On Saturday, 25 March, Belarusian Freedom Day – the celebration of which is banned in Belarus itself – was celebrated around the world. The anniversary commemorating the proclamation of the independent Republic of Belarus was marked in Brno by about forty Belarusians who met in front of the statue of the first Czechoslovak president Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk. The meeting place was chosen symbolically: President Masaryk supported Belarusian democratic politicians in the 1920s and 1930s and was instrumental in creating a scholarship fund that enabled hundreds of Belarusian students to come and study at Czech universities. They also wanted to thank Masaryk University, which two and a half years ago opened a special scholarship fund for Belarusian students.
“I am very happy that we meet in front of the statue of Masaryk and can thank him and the University for all the help we, Belarusians, have received after the First World War and now. Belarus and now also Ukraine are going through enormous crises and we appreciate the support of the outside world, including the Czech Republic,” said the main organiser Andrei Kalavur, who studies at the Faculty of Social Studies of the Masaryk University and is analysing the communication strategies of Putin and Lukashenko as part of his doctoral research.
The Belarusians were wearing flags and there were several Ukrainians among the participants. During the hour-long meeting, the Belarusian national anthem was played and then one of the students read a letter written especially for the Brno meeting by representatives of the team of Svetlana Tsikhanouska, who was running for the presidential elections in 2020.
“Although today we are celebrating 105 years since the declaration of the independent Belarusian state, in reality, Belarus is still occupied today. There are foreign troops on the territory of the country and the administration subordinates its decisions to the will of a foreign government. We would like to thank each and every one of you who devote your time, energy and resources to defending the independence of Belarus, including those who, as ambassadors of Belarusian culture in Brno, support and promote our culture. Belarusians are creative and heroic people who have gone through many hardships and difficulties throughout their history and have made significant contributions to world history and culture. Therefore, it is our task to make Belarus a free and prosperous country,” wrote Alina Kouvshyk, a representative of presidential candidate Svetlana Tsikhanouska, in the letter.
The participants then lit candles and laid flowers at the statue of T. G. Masaryk. One of the students who brought flowers in the colours of her country was Tamara, a first-year Belarusian student of general medicine at MU. “I am very grateful for the opportunity to study in the Czech Republic. MU has long attracted me with its modern facilities and the student city atmosphere in Brno. And I have to say that I am very excited about my studies. Mostly thanks to the MU Simulation Centre, where we have already had lessons in first aid and partly also in anatomy,” said the student, who did not wish to reveal her surname.
Siarhei, a Master’s degree student at the Faculty of Science of MU, is also grateful for the opportunity to live a free life in the Czech Republic. In June, he should take his final state exam and then he plans to start his PhD studies and work in CEITEC science laboratories.
Elizaveta is also studying in Brno for the third year. She is one of the students who received a special scholarship from MU. Without it, she would not be able to afford her studies in Brno. “I really appreciate this opportunity provided by MU and I believe that I will make it worthwhile by helping my country in the future. I would like to work in organisations helping Belarus and oppressed citizens. We must not forget that it is not only Ukraine that is fighting, but also us Belarusians. And we believe that one day we will also be free and that we will become a full-fledged part of the European community,” said the student of International Relations and European Studies at the MU Faculty of Social Studies.