Nina Bahinskaya is a prominent figure in the pro-democracy movement in Belarus. She has been actively participating in protests and demonstrations for a free and democratic Belarus since 1988. Bahinskaya has become a symbol of resilience and determination in the face of authoritarianism.
In this short film, Nina Bahinskaya speaks about her principles, her background, the future of Belarus, and what motivates her to persist after years of resistance.
“The first time I attended a protest rally was long ago, more than 30 years back,” Nina recalls. There was a large-scale rally in 1988, dedicated to the Belarusian national holiday Dziady. People came to pay their respects to the memory of genocide victims of the 1930s in Kurapaty.
Lukashenko is afraid because Kurapaty represents the truth. That is the truth about Stalinist repression of the 1930s that took place in Belarus. Lukashenko understands that people who have risen en masse will overthrow his dictatorial rule the same way the Soviet dictatorship was toppled.
Nina has unexpectedly gained popularity after the events in Ukraine in 2014. Subsequently, she faced increased persecution due to her activism. In the following years the authorities even started taking away a part of her pension towards fines. Nina calculated that in total the fines amounted to some $16,000.
“I feel confident in my actions. I defeat them because I uphold the good while they uphold the evil,” she declares with certainty.
When the war in Ukraine began in 2014 they started taking land from people like Nina Bahinskaya. Her property became a target, followed by attempts to seize her dacha and land. Nina remembers planting a fir tree as a tribute to her grandchildren when her granddaughter Yana was one year old and her daughter Alesia was expecting her second child. “As long as I’m alive, I will come here. Whoever takes it, I don’t care, I’ll still go there and pick berries anyway,” she declared aloud. However, on November 11, 2022, Nina’s dacha was sold at an auction.
In her youth, it was Nina’s grandmother who raised her, instilling those human values that resonated in her mind, heart, and soul. Despite the school promoting the virtues of being a pioneer or joining the Komsomol, she was already aware that it was an ideological falsehood, as her home life had taught her differently.
Upon completing her studies in Ivano-Frankivsk, Nina worked at the Belarusian Research Geological Exploration Institute. She loved her job and enjoyed participating in geological expeditions to the Pripyat Trough and conducting geological research work.
Nina has a passion for sewing and sews flags for demonstrations by herself. When the police started detaining many people in 2020, they started taking away her flags, 16 in total. She told them: “Don’t worry, I’ll sew more!”
Nina Bahinskaya’s iconic declaration “I’m simply walking!” to a police officer at a rally has gained widespread attention for highlighting the absurdity of the crackdown on peaceful protesters.
I am still waiting not only for a political rise, I am waiting for a national rise. After all, here, in Belarus, we have to discard that post-Soviet culture from our use. Because our nation will cease to exist if that post-Soviet culture and a foreign [Russian] language continue to prevail.
Despite everything, she believes that the truth and kindness of Belarusians will prevail. She thinks that they managed to reclaim their identity and language before in history, and may have this mission again.
The power lies in recognizing the good and spreading it. That is the true power. One can’t respond to evil with evil. That can only amplify the evil.
Only thanks to our culture and our native language our nation can continue to exist and not be destroyed by other nations.
Long Live Belarus!