Behind each protester demanding fair elections in Belarus there is a story. A police officer who quit his job, ashamed of violence by his colleagues. A paramedic who treated victims of that brutality. An actor using his theatre as a backdrop for revolt, ready to sabotage his career to seek a freer nation.
This selection of photographs features protesters holding their personal tokens of resistance: flowers, a resignation letter, a musical instrument etc. They shared what motivates them to protest, as well as their hopes and fears.
Alexander Laubert, a student
18-year-old college student Alexander Laubert was among the victims of police violence in Belarus. He said police attacked him for having images of the protests on his phone.
Laubert says he endured two days of being beaten, trampled on, nearly suffocated and doused in gasoline before volunteers finally brought him to a hospital for treatment which included a leg cast. He now gets around Minsk on crutches, after riot police smashed his kneecaps.
Tatyana, an ambulance paramedic
Tatyana joined the protests after treating those wounded when police tried to disperse the demonstrations on the night of presidential elections August 9. “Despite what they (protesters) were subjected to, they didn’t respond with violence. They just want justice,” she said.
Mihail Zui, actor
Mihail has filed his resignation letter from one of the Belarus’s premier cultural venues, the Yanka Kupala Theatre. After its influential and popular director decided to support the protesters, he was fired and Zui quit in solidarity.
Valeria, a student
Alexander Ahremchyk, a former policeman
Alexander no longer wears his insignia and medals after quitting the service in the wake of the protests. “My resignation is a protest itself,” he said, explaining he doesn’t object to his bosses, but to “the unjustified violence toward those who were detained.”
Ales Varhamiev, a pensioner and singer
Ales brought his guitar to the Independence Square in Minsk to play the protesters’ anti-Lukashenko anthem “Cockroach, Get Out!”
Alexander Yablonskiy, a pensioner
Pavel Stavpinskiy, a worker and election observer
Pavel joined the protests after working as an observer in the presidential election.
Olga Baryshnikova, a student and a singer in a choir
Olga wore a traditional Belarusian national costume as she took a lunch break from the nearby musical academy and came to sing to the protesters, in a gesture of support. ‘I can’t sit silent at a time like this. I hurt for Belarus,” she said with tears in her eyes.
For Nikolay, his homemade Batman-style mask is both his protection during the protests and his statement.
Viktoria Bogutenko, refrigerator factory employee
Viktoria pushed past a picket line to make her evening shift, holding a historic red-and-white Belarusian flag in her own form of protest.
“I am against the current authorities, but I am not for this strike,” she said. Her voice choked with emotion as she described the importance of keeping the conveyor belts moving, for the sake of salaries and “ordinary people” like her.