5 July 2022, Tuesday, 10:38
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Kastus Kalinouski Battalion Fighter: Lukashenka Will Not Keep His Job

Kastus Kalinouski Battalion Fighter: Lukashenka Will Not Keep His Job

The former cameraman of ORT told how he decided to join the Belarusian volunteers.

Andrei “Andrzej” Korsak is one of the oldest fighters of the Kastus Kalinouski battalion. In a long interview for Radio Svaboda, he spoke about his work in journalism, service in the Soviet army, and how life in Russia differs from life in Poland.

“Entrance ruble, exit — two”

QUESTION: Andrei, tell us a little about yourself.

ANDREI KORSAK: I am from Navapolatsk, I worked as a cameraman there at regional TV studios. There were four of them in Navapolatsk in total; it so happened that I managed to work everywhere. By the way, I worked for some time with the current political prisoner Andrei Aliaksandrau. Then I was invited to Minsk, worked for BelaPAN until 2016, when they started to press the agency down eventually. For some time I lived in Russia, then left for Poland.

QUESTION: How did you like working for BelaPAN?

ANDREI KORSAK: I remember how I had to run away from the police so that the material would not be erased. It happened that they were delayed. If it was possible to escape and bring the material, then I felt like such a hero! The destruction of the agency, the arrest of an employee is one of the reasons why I am now in Ukraine. Such strong professionals, such wonderful people worked in BelaPAN. It's a shame that they are in jail now. Ira Leushyna and I lived next door, almost every evening, when she walked the dog, we met, talked about work, and about everything in the world. Dzmitry Navazhylau and I worked together in the Belarusian office of the Russian TV channel ORT. I know all of them, I know what decent people they are, and now they are in prison for their decency.

QUESTION: Wow, so you also worked for the Russian television?

ANDREI KORSAK: If you know, there is such a Belarusian propagandist Aliaksei Mikhalchanka, who broadcasted on ONT. We know each other very well from Navapolatsk, we worked together. It is part of the system, where the entrance is a ruble, and the exit from it is two. Although I can not say anything bad about him as a person. So it was Mikhalchanka who introduced me to Dzmitry Navazhylau, who needed a cameraman on ORT. Then Dzmitry offered my candidature to Ales Lipai. BelaPAN was the best team where I happened to work. Just golden people, I really miss them.

“The police is business, the army is business, the church is business”

QUESTION: What did you do in Russia when you left there?

ANDREI KORSAK: I worked at a construction site, at a car wash, and poured concrete piles. I looked at Russia from the inside — it's some kind of horror. Thieves are everywhere, from the cop who scans you at the station for money, and ending with the president. And this happens at all levels. The police is business there, the army is business, the church is business. When I arrived in Poland, I had a culture shock, I realized that I have rights, that I can dispute something. Time in Russia is like being in prison.

QUESTION: Is it true that imperialism is typical for the Russians? Or is this something that Putin brought to them?

ANDREI KORSAK: Really typical. If you take just a person, then they may be an ordinary, normal person. If you take them as a society, then, of course, it’s terrible. They could be a homeless person or an alcoholic, but at the same time adoringly say that they belong to Russia, to the empire. It raises them so much in their own eyes. Only by one right, that they are Russians, they look down on everyone — Belarusians, Ukrainians, or Tajiks. I worked with the Tajiks — they are such awesome people, with the Chechens — the same thing. And this is Nazism, when you think that your nation is above all others.

QUESTION: Do they really love Putin in Russia?

ANDREI KORSAK: Yes. Their society is built in such a way that only the signboards change: “Russian Empire”, “USSR”, “Russian Federation”. It doesn't matter how, but they need a king who will decide everything, so they don’t have to think about anything. In Belarus, civil society was much more developed, there were many more initiatives. In Russia, all this was much less. They are happy that they are transferring responsibility for the country to someone else. And I don't believe they can change.

“A chance to return the country to the people”

QUESTION: Why did you leave for Poland?

ANDREI KORSAK: I was looking for a job. Lived in Warsaw, a little bit in Krakow. I worked there at the factory, I was also doing deliveries for IKEA. Got a residence permit. In 2020, I didn’t go to Belarus, although I wanted to take part in the protests at first. When the protests turned into “weekend marches”: let’s work for five days or something, and on the sixth day let’s go out and show our “incredibility”, then I realized that there was no point in going. The only thing I could achieve was to get to jail. Until the war, I thought that I would build my new life in Poland. And then there was a chance not only to come back, but to return the country to the people.

