It's not a figurative way of speech. One should take it literally.
I met my love Andrei Sannikov due to "Charter" - it was the opening of the office in Minsk. And it's not just a civil initiative for me, not just a website or a project. It's love.
The 20th anniversary of "Charter" is a reason to remember for those who were there from the very start how it all started. I have nothing to remember because I joined it later. I got married there. But my personal story interwoves with the story of "Charter", because it was also love. And it will remain like this.
First it was a taste for adventures, for the unknown, for treasure hunting - common hobby of the young. Three persons with an old computer came together and stated excitedly: "We will create the news website, and it will be the most popular one! Do you remember the year 1998? The query of the day of the new born Yandex was as follows: "price for glass bottles"; that September Google was signing statutory documents somewhere in a California garage; Charter issued its first news. No reader could get how it operated, I could not get where those readers came from. Charter was born in the slight incomprehension, short purse and passion.
We were cleaning our pockets to find money for hosting. It was not about benefits. But we had lots of fun then. After all, taste for adventures promoted strong adherent to profession. We did it despite of light purses, severe conditions, vague prospects and absence of registration. We needed the most popular website to be created. The love of profession could not but help us work hard.
There were registered media with corresponding restrictions. Charter had no chances for registration, though it did not intent to fall within rules of ministries and ideologists. Others had offices and registered addresses, but Charter rented apartments with no thoughts about tomorrow and no fixed address. It made it change places often. Who knows, it could have succeeded with registration by compromising. Of course, it would have born other compromise, and then one more and more... Does it really matter? It's only about love - love of freedom which gave strength to keep away from a limited space under red-green flags.
And later things got really bad. The love of freedom could not but be mentioned. Tall poppy syndrome worked, when people of high status were destroyed. The tallest flowers are trimmed. "It was also done to Charter; however, Oleg Bebenin sacrificed his life, others lost freedom and the right to stay in their country. And now Charter works in exile. KGB officers were replaced with network haters who hold on repeat "it's easy for you to talk nonsense being abroad!". Of course, journalists of Charter sometimes want to let it all go and start living without stress. But they cannot. Because their love of Belarus is stronger. They make a deep breath and keep working.
So, no pathetic words about Charter, Motherland or obligations. Only love keeps "Charter" afloat. They say, every year this feeling is fading away, because the dust settles on hearts, and it becomes just the matter of habit. Well, it will not happen to "Charter". Because it has not time to get accustomed to something; it experiences imprisonment, escape, death. It makes all feelings acute. However, love can do without chasing and shooting. I wish one day there were a dresser with elephants and peace in the editorial office of "Charter". I wish it would be in Minsk.
"Charter", I love you.
Iryna Khalip, especially for Charter97.org
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