Us and Them
Uladzimir Niakliaeŭ is a Belarusian poet and writer above all else. He is one of the leaders of the Belarusian resistance against Lukashenko’s regime. He was a candidate for the 2010 elections in Belarus, leader of the Writers’ Union, who, despite multiple arrests and threats to his life, still continues his fight.
This short essay, translated into English by Volha Zaitsava, depicts the ever-present collision of two worlds within one country: a constant struggle and unwillingness to conform to the ways of life that those without values are trying to impose on others.
It’s us and them. And Belarus.
Just like us, they claim it’s all they have.
To a random onlooker it might even seem as though it’s true. But at a closer glance – not really.
See, their Belarus is much too different from the one we call our own. What they make of their lives is not exactly living, but rather hunting. Something they could have perfectly done anywhere else.
Their Belarus is speechless, thoughtless.
It's absent minded and demented. It can be twisted in any way they want.
For them it aims for their gut. It’s their source of income, food and lust. It’s nothing but a place to drag out their wretched existence.
For us it aims for the heart, for the soul. For the truth and conscience.
Do we stand a chance to unite the two? Where can one start? We thought we could start with people’s spirit. With a higher idea of the nation.
They chose to start with basic needs. With the base idea of necessity.
Their billboards scream: “And we love Belarus!” But which one is it? The one where food and booze is all there is to life?
It’s not for us.
For when the silence falls, the sound of far-off hooves will be heard. And it will trigger the overpowering memory of a brave horse rider approaching Kreusky Castle. And just like an echo, old tunes will evoke deep-seated memories. Will move and heal the soul.
It’s something that can’t really be expressed or explained, something that comes from within. What is it? You might ask.
Where does it really come from? ...
I’ll tell you. Whatever brings back long-lost memories and overwhelms the soul IS Belarus, IS home.
Of course, for it to resonate in memory, one needs to have a memory. It can’t be someone else’s, it needs to be our own.
For it to overwhelm the soul, one needs to have a soul.
It can’t be someone else’s. And even more so, it cannot be the soul procured on a hunting ground.