The fate of the dictator and his regime is predetermined.
The website Charter97.org continues a series of interviews with the "iron people of Belarus". This time, we talked with coordinator of the European Belarus civil campaign, representative of the Belarusian National Congress in Brest, active participant of the actions of the protest spring-2017 and father of two sons Andrei Sharenda.
- Andrei, you are one of the most renown opposition activists in the Brest region. Please tell us a little more about yourself, for our readers.
- My father comes from Kobryn, he's a military man. It so happened that in the first years of my life our family had to wander all over the Soviet Union. And the family was big: I have a twin brother and an older sister.
It turned pout so that I was born in the Far East in 1982, during the next transfer of my father. Later, after the collapse of the USSR, our family moved to Brest, where I went to first grade.
I was lucky, I got into a completely Belarusian-language school. I want to emphasize that although for the first time in Belarus I got somewhere in 1990, my family always adhered to Belarusian traditions. We all read many books in Belarusian, and my father spoke to us in Belarusian. That is, from the first years, despite the fact that in my passport the place of birth is Russia, my homr country is Belarus.
- How did your life go after school?
- After school I studied at the Technical University of Brest as a civil engineer, and in 2010 I enrolled in the Kastus Kalinouski scholarship program at the University of Warsaw in the Faculty of Management, which I graduated several years ago.
You know, I think I am a truly happy person. I have a great family: two children, a wonderful wife, who supports me in every possible way.
- Did your father want you to follow his footsteps and become a military man?
- No. When my father served in the army, we had a very complicated life indeed. Constants traveling from one place to another reflected on the entire family. As I said, my father came from Kobryn, and the return to Belarus meant a lot to him.
As for me, I can tell I've had enough of army life. In late 80s we had to live in the barracks, in rented apartments. I didn't want to repeat the destiny of my father, even in the independent Belarus.
- You are a well-known activist of the European Belarus. How did you get involved in the opposition activity?
- My father, although he was a military man, always had independent, patriotic views. The proof of this is that he assigned me to study at the Belarusian-language school. I took his views and already in the first grades I understood what was happening in Belarus. Growing up, in my youth, I was fascinated by Belarusian music: NRM, "Mroya" ... As they say, this path brought me to the "Young Front" in 2001. There I met like-minded people and friends. It was like the first initiation into activity against the regime, for the benefit of Belarus.
I began to engage in more active and serious opposition activities after the significant for our country events of 2005-2006. I actively participated in the tent camp in the center of Minsk after the "presidential election". It was, in fact, a turning point in my life.
Then I realized that it was not enough to speak Belarusian, listen to our music and participate in the cultural activities of the "Young Front". I realized that freedom and independence must be fought for!
For some time I headed the Rada of the Young Front in Brest, but over time I left the organization, and in 2009 I joined the civil campaign European Belarus, whose activist I am today.
Summarizing, I want to say that the events of 2006 led me into opposition activities, and what happened in 2010 strengthened my conviction that freedom must be fought for. We will never get it for nothing.
- Andrei, do you remember your first protest action?
- My first actions were "partisan": with cans of paint, stencils, graffiti, hanging national flags. This all happened in the early 2000s. Nevertheless, the first action that is imprinted on my memory was the Square-2006. It was such a drive! The island of freedom that was formed in the Kastrychnitskaya Square inspired me to fight and there was no way back for me.
You know, I'm sure that we cannot miss this opportunity again! Next time, we will change the situation and achieve freedom.
- You said that the Square-2010 inspired you. What else gives you strength in such difficult times?
- It's my beloved family in the first place. My wife Palina Sharenda, who is also an activist of the European Belarus, supports me in everything, always takes my side and helps in any difficult moment.
I can say that the incentive to continue the struggle is the belief that what we are doing is right. The existing regime in our country is anti-Belarussian and anti-popular, no matter what they say about some alleged "moments of liberalization".
- In spring 2017, the whole Belarus rebelled against the scandalous decree on "social parasites". You were an active participant of the protest actions in Minsk and Brest. Please share your impressions of that hot spring with us.
- I have already noted the events of 2006 and 2010. The protest did not go anywhere. That is, the hot spring of last year is a continuation of what began a long time ago.
