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TV journalists Natalia and Mikhail Maksimov from Minsk still remember clearly the day that was to change their lives. "Nobody expected that there would be so much violence on August 9. That such a gigantic massacre would happen." Both worked for Belarusian state television, including on the day of the presidential election in the summer of 2020. This time, the population apparently did not want to see the "last dictator of Europe," Alexander Lukashenko, at the head of state once again. Many supported the women's team led by Svetlana Tikhanovskaya. But Lukashenko had the results falsified and declared himself the winner. Hundreds of thousands of people from all parts of the population protested against this fraud and the arbitrariness of the state apparatus - something that had never happened on this scale in Lukashenko's decades of rule. His reaction: The regime put down the peaceful protests with brutal force, imprisoned the demonstrators, and had many of them mistreated and tortured. Svetlana Tikhanovskaya and other leading opposition figures were forced to flee abroad. But ordinary citizens who had taken part in protests or strikes against the regime were also forced to leave Belarus. Like the television journalist and her husband.



OMON kesselt FrauenThe story chronicles how the Lukashenko regime suppressed widespread popular protest and silenced the public. Author Irene Langemann met Belarusians in exile in Poland and Germany who recount their experiences after the rigged elections and provide exclusive insights into the actions of the power apparatus. One of them is Alexander Azarov, a former lieutenant colonel in the Belarusian police force, who switched sides after the elections and joined the BYPOL organization in Poland. This was founded by former members of the Belarusian security forces to collect testimonies and data on torture, recordings of telephone conversations, and videos with incriminating footage to store them for future trials. Former Belarusian Culture Minister Pavel Latushko also fled to Warsaw and is now one of the leaders of the opposition in exile. With his knowledge today, he says, he should have been at the forefront of the protests and ensured free reporting. "Because what shocked people when the Internet was switched back on was the lawlessness and violence. If it had been shown nationwide, it might have shaken up the whole country." Maria Kolesnikova stood up to the regime at the time, as one of the figureheads of the opposition. She was arrested and sentenced to eleven years in prison. Her sister Tatiana Khomich regularly reminds international politicians of the fate of the numerous political prisoners in Belarus.

SolidaritätMany of the Belarusians in exile believe that the peaceful revolution welded the people together as a nation for the first time. Until the ruler used violence to silence any criticism. The story follows the personal fates of the protagonists and at the same time the drama of the country. Moving archive footage and little-known images from private sources show what has happened in Belarus since the 2020 elections. They allow deep insights into the suppression of a democratic movement - insights that are particularly oppressive and revealing in view of the war in Ukraine.