For over a year now, the Belarusian opposition politician Maria Kalesnikava has been behind bars. She was in charge of Viktar Babaryka’s team during the 2020 presidential campaign and joined the opposition’s Coordination Council after the start of mass protests. Kalesnikava is considered one of the key figures spearheading the Belarusian protests.
In September 2020, Maria Kalesnikava was detained. On 6 September 2021, she and lawyer Maksim Znak were found guilty of conspiracy to seize state power and sentenced to 11 years and 10 years in a penal colony, respectively. In a written interview with a DW journalist, Maria shared her vision of the situation in Belarus.
Kalesnikava lacks everything in prison: air, sunlight, showers, music, her flute, letters, and communication, but she feels the 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 is guilty of anything, just like a large number of Belarusians currently in prison. She feels honored to walk the path to freedom and change with regular Belarusians.
Kalesnikava believes that it is high time to think about solving problems for the future, such as international economic relations, industry, civil society, and legislation. 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 to think about people who continue to live in the country.
Maria Kalesnikava has a lot of ideas for musical and cultural projects in the future. 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 establish a center for the socialization and rehabilitation of women after incarceration.