Ivan Shyla is one of the youngest political prisoners in the history of Belarus, his persecution began in the days when he was still a minor. What of those years, today, adult Ivan says? What is going on in life of this charismatic young man, coming from the Belarusian capital of mining, how often does he visit his hometown and how he sees his future prospects?
– Ivan, do you remember your youth in Salihorsk? Who supported you in this difficult period, when the administration, the school, the police, and almost the whole world was against you – then underage student? How were you treated by your neighbors, classmates, friends? How it is to be the object of repression in a small town?
– To be honest, I still have a feeling that it was not very difficult time. I was not particularly worried by the removal from school. I was 17 years old, it was spring, I thought then that everything would be fine. And all in all it was. Autumn on the other hand was not so friendly. Then many of my friends left town to study and without high school diploma I was not able to go to college and had to stay in Solihorsk. Then I went to army, and that was really an exceptional experience, I was bullied, and I was often close to tears. Especially in the early days. I could not come to terms with my fate. But then spring came, I survived several months on duty, the commander changed and everything was fine. Of course, to allow for military reality.
– You are known because of the fact that you became one of the first people charged under the article 193.1 – for participation in the informal organization. What role has played this fact in your life? Do you happen to thank your enemies for this turn in your life?
– The penalty was the result of my work, I was very active in the Young Front, in Solihorsk. It was definitely a beautiful time. We did a lot of things, we traveled, and met new people. That’s why I do not have nothing to regret. And of course, I am also proud to some extent, that I was tried along with many great people.
– Today you study on a Polish University. What plans do you have for future, in both professional and personal terms? Are you planning to go back to Belarus, to Solihorsk?
– I am planning to go back after the graduation. Just the period of studying is long. I Study public administration, and last month I defended bachelor, my thesis was on local government in Belarus. In the course of writing the paper, I realized how little attention is given to this issue, and how small number of authors and experts write on the topic. I hope that after my degree there will be one more expert.
– How Belarusian students feel in Poland? Do they stick together, do they speak in their native language, or did they give up to the global trend of the English language?
– There’s this funny cartoon drawing: first-year student hears Russian (or Belarusian) and goes to the people on the street to introduce himself and talk. The second-year students no longer responds. The third-year student being asked in Russian (Belarusian) pretends to know only Polish. My impressions of the Belarusian students are similar. People are assimilating, there is no element of “our”, of “Belarus” – that is, events, activities. There is a tendency to connect to people from the former Soviet Union, but I do not think that Belarusians are exceptions. Regardless of the language: Georgians or Ukrainians speak among themselves in their national languages and we use – Russian. And according to my observations Belarusians easily assimilate with Polish culture. And after a few months they can already prove in broken Polish that they have Polish roots, because their grandmother had Polish documents.
– Do you believe that Belarus needs vetting, or would you forgive your former oppressors, in case of victory of democratic forces?
– Of course I would prefer that they were held responsible for their actions. More specifically for the fact that they destroyed people’s lives, tortured, arrested. However, I believe that it is impossible in Belarus to held liable such a number of people. For the 20 years to the moment of election fraud probably a million people were involved. Therefore, I do not believe in a proper vetting in our country. It would be good if we could get published data proving that we were a dictatorship. And it will be a form of moral responsibility. Perhaps some will be sentenced, maybe some will be exempt from work. But it will not be a large scale. I doubt that Lukashenka will be ever held responsible and imprisoned for what he did. But that’s a different thing.
– You were not allowed to visit Belarus for a long time, with what do you associate Belarus ?
– Home, parents, peace of mind. Generally, I try to visit home more often. How I often say, I only live in Poland. I’m here in college.
P. S. Editors of Palitviazni.info wish to congratulate Ivan Shyla on the defense of the diploma and wish him success in further education.