I remember the Outraged Belarusians' March on February 17, 2017 in Minsk as if it was yesterday. It launched a wave of protest actions across the country. Nobody expected that a couple of days after the Minsk action, people in Brest will protest. I confess that I myself did not expect when I came to the action, that as many Brest residents would come out. Honestly, for me it was a real shock. My eyes opened. I saw completely new people who had nothing to do with politics. I was very proud that the fellow countrymen came out to defend their rights.
In those months it was clear how determined people were. Belarusians are tired of living under the current regime. After all, not only "parasites" came out, but also people who had nothing to do with the decree. The very fact of the decree and a whole heap of problems in the country led the Belarusians to the squares of their cities.
This characterizes the situation that exists in our country now. Maybe at the moment the protest that has accumulated in the country is not so acute, but I'm sure that the continuation of the hot spring of 2017 will happen in the near future.
Already a year ago the Belarusians showed that the fate of the regime is predetermined. Protests will continue, increase and in the end people will come to the square of Minsk to put an end to the issue.
- Regardless of the protests, the authorities dared to update the decree "on social parasites". In your opinion, which destiny the Decree #1 is facing?
- What the authorities are now doing with decrees on "parasites" can be called Lukashenka's revenge for the hot spring of 2017. A year ago we saw how thousands of Belarusians stood up for their rights, how independent websites worked, covering protests.
The regime realized that if it did not try to strangle all the freedoms in the country, it simply could not exist further. The blocking of Charter'97, the harassment of Belsat journalists, independent bloggers are all links of one chain. Obviously, the regime wants to suppress everything free and independent. It seems to me that the ruler is simply in another reality and does not understand that the blockage in the 21st century is complete nonsense. It can be said that Lukashenka is trying to carry water in a sieve. In general, the authorities will not achieve anything by their actions.
If a year ago the regime wanted to grab 200 dollars from people, then the updated decree on "parasites" is even more cynical and more complex. Lukashenka thinks that taking away the last money from people is not enough. He wants to take away their health and some kind of faith in the future as well. The updated decree is aimed primarily against those who work for themselves or abroad.
Now the regime has a desire to take away ordinary people's health. The decrees on "parasites" is an extortion, they want to take the last from the people.
I want to address the Belarusians: do not wait until the scandalous decree starts working! Do not wait until the last breaths of freedom are taken away, you need to act. I call on all to speak up, to go out on the square of cities. It is necessary to achieve freedom by peaceful means.
- You have two underage sons. What future would you want for them?
- I can single out three things that are the main priorities in my life - Motherland, family and freedom. I have a homeland, you cannot take it away. The family, thank God, too. It remains to achieve freedom! I will answer you this way, I want my children to live in a truly free, democratic country.
I want my sons to choose their future. Now, unfortunately, in Belarus there is nothing to choose. We do not choose the language of instruction, nor the government, nor the president. They even try to deprive us of the right to receive information. I dream that children live differently.
You know, when there is no freedom, material values lose their significance.
- Besides, about material values. You've got excellent education. You could have made a career of a manager or a social engineer. Do you ever regret having chosen struggle over career?
- As I said, for me the concept of the Motherland is very important. I want to live in independent Belarus and do everything possible to achieve this. I would like to make a career in Belarus, not abroad. Unfortunately, with the current authorities, I understand that it is impossible to do this. If you do not cooperate with the regime, then it's hard to find a normal job, let alone making a career.
My personal opinion is that first you need to achieve change in the country, and then start caring about the career.
- Who is a role model for you?
- If you take history, for me, a real example of patriotism is Kastus Kalinouski, who gave his life in the struggle for freedom of our country. Belarusians take this national hero as a role model.
Among contemporary politicians, I would like to single out the people who are currently fighting - Andrei Sannikov, Mikalai Statkevich, Viachaslau Siuchyk. My friends Maxim Viniarski, Yauhen Afnahel. These are the people who are at the forefront of the attack today.
Fact sheet by Charter97.org
Andrei Sharenda was born on December 22, 1982 in a family of a military man.
He studied at the secondary school #37 of the city of Brest. He graduated from the Brest State Technical University. He holds a diploma in civil engineering. Later he became a scholar of the Kastus Kalinouski program at the Institute of Eastern Europe of the University of Warsaw. He graduated from the Faculty of Management of the University of Warsaw.
From 2001 to 2008 he was an activist of the "Young Front".
Since 2009 he is an activist of the civil campaign "European Belarus".
Since 2016, Andrei is a representative of the Belarusian National Congress in Brest.
He is married and has two sons.