For over a year now, the Belarusian opposition politician Maria Kalesnikava has been behind bars. During the presidential campaign in 2020, she was in charge of Viktar Babaryka’s team and, after the protests began, she joined the opposition’s Coordination Council. Kalesnikava is considered one of the figures spearheading the Belarusian protest.
In September 2020, Maria Kalesnikava was arrested. On 6 September 2021, she and lawyer Maksim Znak were found guilty of conspiracy to seize state power and sentenced to 11 years in prison. In her written interview to the DW journalist, Maria shared her vision of the situation in Belarus.
In prison, Kalesnikava lacks everything: air, sun, shower, music, flute, letters and communication, but she feels care and love of people from Belarus and around the world. She does not in the least regret her choice to stay in her home country instead of going abroad. Maria calls her sentence absurd, because neither she nor Maksim Znak are guilty of anything, just like a huge number of Belarusians currently in prison. She feels honored to walk the path to freedom and change with ordinary Belarusians.
Kalesnikava believes that it is high time to think about solving problems for the future, such as international economic relations, industry, civil society, legislation, etc. She believes that the regime will not last forever and that even now there are forces (in governmental structures) that are ready for constructive solutions to negotiate a way out of the crisis.
In her opinion, the most important thing for Belarusians now is to stand together and not lose trust in each other. And for those abroad it is first of all to think about people who keep on living in the country.
Maria Kalesnikava has a lot of ideas for musical and cultural projects in the future. For example, she would like to make a museum of victims of communism, totalitarianism and other “isms” in place of the pre-trial detention center she is being kept in. She would also like to set up a center for the socialization and rehabilitation of women after incarceration.