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Emigration

"If you love Lukashenko, you will fly." Maya Tsarakulava on how Belarusian emigrants are systematically deprived of their rights... all of them

11.09.2023

Belarusians who have fled the country are accustomed to expecting mischief from their vengeful state. Now they are trying to figure out how to avoid it.

From now on, you can only renew your passport from inside Belarus. Consulates no longer extend passports. Returning home means returning to prison. And this is not an allegory. Therefore, Belarusians will be left without passports and without property.


Alexander Lukashenko
Photo: Reuters

New Deadline

For Belarusian emigrants, there is a new game: asking each other about their passport's expiry date. Another joke, only understood by us. If you have fled the country, you can no longer renew it. No documents, no rights - all your life is just a joke.

Anyone planning to sell their apartments or houses, will have to forget about their plans. Consulates no longer issue powers of attorney. You can't return to the country to sell your property, and you can't write a power of attorney to a relative to sell it. Apartments, houses, cars remain a dead weight for the Belarusian state.

A familiar realtor whispered that up to a third of real estate transactions have recently been made through a power of attorney. Belarusians have lost hope of returning. Dreamers  long for an ordinary life.

They say this "suspended" property will be confiscated. It's hard to explain to foreigners, but in Belarus, there is a law against idleness. Citizens not employed in the economy must pay six times more for utilities than others. A scheme is emerging of how the apartment of an IT specialist , who escaped and who didn't vote for Lukashenko, will pass into the ownership of a police officer who beat the IT specialist and was loyal to Lukashenko.

"We can't schedule an appointment, we ran out of notebooks"

My acquaintance, a well-known artist, once respected in Belarus, fled the country in 2021. She escaped to Austria to her daughter, where, being a pensioner, she lives with her daughter's support. And she has the corresponding residence permit, this residence permit will not be extended without a passport.

Oh, this is a different story. How long she called the consulate, how the Belarusian consuls laughed at her: "We can't schedule an appointment" - "Why?" - "We ran out of notebooks."

They told her that she was on the list of those who can only apply for a passport in Belarus. Oh, these unofficial Belarusian lists compiled according to unknown laws, they are everywhere - when applying to a university and for a job, when deciding whether to take your children away, or whether to allow you to leave the country. And abroad - whether to let you into the consulate.

My friend, a respected elderly person, cried on the phone, brought a certificate that she had cancer and begged for mercy. And the consuls condescended, even recorded her - for the end of September. But Lukashenko cancelled this opportunity. Now my friend will be left without a passport and without a residence permit.

Another friend just wanted to sell her house. Buyers had been found, an apartment in Poland had already been chosen. Only a minor flaw in the power of attorney issued by the Belarusian consulate had to be corrected. But now nothing can be fixed. Neither she nor her two children will have a home in the near future. Apparently, they will have to start from scratch.

Without Rights

In what other life situations can people use a power of attorney? To remove children from a relative's apartment? - You can't. To give a car as a gift to your brother? - No. To deal with mail, a bank? - Forget it. You no longer have rights in Belarus. Not that you had many before, but here's your new quest.

Another friend of mine wasn't fast enough. She managed to process her documents, she left mother along with a power of attorney for her in Belarus. However, the term of that power of attorney is about to expire. So her mother is urgently trying to sell the apartment to her brother. A complex scheme that allows them to keep the property in the family.

There's no shortage of conversations among Belarusians about what to do and how to handle the situation. I inquired and my acquaintance explained, just as anonymously as all Belarusians - those who left and still have loved ones in the country,are hostages.

You tell the truth in an interview here, and there they'll come to your mother's apartment with a search. With all the Belarusian elements of a search - face down on the floor, furniture broken, everything messed up, confiscating cash and electronic items. Or they'll fire your sister from her job and put her on the list so you doesn't misbehave.

"Fear Follows You Abroad"

People have left, but they continue to be afraid. And my acquaintance, who left unnoticed on a work visa and doesn't appear on the lists, is afraid the most. Because she still has the option to return home to her sick mother, or to handle necessary documents. Mentioning her name is forbidden; I, as a controversial figure, can't take photos with her, and during support rallies, she hides her face behind a mask. Fear follows her abroad.

My passport is valid until 2032. My property is registered under my ex-husband's name, and he's an honest person. I have no relatives in Belarus, no one I miss. I only continue to fear the police, even the Polish police, but that will pass.

"If You Love Lukashenko – You Will Fly"

I am in Poland. Belarusians have an elected president - Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, and she has legitimacy in Poland and Lithuania.


Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya
Photo: EPA / UPG

Poland and Lithuania provide international protection to Belarusians as political refugees. There is hope that they will come up with a way for us to legalise our status. For now, Belarusians in Georgia or Austria are offered exactly that -  move to Poland.

One of my friends reads the open chat of GUBOPiK, it's like the KGB, only completely crazy. And someone from Australia writes to them, "Now I have to fly halfway around the world to Belarus for a passport because of these protesters." And GUBOPiK replies, "If you love Lukashenko, you will fly."

By: Maya Tserakulava

Cover photo: from author's personal archive

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