‘In its early days, the revolution was a time of poetry’, writes the Belarusian author and translator Alhierd Bacharevič, currently living in Graz as one of its Pen Writers-in-Exile, the other one being author, translator and photographer Julia Cimafiejeva, also from Belarus.
And it is the power of poetry and art in general, as deployed to lend expression to this peaceful protest, that Lukashenko’s authoritarian regime has been cracking down on with increasing force, including targeted action against artists: publishers have been interrogated or arrested, books confiscated.
Most recently, on 15 January, the translator Volha Kalackaja was arrested. She has translated authors such as Margaret Atwood, Virginia Woolf, Tennessee Williams and William Golding. Last week she was taken away from her apartment by police and detained. She had been supporting the peaceful protests where she lived. The state authority has charged her with organising and participating in actions against public order, for which she could face a jail term of up to three years.
Margaret Atwood expressed her horror at this cruel assault by government against individuals ‘whose only desire is to live in a democratic country where their rights are respected’.
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, Nobel Prize laureate Svetlana Alexievich, has faced continuous harassment, forcing her to leave the country.
We demand the immediate release of our colleague Volha Kalackaja. All charges brought against her must be dropped. Repressive measures against artists and individuals engaged in peaceful protest violate human rights and must be stopped and outlawed.
IG Übersetzerinnen Übersetzer (Austrian Association of Literary Translators)
IG Autorinnen Autoren (Austrian Writers‘ Association)
Österreichische Gesellschaft für Literatur (Austrian Society for Literature)
Österreichischer PEN-Club – PEN Austria
Writers-in-Prison-Committee PEN Austria
ÖSDV –(Austrian Association of Speech-to-Text-Reporters)
UNIVERSITAS Austria (Austrian Interpreters’ and Translators’ Association)
Kulturvermittlung Steiermark, Graz
Internationales Haus der Autor:innen Graz (International House of Writers)