Dmitri Strotsev: Acceptance Speech for 2021 Disturbing the Peace Award to a Courageous Writer at Risk

The acceptance speech by Dmitri Strotsev was presented at the VHLF Gala in New York on September 23, 2021, by Olga Levina. Olga is the co-founder and Artistic Director of Jersey City Theater Center, an accomplished dancer, actor, and choreographer, graduate from Minsk School of the Performing Arts.

“It is a great honor and a wonderful surprise to receive this award from the Vaclav Havel Library Foundation. As for me, it was also a surprise that in August 2020, I found myself in the human ocean of shock and solidarity of Belarusians. The surprise was twofold – first because hundreds of thousands of Belarusian citizens came out of their homes into the streets of towns and villages to express the thirst for a new life, their artistic creativity, and the ability to self-organize; second, I surprised myself by my own voice which suddenly became one of many in this immense national force, responding on a daily basis to the pain and hope of rapidly developing events.

As an artist, I immediately felt the new acoustics of the Belarusian space and the worldwide response to the dramatic action that unfolded in my country. News sites were full of photos from Belarusian civil action and texts, including mine and my colleagues’ that were immediately translated into many languages. And here it is important to say that it was not the excitement of the sports fans who were carried away by a spectacular sacrifice; we felt and still feel the compassion and genuine support of our brothers and sisters worldwide.

Today, everyone knows the shocking facts of the brutal suppression of Belarusian protests. Physical violence – murder and torture, persecution of activists, crushing of non-governmental organizations and SME, more than six hundred political prisoners. Among those who fell under brutal and violent repressions are also humanitarians, people of creative professions – musician Maria Kolesnikova, artist Ales Pushkin, philosopher Vladimir Matskevich and many, many others. We believe in our victory; we know that we, who are craving change, are the majority. But we also know that new difficult tests are still ahead of us.

Unfortunately, the dictatorships of the XXI century demonstrate high stability during these times of globalization; they are benefiting from global cooperation and even receive immense grants from their ideological opponents. The Belarusian police cars are armed by Europeans, and Americans equip the special services. The Belarusian civilians have no effective means for military confrontation. Belarusians have chosen the path of peaceful resistance, where the main force is new ethical solidarity – over ethnic, religious, and party differences.

This choice is a great test. Despite the repressive actions, of course, we must preserve our integrity, divided – in the underground, in prisons, and in exile – we must not lose each other, not lose a living and active connection. And here, we will definitely need the experience of uncompromising dissidents of the XX century, such as Havel, and the help of modern creative individuals and intellectuals who are ready to share the surprises and hopes of rebellious Belarusians.”

The Vaclav Havel Center