The country we dream of will surely be there.
When the bookcases are full, every time I try to sort the books, arrange them so that in the end everything fits in. I do not have mezzanines or any other useful cubic space, where I can put all the excess. So I have to pack books tight, like tenants in a communal apartment.
The other day, in the next rush of compaction, I started to leaf through the books that arrived after December 19, 2010. Several of them – with documents, portraits, biographies – were published then. Having opened one of those well-published books, I saw a portrait of Artsiom Hrybkou, convicted for Square. And I felt terror. Because I had forgotten about him. Haven’t you forgotten?
Now I remember that Artsiom Hrybkou has not been with us for six years. This year he would have turned thirty. After his release, he lived just a little time, – in December 2012, he died in a car accident, staying forever twenty-three. She left a pregnant wife, Svetlana, who gave birth to a boy six months later. I remember how Yuliya Stsiapanava was conducting a solidarity marathon at the BPF office, rounding up support for the widow and the baby. Money, diapers, children's clothes, toys – all that was collected by the Belarusians who were not-indifferent back then. And after that they forgot.
Does anyone remember today how Aleh Bebenin struggled with all his strength when several bacon-faced police officers tried to drag him into the police van? We were all sitting inside, and Aleh continued to struggle. It was 1997, a spontaneous action of solidarity with Pavel Sheremet who was in prison. Oh, yes, Pavel… Pavel, fearlessly walking through a hole in the Belarusian border and putting that record on the air, even though he knew that he could be arrested.
And Viktar Ivashkevich, who being completely ill, came to the protest rally walking on crutches. Not to sing and dance on a fest, but to fight for freedom and for the country. Victor, who sometimes comes to the square completely alone and stands there with two flags – Belarusian and European. If the Charter did not name its award in the name of Viktar Ivashkevich, how many would remember who it is?
Now people have probably forgotten how the fiery redhead Krystsina Shatsikava appeared suddenly on a lighting tower near the Vitsebsk amphitheater one summer evening and put up a white-red-white flag there. Oh, how happy the Vitsebsk dwellers were then! “Look, – they shouted, – this is our real flag!” Then the flag was torn off, Krystsina, as it usually happened to her, was taken to the police. Who remembers it today?
Krystsina Shatsikava, like Artsiom Hrybkou, died in 2012. And her cousin Zmitser Zavadski – even earlier. What memory I demand from people, if a whole generation of those born after these abductions and murders have grown up? Many young operators even believe that Zavadski is someone who stood at the origins of television. Only few remember today about Hanchar and Zakharanka. I mean, people remember that there were such people, but they would not tell what role they played in the struggle for a free Belarus and why they were killed. “Seems, something connected with politics.”
Everything is forgotten, lost among new events, covered with dust, like an old mirror. But there are not only the deceased heroes of Belarus in this mirror, but you and me, and everything that we experienced before and after.
Let's remember them. It should be not a fallen off the shelf book that will make us suddenly recall them and feel ashamed – “He was a real hero, how could you forget him!” – but our own memory should work like a perfect mechanism. Because there can be no new heroes in a country where people don’t remember the heroes of the past. The earth will not give birth to them, the new ones, in such a country.
Respect their memory, do not let lazy oblivion destroy the names of our heroes. Find how your life events are connected to the memories of those days: snow on your lips, your high heel stuck in the pavement, someone's casual look in the metro, the smell of wood, a sudden downpour that made you hide in someone else's entrance, an unexpected meeting, an annoying cold, a dream about something beautiful...
And then they, the gone heroes, will forever remain in the mirror with us, and that mirror will not get covered with dust, patina, or cracks.
Iryna Khalip, especially for Charter97.org