“The hope for change, for a gradual development, a development in the direction of western values, this, of course, disappeared very quickly. This was clear quite early. But it’s not just about Lukashenko, he is just a symbol. Besides him, there is a number of those dark people who came to power and immediately started destroying people around them. And the things we put together so that we liked it, it suddenly crumbled as sand in our hands. This was very depressing. And there arrived a number of people from the criminal underground. I do remember, because I was in the business circles, that there were contacts to the underground, naturally, you couldn’t work without it. And suddenly the criminals, who were around, started to be interested in working in his armed forces. And they approached us — I was approached by one of them, an idiot, he knew I did politics so he thought, well, a complete idiot. He asked me: ‘You have some contacts there. Just ask them whether they would take me as a bodyguard or something like that. You know, that would be great.’” — “‘So, Lukashenko’s regime was connected to organised crime” — “People penetrated the regime because they were ruthless, they were prepared to do evil, carry out repressions regardless of laws and rules. So gradually they got in, first into the ranks of bodyguards, then to some fast response units, which were founded, first half-legal, then illegal. And the people needed to push their career etc. How can you make a career in armed forces? You must push someone, you must beat someone, you must pursue someone to be promoted. So it kept going by itself.”
“Our colleague from Radio Free Europe found a contact here to the local Helsinki Committee. And we found a man who was responsible for refugees. He took care of us; he was a solicitor, he worked for the Helsinki Committee, and he told us what to do, that there was this refugee camp in the Louny region, that we were to go there and officially ask for the status of refugees. We went there, arrived at night, there was this guard, a private company, we told them in poor Czech that we had just arrived from Belarus and want to ask for the status of political refugees. They did not understand, told us, ‘Go away!’ — ‘Why?’ — ‘No, come tomorrow!’ — ‘Why tomorrow?’ — ‘No, we say, go to the nearest town for night and come in the morning.’ Well, if they say so. We turned, went to Most, where we slept in some hotel Černigov [sic], a crazy place it was. We arrived in the morning at nine or something like at. They were already waiting for us, the Foreign Police with an interpreter. And we understood why the guards turned us away. The entrance room, in which we would have to spend the night, because there was no one in the camp, only the guards and this was some third-party agency, but no one from the officials. We would have to spend the whole night in that room, until the police arrived in the morning, along with people who did all those procedures… And the room was rather ugly, there was pee in it… Really a poor space. The guards probably saw that we were normal people and sent us to spend the night in the hotel. When we mentioned it at the interrogation, the police officer said, ‘How come? They had to accept you immediately. How come they turned you away? What is this…? We have to… ‘ And we told him, ‘Please, can you delete this from the record? The guys behaved decently to us.’”
“In Belarus it is more difficult because the national revival has not been completed. And it was never an issue, the differences were always along religious lines. Those who went to a Catholic church were Poles, those who went to an Orthodox church were Russians, because he was of Russian faith. And the other one was of Polish faith, because Poles were Catholic, this was the language commonly spoken in those circles that subscribed to Catholicism. On the other hand, the whole Orthodox community was naturally Russian, it was subordinated to the Russian Church and Russian was spoken there. Then there was the Jewish community, they stood aside a bit. So the question who am I, ethnically? It is difficult… My predecessors come from the Catholic circles but I cannot say about myself that I am a Pole, because I can just understand Polish and do not know the Polish culture in depth, I do not go into church. So I am not a Pole. But I am not a Russian either. I feel to be a member of the Belarus nation but since this nation kind of does not exist, it is a kind of ritual subscription.”
Belarus has always been and will always be in Russia’s shadow
Vladislav Jandjuk was born on November 11, 1968, in Vitebsko, the then Belarus Soviet Socialist Republic. His great grandfather fought in the Red Army during the October Revolution, was an officer of the NVKD and was executed during purges in the 1930s. The family saw the destruction of Belarus during WW2, his grandmother was deported to a camp in Latvia. He grew up in Vitebsko with his mother and grandmother in a very poor circumstances and was interested in chemistry and photography. He studied chemistry at the university of Minsk, was a member of the national circle and participated on organisation of resistance activities against the Soviet imperialism. After declaration of independent Belarus in July 1990 he worked as a computer expert and engaged in efforts to renew the original Belarus culture. During Alexander Lukaschenko’s reign he followed upon his opposition activities, maintained contacts with countries of the Western Europe and participated in independent journalism in Belarus. To avoid arrest and possible death he emigrated to Czechia in 1997 and was recognised as a political refugee. He worked in the Belarus section of Člověk v tísni, today he works in IT.