The Friday detention of the Belarusian translator Volha Kalackaja is yet another alarming example of the increasing crackdown on the creative community in Belarus, PEN America said today, and she must immediately be released and any charges against her dropped.
Kalackaja has translated books by Margaret Atwood, Virginia Woolf, Tennessee Williams, and William Golding into Belarusian, as well as providing translations for films and cartoons. Since the beginning of mass protests in Belarus, following the rigged presidential elections last August, Kalackaja has been supporting peaceful demonstrators in her neighborhood.
“In the face of persistent brutality, the people of Belarus have responded to batons and intimidation with songs and poetry,” said PEN America’s Eurasia Program Director Polina Sadovskaya. “Yet the authorities continue their relentless use of violence and criminal charges against writers, artists, and many other Belarusians who are peacefully protesting their government’s unlawful actions. The detention of Volha Kalackaja is the latest injustice; PEN America calls for her immediate release and for any and all charges against her to be dropped. It is essential that the international community not turn away from what is happening in Belarus. This repression is unacceptable and must stop.”
“It’s horrifying to see that the Belarusian government continues its cruel assault on those whose only desire is to live in a democratic country where their rights are respected,” said world-renowned writer Margaret Atwood. “It is particularly difficult to see my fellow writers and members of the literary community facing persecution. It is my sincere hope that Volha and all those unjustly detained in Belarus will be immediately released.”
Late Friday, Kalackaja was detained at her own apartment and was taken to a police station where she was told that a criminal investigation had been launched against her. Kalackaja could face up to three years in prison if she is charged under Article 342 of the Belarusian Criminal Court, which outlaws “organization and preparation of actions that grossly violate public order, or active participation in them.”
According to PEN Belarus, since the beginning of the election campaign in Belarus in spring 2020, there have been more than 600 cases of cultural rights violations, including against PEN Belarus members and staff. The president of PEN Belarus, writer and Nobel prize laureate Svetlana Alexievich, has faced continuous harassment, forcing her to leave the country.