QUESTION: When was the last time you were in Belarus?

ANDREI KORSAK: In February 2021. My visa expired, so I went to renew it. I lived in someone else's apartment, used someone else's SIM card, and did not go anywhere. Sat for a month like a mouse under a broom; then planes were still flying, jumped out and crossed myself with relief.

“Poland was like a trip to Disneyland”

QUESTION: Why do you have the call sign “Andrzej”?

ANDREI KORSAK: Back in the 1970s, we went with our parents to visit our relatives in Poland. I was then five years old. Everyone there called me “Andrzej”, even my parents began to call me that. It stayed that way with me for the rest of my life. For me already then Poland was like a trip to Disneyland. It was very different from the USSR: everyone wears jeans, you can buy chewing gum in the store (laughs).

QUESTION: So you have been traveling abroad since the Soviet stagnation.

ANDREI KORSAK: My grandfather and four of his brothers fought in the Polish army during World War II. They come from Hlybochchyna, they spoke Polish. One of the brothers died. My grandfather and another brother returned to Belarus, and two more remained in Poland. Since then we have relatives there. They remember that their roots are from Belarus, but consider themselves Poles.

“I thought Putin was smarter”

QUESTION: What was February 24, 2022 for you?

ANDREI KORSAK: Honestly, it was a shock. I have many good friends among Ukrainians, they are also at war now. We started calling each other. We got together every evening — and all the talk was about a possible war. Even then, it was clear to all of us: if they declare war, then Russian soldiers will be torn here to pieces. And it will be exactly as we see it now. You have to be a complete moron to go for it. I thought that Putin was a little smarter. It turned out that no. It is not clear how he can rule the country if he cannot understand such simple things.

QUESTION: Did you immediately want to go to Ukraine?

ANDREI KORSAK: Yes, I immediately began to look for ways to get there. It didn't matter to me whether I went as a volunteer, a paramedic, or a soldier. You can understand everything correctly, talk about it, but at the moment when the war began, words no longer solve anything. Deeds do. When I heard that the Kalinouski battalion was being formed in Warsaw, I immediately went there. I helped there — bringing something, loading something. Every day for two weeks I went there while the issue was being considered.

“I didn’t go to war for romance”

QUESTION: How old are you?

ANDREI KORSAK: Already in Ukraine I turned 53. But I'm not the oldest here, which was a discovery.

QUESTION: Is physical activity difficult for you?

ANDREI KORSAK: At first it was very difficult, what do I have to hide? And now it’s gone, even the service is becoming a routine. We have a constant rotation: someone is in combat, someone is here. I haven't gone yet, one of the latest ones. I'll probably go next week.

QUESTION: Did you serve in the Soviet Army?

ANDREI KORSAK: Yes, in the Transcaucasian Military District. Based in Georgia. It was the time when the military conflict began in Karabakh, they did not take part in the battles themselves, but they brought humanitarian aid there and helped the refugees. I saw then that war is not romance. Therefore, I did not go to Ukraine for romance. The only good thing in war is the people around.

QUESTION: Is this also about the Kalinouski battalion?

ANDREI KORSAK: Certainly. There are no random people here. And even if they appear, they quickly disappear. Everyone is very motivated, they are ready to sacrifice themselves for the idea, for the future of Belarus. Lukashenka gave our country to the invaders. The Ukrainians will not forget that Kyiv was shelled from Belarus, they will not let it go. And we will not forgive him for 2020, Zakharanka, and others.

“Volat’s death was difficult to bear”

QUESTION: Did you know any of the dead Belarusians personally?

ANDREI KORSAK: Only Volat. We talked several times. He helped me. I wanted to give him a present, but he didn't take it. His death was hard to bear. He was a very magnificent person, he had a strong energy, strength. He could no longer fight, as he was seriously wounded in 2021. Such people are used to taking on all the difficulties, he had a huge responsibility for everyone.

QUESTION: Will Ukraine win this war?

ANDREI KORSAK: Definitely. Ukraine is getting stronger every day, and Russia is getting weaker. Sanctions will also knock Russia down. Soldiers have no motivation. This is a senseless war, no one understands the goals. Apparently, no one in Belarus believes that “an attack was being prepared from four sides”. Apparently, the “big brother” will fall first, but Lukashenka will not keep his job either.