before the liberation of Minsk, " - the politician said.

The final footage of the film shows Yauhen Afnahel surrounded by his current family: his wife and two dogs.

"A person is happy when they have something to live for. If it's a family, then it's a family. If it's the family and the Motherland, then it's the family and the Motherland. These goals may not be the highest, but it is unimportant. If there is something to live and die for, a person is happy. Everything is simple really. When a person begins to love their life and their country, everything becomes good with their life, with their country, and with the world around them."