Big interview with Yulia Yakubovskaya - wife of political prisoner Dmitry Konopelko

Belarusian authorities arrested Dmitry Konopelko on September 11, 2020, on charges of Part 2 of Art. 293 and part 3 of Art. 293 of the Criminal Code. The court sentenced him to five years in prison. Yulia left Belarus with her son at the same time. We talked about the war in Ukraine, life in Lithuania, and the future of Belarus.

- Tell us about your husband.

- My husband was so active. In the summer of 2020, our family lived separately for security reasons. My son and I were in a sanatorium when all this happened. The authorities detained my husband last (as part of the laser pointer case) when he thought no one was interested anymore. He had a few suggestions to leave several times to leave but refused. And then one fine day, he decided that everything was calm - we had not seen each other for several months by that time. He was then living at the Victoria Hotel and asked to spend the day with the child. And just at that time, they came to arrest him.

I had mixed feelings when he got in prison. On the one hand, it's terrible. But, on the other hand, many moments have disappeared when you worry about him. Also, I was upset that the child was a witness to all this.

- How do you communicate with your husband?

- Letters today have gone by the wayside. They reached, but I wrote through letters bel. I send a photo of the child, a few words. Now I know that they don't receive letters - only close people, sisters, for example, could write them But video calls have become possible.  He calls me.

- How long have you been in Vilnius?

- We've been here for a year and a half, since September 2020. We arrived on a humanitarian visa. They left not even because of a husband but because of a child. I only went with him for one march. But he was so fateful or something. By the way, I am against interfering with children in politics, but it happened by accident. So many wrote to me that I am a crazy mother. I understand them. It's not PR.

While we were on the march for the first two hours, the child memorized all the slogans. He shouted with everyone. And then we fell behind the first column and ended up on an empty avenue. We were about to go home when the child began to shout (slogans) - and other people began to answer. He was amazed and continued, and then the second column caught up with us. There were a lot of people. Hera was at the head of the column, walked, shouted, everyone repeated after him.

Suddenly dad appeared. He was also in the column - he heard the child and thought that the voice was similar to the voice of Hera. Dad began to take him in his arms, but the child, even though he had not seen him for a long time, said: "Go away, I'm busy here, I have a serious mission."

Some people shot, and the video went viral. I realized that I needed to do something because my friends called me. Then they contacted me from the kindergarten. They were interested when we would come to them. I replied that while we were in the country. And then they held a parent meeting without me, at which they said that they had sent this video to all preschool institutions and were asking for information about parents.

Then I saw the telegram channel MotolkoHelp, which wrote that police would deal with the parents of this child. I took Hera to my friends and went to the nearest embassy - Lithuanian, near my house. There was no one there, only a guard. I showed him the video from the march, but he said he didn't know anything. I left, and then he caught up with me. Then he called a consul. He looked and said: "Let's get the documents." I got my visa right away. In general, we left on Monday early in the morning. And already on Tuesday they came to my mother and looked for us.

- What about your adaptation in Lithuania?

- Normally, because the child and I travel a lot. I didn’t live in Belarus all the time - I constantly traveled on business. I am where my home is. Of course, I miss something from what was there. But you can live without it. We are safe, and that's the most important thing. Moreover, I see that I escaped prison. The child would be in an orphanage because the dad is in prison. So I'm infinitely happy that we left.

- Has the attitude towards Belarusians changed in Lithuania since the beginning of the war in Ukraine?

- It hasn't changed much. However, I was recently sent in a cafe in the same place as the Russian ship.  I asked to make coffee. The man did not understand precisely how. He did not speak English, but there was such a reaction to Russian. But I'm not offended. I know that these are emotions. Some people treat everyone with the same brush.

Belarusians today find themselves in a challenging situation - between a rock and a hard place. It is challenging for those who are coming now. I have several acquaintances who left because of political persecution. And they are a disaster. They are all dynamized. No one helps them.

At the same time, everything is still terrible inside Belarus. The repression intensified. Those detained at the actions on the referendum were beaten very badly in Zhodino, for example. Many people got hurt. In Belarus, everything is quiet. Very difficult economically. My mother lives from penny to penny.

In the next 10 years, Belarus will be a dangerous place because many teachers, doctors, competent people have left. They have now gone - they are under stress. They adapt. And then the question is how many people will be ready to return when the victory is ours. How many of them will go and raise the country from its knees. These transitions are not easy. Take at least kindergarten, school.

My child walked around the playgrounds and cried that there were no Russian-speaking children. Now it's normal - he goes to a Russian-speaking kindergarten. I don't see any discrimination. Although the first teacher constantly called me and complained that Hera spoke out on political topics. And he said that lukashenka is a bandit. "How can he say that when many people support lukashenka (in Lithuania)?" I answered that if many people are in favor, show them to me. I will buy them a ticket to Belarus. We are in a free country. If he has such an opinion, let him calmly express it. He saw his father arrested in front of him.

- Do you feel guilty that troops are coming from the Belarusian side and shelling Ukraine with rockets?

- I have only regret. We were selectively grown with "terpils" and such silent ones for a long time. I want to compare it with the situation in the family. When there is some authoritarian father who uses harsh methods.  lukashenka is a person who mocks a sadist. In the 20th year, our people reached some adulthood. When it is not scary anymore. A huge mistake on lukashenka's part was to apply the old methods. He continues to beat an adult—lost contact.

