27 February 2020, Thursday, 6:32
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From a Pension to a Pension It’s All Play for Students

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From a Pension to a Pension It’s All Play for Students
Iryna Khalip

There is no one left who once voted for Lukashenka.

"Pensioners are to blame. They voted for Lukashenka in 1994, and now if they support him: a dog in the manger". I still hear it. People play this on repeat. Wait, it's been twenty-five years so far. Where are those pensioners?

We got frozen for a quarter of a century in this viscous play dough that we no longer see the time. We still observe how seasons change (although they have recently become blurred), but not the time. New Year, May holidays, vacation, New Year again, and work, another work, then a part-time job, a little work just before going to bed. We run dry of strength without realising how many years passed. How can we set sights on time? It's luck if we make it to Christmas or May holidays.

Where are those pensioners who, by everyone's conviction, ensured Lukashenka's victory in 1994, and then supported him for ten other years? If in 1994, a newly retired person was 60 years old, now this person is 86.

Pardon, given the average life expectancy of Belarusian men - 66 years - this conditional voter is most likely passed away. I mean the newly retired people of that time. Both seventy and eighty-year-olds voted. Children and grandchildren mourned over them a long time ago, and we all blame them as if they lived next door. No, they do not.

There are no more voters left for Lukashenka in Belarus. Current pensioners are those who were 30-40 years old when he once was legally elected. You remember, don't you? They were the ones who were in full ripeness of their physical and intellectual state, who left the decaying research institutes and design bureaus and went in for trading to survive somehow. Having given up their careers, they were the ones who put aside unfinished research papers and saved their children, as well as the country's economy. And us, with stacks of unnecessary coupons. I remembered my first Snickers for life.

Today these people have reached retirement age. They find themselves in the pension trap. Because a trader had no official employment. As well as other people working for that person. There were more important things to do. And then, when quite legitimate firms appeared, employers paid salaries, but not the contributions to the SSF. Where are now those employers, those owners of commercial stalls and all kinds of firms? Some of them put on Adidas and went abroad driving their Mercedes. Others - a few - have become official businessmen and now pay contributions to the SSF for all their employees. But I'm sure none of them remembers engineers and teachers of those times who ran errands and certainly do not care about their pensions.

There were thirty-or forty years old in 1994. Their mothers played on repeat "keep to your work experience"! They made it through the nineties in their decaying state offices and reached retirement age with the prospect to live the rest of their lives on 400-500 rubles per month, or even less. Everything is fine with their documents. But the future does not much differ from that of those who were trading without taking care of official employment. Students of that time, who are almost fifty now, realise that there is almost no hope for a pension. All these people, who protested in the late eighties and early nineties, made through poverty, hope, a leap of freedom, who voted for Shushkevich, Pazniak - will they now support the lover of poetry? No, they won't!

We often use expressions like "a new generation of Belarusians has grown up within this time". We see that the children born under this regime are already twenty-five years old. But the generation of pensioners has also changed. There are no more those who once voted for Lukashenka. No one left. He has no more support. Blaming the current pensioners for Lukashenka to come to power thanks to them is like saying that those who carried a log with Lenin a hundred years ago want the USSR back. Down the river floats an axe from the town of Byron. Well, you know how it ends.

Iryna Khalip, especially for Charter97.org