“Children of the dandelions”: Belarusian teenagers sing about their feelings in emigration

The Belarusian rock band Atesta has released a video titled “Dandelions”, portraying teenagers’ emotions stirred by the forced departure from their homeland. The band knows firsthand what it is singing about: the vocalist herself has been in exile since the age of 17. She opened up to Belsat about the song and her feelings.

As the band says, “Dandelions” is more than a mere reflection: it encapsulates a personal story of how one has “unexpectedly lost everything”. In the video, teenage emigrants from Belarus and Ukraine, who are seeking their place in a new and unfamiliar environment, tell their stories. Ulyana Pavlovich, the vocalist of Atesta, reveals that she candidly wrote about the emotions she was experiencing as she was suffering from the hardships of emigration. She describes Belarusians as “dandelions” who have left their homeland, with their seeds spreading worldwide. The “dandelion children” are now in search of a new land where they can establish roots and thrive. Ulyana has yet to find her footing in the new place: “It’s more like roots take hold in the air, not solid ground.”

I don’t feel like I belong here, I wonder how I’ll make a life here,” she reflects on her time in Poland. “Of course, I dream of returning to Belarus. I hope all these kids share the same dream. Kids… Teenagers! However, you have to start navigating your new life. You have to try. Begin by seeking friends and acquaintances, pursuing creative endeavors, and simply looking for employment and a place to call home.

The singer found herself in exile “just like everyone else”. At first, there was no explicit persecution for their previous creative work (Atesta performed both before the protests and after their suppression), but at times, the band members felt targeted at school. Ulyana says that it seemed as if the authorities were “frothing at the mouth” in reaction to the band’s artistic output. Now, everything is out in the open: she has been charged with “financing extremist activities”. Ulyana sees loneliness as the primary challenge faced by teenage emigrants, drawing from both personal experience and the accounts she has heard from others. Another issue arises from the lack of understanding on the part of adults, who are preoccupied with their own concerns and may not fully comprehend that their children have their own problems. It doesn’t matter if it’s a teenager living with their family or an independent student because loneliness can be experienced both in a crowded club and in a household full of loved ones.

“Everyone carries their sky with them, so I carry Hrodna with me. Each time I sketch my hometown, it’s like a form of returning, a chance to wander through the city streets in my mind, in my head,” says one of the individuals featured in the video.

The teenagers say that they grapple with numerous anxious thoughts. One of their greatest fears is being left alone and losing people in whom they have found support, as they are afraid of not being able to cope on their own. Starting to communicate and make new friends in a new place is very challenging and frightening, given the language barrier, among other factors.

“Friends might stay in another country,” Ulyana remarks, “but making calls every six months or messaging each other twice a week is not enough.” A guy from Ukraine who starred in the video shared that before leaving his homeland, he had a best friend, but upon his return, she didn’t even say hello to him. He started attending a theater camp, found his place, and now successfully performs in the theater.

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