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This One is for Belarus

A picture of the author in the Jewish school in Belarus, not long before the emigration. In the background: the flag of free Belarus(before Lukashenko changed it), and the flag of Israel. Photo courtesy of the author.
A picture of the author in the Jewish school in Belarus, not long before the emigration. In the background: the flag of free Belarus(before Lukashenko changed it), and the flag of Israel. Photo courtesy of the author.
The reason why I take what’s happening in Ukraine so close to heart is that it’s all interconnected: the intergenerational trauma of Nazi invasion, Stalin’s purges, Soviet tyranny – it comes down to what’s happening now in Ukraine.
I was born in Belarus. Even though I was raised mainly in Israel, where I spent most of my life – Belarus will always be the place of my birth, the place where my parents were born in.
Ukraine and Belarus are sister countries: they’re both located between Russia and Poland, they both have shared history on more than one occasion – be it as part of the USSR or the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. That’s why both of their native languages sound very similar to each other – a bit of a mix between Russian and Polish.
Outline of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth with its major subdivisions after the 1618 Truce of Deulino, superimposed on present-day national borders. (Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository)
One of the main reasons why we left in 1995, was because of the rise to power of the mad tyrant Lukashenko. My parents and their families had their fair share of suffering from Soviet totalitarianism and knew that there is no future for them and their children under such a regime – both as Jews and as supporters of freedom.
The price for that was high: they had to give up on their Belarusian citizenship(as demanded by the Belarusian gov’t), and their pension savings(more than 20 years of work). They quit their jobs, sold their property for a ridiculously low price(because they were in a hurry to leave), and used their savings for the emigration process.
In contrast to Ukraine, which was always well known as being a more rebellious region, Belarus was known as “the conformist one” – the one that accepts the rule of whoever controls it.
2020 was a historic year for Belarus – it was maybe the first time that the Belarusian people really stood up and took the streets. Lukashenko claimed that he won his 6th term in office with 80% of the vote, but the incredible numbers of Belarusian protesters quickly exposed his lie.
These were peaceful protests, not in favour of joining the EU or NATO, but in favour of freedom and dignity. Nevertheless, they were brutally crushed – many were murdered, beaten up, arrested, and tortured.
Putin – the man who now accuses Ukraine of being fascist and Nazi, gave full support to the murderous dictator in Belarus.
The only reason why Lukashenko is still in power is because of Putin – without him, he’ll be off with his head. This is why he allowed this fascist bastard to bring his soldiers into the country – so that in case there will be large protests again, these soldiers can turn inwards into Belarus.
Today Belarus is defacto occupied, even though much more quietly than the occupation of Ukraine.
Before 2020, Lukashenko was worried about Russia’s attempts to swallow Belarus whole – but now he’s completely on the “integration with Russia” train.
Before 2020, Lukashenko promised that Belarus soil would never be used for an attack on Ukraine, but today it’s literally happening, and it breaks my heart. It hurts me so much that I can’t even describe it.
How can something like that even happen? How twisted and horrific it is to use the territory of Belarus, against the will of its people, to attack their brothers and sisters in Ukraine. I didn’t ever think that I’ll see something like that in my lifetime.
Today there’s a “Belarusian constitutional referendum” that is supposed to constitutionally allow Belarus to house Russian nukes on their soil. President Zelensky addressed the Belarusian people today with a request to vote against this proposition, but I’m not naïve enough to believe that this is going to be a fair referendum. Not with the Russian tanks on their soil, and not when it’s supervised by the tyrant who shamelessly faked the 2020 elections.

But the Kremlin has already lost.

Putin’s foreign policy doctrine is the same as the old Soviet leaders:

He’s trying to get his way by fear and coercion.

The Kremlin used similar methods in 1956 Hungary, 1968 Czechoslovakia, and by proxy in 1981 Poland.

How far did it get them? The Soviet block eventually dissolved, the USSR fell apart, and all those countries that Kremlin tried to tame? They all switched to “team NATO” at the first opportunity they had.

Putin might temporarily succeed to create his new rebranded Soviet Union, but it wouldn’t last for long, because nothing based on pure coercion does.

He might take over Ukraine and bully it again into submission, but the Ukrainian people will never forgive this invasion.

He might annex Belarus by using Lukashenko’s illegitimate regime, but the Belarusian people will never forget who helped the tyrant that was murdering them.

Putin’s regime wouldn’t last forever, and at the first opportunity that they’ll get – they’ll break away from Kremlin’s grip once again and slam the door in its face.

About the Author
Born in Soviet Belarus, but grew up in Israel. Graduate of a bachelor's degree in Political Science from the University of Haifa, as part of which also studied International Relations at the University of Warsaw. Lived for about two and a half years in the EU (Poland, France, Greece), and was active in European Students for Liberty.
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