Therefore, if we feel guilty for something, we close our eyes somewhere and do nothing. For a long time, they did not understand what was happening. But is it possible to blame a child whose father has beaten him since childhood? And then this dad went and hit the neighbors. I do not see our direct fault here. People were against it.  We have done what is possible. Like children who are not yet strong enough, fled to a neighbor, to another country.

- How will the war end for Belarus?

- There is no bad without good. Having overthrown the Putin regime, this is a chance to defeat the lukashenka regime, which found support in Russia. We must not be left behind. We have a large volunteer group in Lithuania; we organize buses. Volunteers-guys go to Ukraine twice a week to deliver humanitarian aid. I work as a volunteer at the "Razam" foundation. Now we organize charity concerts - now this will be March 26th. The РСП group will perform.

We supposed that this concert would be dedicated to the day of Freedom. But the plan has changed, so we are doing a charity concert—fundraising to help Ukrainians and volunteers who organize help.

- You say that with the departure of putin, lukashenka will also fall. Maybe, just as lukashenka sought refuge in a stronger dictator, putin will find help in China?

- In this case, this situation will last a very long time. There will be a North Korea. But I also accept this option.  Although these people are no longer young (putin and lukashenka). Either way, they'll be done soon. And the question is whether the system will change with their departure. If there is support from China, then it will be for a long time. I don't even want to think about it.

- And still. When will it end?

It will end very quickly in our direction or continue for a very long time. Now is such a critical moment when a lot depends on any little thing. To fight for Ukraine, people come from other countries. And for people to fight for Russia, they had to be deceived.

I am sure that everything in life rests on inner strength and motivation. Ukrainians have motivation. Belarusians also have a chance and reason. The Russians don't. They will now begin to open their eyes to many - for example, mothers who do not know where their children are. Here are all the videos of Russian soldiers who do not understand what they are doing in Ukraine.

I am sure that Ukraine will not lose - who else in the world needs to win more strongly? Nobody. I believe in this inner strength and that there will be partisanship, even if Russia occupies something there. Constant sabotage, if not openly, then quietly.

I loved Zelensky very much, even when he hosted Laugh the Funny. I discussed this with my husband: "He has such an immense love for an ordinary person. He is capable of something more. That's how he loves people." And now I look - he stayed, motivates people, and speaks. He does all this without any cowardice.  I like Ukraine, the Ukrainian language, and how they think.

They had corruption. When in Belarus say - what do you want, like in Ukraine? But this is the stage that we will have to go through. Ukraine is a few steps ahead of us. This period will be very painful, and the existing system will fight it. But it is dying out. The last flutter of a regime has remained in several countries worldwide. But it evolves out of itself—this feudal system.

- You said that Ukrainians united by defending their native state and themselves from the enemy. And what super-idea can Belarusians have? How can we build our state?

- I see that Belarusians have one big problem - this is the mentality. It took a very long time to form. When we are afraid, we begin to separate. It has always been customary to hide everything - our income, plans, and ideas. Make it look worse than it is. It's such a survival strategy. Once, it was appropriate.

I don't know how to get it out of our heads. Because even people who fled from Belarus and found themselves free, instead of uniting, swear endlessly. Pull the blanket over. Unfortunately, I see this all the time.

You need to forget about your ambitions and work in a team—this feeling when everyone came out in the 20th year. I caught him, and it was incredible. See the good in others. Understand that everyone is different and use it.

We need to completely change the strategy of raising children because our parenting is terrible. Parents and teachers suppressed children constantly. So since childhood, we do not know what we want. And when we grow up, we are required to make some decisions, and we forget how to understand what we want and how to get it. So we start with upbringing, with education, because it is complicated to change the brains of adults.

Do you know how Jews raise their children? What do the parents do if a child comes and has a deuce in math? We are looking for a math tutor. But the Jews say: to hell with mathematics. It is better to hire a tutor for the subject that is obtained. A person cannot be good everywhere - either he will be average or good in something of his own.

I believe that our task now is to collect the maximum number of Belarusians, find their pluses in everyone, and give impetus to development. These are some financial organizations, some crypto Belarus, decentralized state. Or take the Belarusians in Lithuania and unite, create, you know, such a demo version of the new Belarus, and then transfer it to Belarus. Or a scheme, or some significant people.

It is visible who is capable of what and who has what strength. And the most significant weakness that spoils everything is these squabbles gossip. Just imagine: in Vilnius, we have three Belarusian diasporas who are not friends with each other. Three! Can you imagine? For me, it's a shock. Some do not like others, the second hates the third, there are some persona non grata. It is my pain, but we need to do something because we do not treat it. And it's like a cancerous tumor can destroy any organism.

And the idea is elementary - to live better. Every person has it in their genes. So it is a question of evolution: to live better. To rebuild more towards positive and development, rather than whining and complaining that everyone owes us.

- How to help political prisoners today?
- I think that all this will accelerate, and they will be released soon. Not because someone will become very kind, but because a black swan will fly in. This will not happen because we are doing something, although it is clear what we need to do. It just happens to be some fateful story. I do not see any action, except for helping Ukraine, which would speed up releasing political prisoners today.
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