"A Country to Live in" foundation team. Olga Zazulinskaya: "I must help those who remain"

"A Country to Live in" foundation aims to support and develop civil society, strict observance of law and legality, and, ultimately, building a real country for life instead of the terrible imitation that exists in Belarus now.

Starting this week, we will introduce you to our Foundation's team - people who give all their strength to the struggle for the freedom of Belarusians. Today we will tell you about Olga Zazulinskaya.

- Who you are? Where do you come from? What did you do in Belarus?

- I am Olga Zazulinskaya. Originally from the district town of Stolbtsy, in the Minsk region. I moved to live in Minsk a long time ago, got married. Mom of two children. Before leaving the country, I lived in the capital. For many years I worked in the field of trade. Recently, I have been an employee of a children's charity fund.

- Why such a change of activity?

- It was an internal need and it arose due to the fact that my mother, a cancer patient, passed away. At one point, I realized that this is my mission - to help people. I felt an inner need for this.

- How did you end up in Lithuania?

- I have been interested in politics for a long time - since 1996 when I was still a girl. But then it was youthful maximalism, everything was interesting. You get to know the world through this, you try everything. Later, after the 2010 Square, I was a little disappointed - there was such a depression, I was not interested in anything.

In 2020, when the election campaign began, I singled out several candidates for myself at once: Viktor Babariko and Sergey Tikhanovsky. I was impressed by both. Babariko is like a person who is deeply versed in the field of economics and says some right things. And in Sergey Tikhanovsky, I saw a leader for the people. He was able to raise a layer of people who had been motionless all these 26 years. I saw someone who could surely lead people.

When Tikhanovsky was detained, I thought that this could not be, the person would be released sooner or later, it’s some kind of surreal. When Babariko was detained, I realized that if we don't all turn on now, if we don't move on, we will lose again.

- Why do you think there was so much attention to the elections this year?

- I have something to compare with - I passed more than one election. I participated in them from the point of view of the opposition. What is "opposition"? This is a small part of those who disagree with the policy of the current government. When we were told in past years that we were the opposition, we agreed. It was clear to me that we were not the majority after all.

And in 2020, when I saw how many people were going to pickets to collect signatures in the regions, then it became clear that this was a new civil society that had finally woken up. These people are ready to go out.

The main trigger was the detention of Babariko and the ensuing forceful dispersal near the circus when people began to be beaten. Then I realized that the methods have not changed since 1995. Any disagreement with the actions of the authorities will be suppressed by force. I decided for myself that I was going to this campaign. I was actively involved when I saw that there is a single candidate, which, by the way, was lacking in the last elections. That's when I realized - we will definitely win.

I became an independent observer in the elections in Stolbtsy (accredited, but located outside the polling station). After the elections, I was a volunteer at Okrestin Street. I saw all the horror that took place there. Probably there I first attracted attention.

- Have you attracted the attention of security officials?

- I'm just a volunteer. I could not stand aside, seeing all that is happening in the country.

The first time I was summoned to Stolbtsy at the ROVD (then there were peaceful marches - I did not miss a single one and now I can freely talk about it). I was asked to explain why I take part in marches in the city of Minsk (I have a column registration). No evidence was presented to me - rather, I myself had to confirm that yes, I was participating. Then I was presented with a claim that I was a volunteer at Okrestin Street.

I replied: “Sorry, I am an employee of a charitable foundation, I love cats, dogs, and birds. And here is violence against people - genocide, bullying, and torture. How can I be in the wrong place where my help is needed? "

- Why did you leave Belarus in the end?

- The further the process of struggle went, the more I was involved in it. I went to courts, wrote letters to the House of Representatives, did not refuse to participate in all the initiatives in which I could help. At some point, I again attracted attention - the special services realized that I was interfering with them. They came for me.

I was detained near the house. I asked them to introduce, show documents, explain what status I am in. I was shown such an impersonal document from the DFR that a search will be carried out within the framework of a corner case under Articles 342 and 293 (1, 2, 3 parts) of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus (organization, participation, financing of riots).

- What happened next - prison?

- Not. They carried out a search, took away some things, including non-working phones, and took them away for a conversation. I didn’t understand where. Then, probably, they just started to practice this - when searches are carried out by one (in this case, the DFR), and they are taken to another place for interrogation. They put me in a car. When leaving the courtyard, they put a mask on their head and closed their eyes. Only in the office in the KGB building was the mask removed.

- And they themselves, I wonder, were in the KGB office wearing masks?

- Not. And I easily recognize these people (laughs).

- When were you released?

- The conversation lasted 12-15 hours. I was detained at 2.30 pm, and early the next morning I was brought to the Central District ROVD. By the way, I did not understand what goal the KGB was pursuing and what they wanted to achieve by this interrogation. It continued uninterruptedly - the questions went in a circle, the investigators changed. Well, on the other hand, I told them about their unsatisfactory work in the information field (smiles).

The ROVD of the Tsentralny district issued documents for me that I participated in an unauthorized event, then they took me to Okrestin Street. It was Friday 20 November, earlier in the morning. The trial was on the same day. I thought that I would not be condemned: either they would charge me or release me. But the trial took place on the same day via Skype. I was fined and released. I came home and decided to leave at night.

- Tell us about the assistance of "A Country to Live in" foundation upon your arrival in Lithuania.

- I applied for help when I was already in Lithuania. It was difficult - no work, plus a hard lockdown in Lithuania itself. Such disorientation. I wrote an application and the Foundation helped me as a volunteer. Then I was offered accommodation in a shelter because I had nowhere to live. And then I got into the team of the Foundation.

- What are you doing in the Foundation now?

- I am the leader of a project to help political prisoners. We establish contacts with relatives of political prisoners, track the number of political prisoners, process applications that come to us from families of political prisoners who need help. Seeking opportunities informational support of people who collect programs. We do our best to help the families of political prisoners.

- What is the main difficulty in your work today?

- The most difficult thing is to psychologically endure all these stories. In order to understand people and help them, I pass every story through myself. Because it is impossible to stay on the sidelines. Because each person is a separate life, separate pain, empathy. And people need it. Many people write to me several times a day. I am constantly in touch with relatives (political prisoners). When I see that they don't write to me for a couple of days, I write myself. This is constant communication with people.

I don’t feel sorry for myself. If God helped me leave the country with all the difficulties (and the difficulties were very big), if I had such a chance and I left the country, then I must use all my human resources, do my best to help those who stayed. These are dozens of people. Soon there will probably be a hundred families with whom I am in touch. These are not necessarily those families who receive material assistance from us. These may be those whom we help with the programs. We also engage outside organizations when we know that these organizations will help on a specific issue. Then I contact, negotiate, redirect people.

You know, I’m not just a person who left the country before the elections, but now she’s sitting there thinking about something (about the situation in Belarus). I am a person who was on the streets, was interrogated and pressured through children, was in the IVS.

- How and when will you return to Belarus?

- How? Probably on foot (laughs).

And when ... When we put the regime down. The regime is not one specific person, Lukashenko. We must understand that this is not just one particular psycho, it is his entire apparatus, all those officials, with whose silent agreement all this lawlessness is taking place in the country. I hope this (coming home) happens this year.


- Belarus or Lithuania?

- Belarus

- Stolbtsy or Minsk?

- Minsk. I have been living there for a long time.

- Freedom or solidarity?

- Both. I do not share.

- Security or legality?

- Legality, because if there is legality, then there will be security

- Continue

- My Homeland

- Svetlana Tikhanovskaya ...

- A symbol of freedom

- Alexander Lukashenko ...

- Must go

- I agree. Thank you for the conversation.

You can help political prisoners HERE.
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