Warsaw Culture for a Free Belarus

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Concert for a free Belarus
Author: Filip Jakubik

​​​​​​​The political situation in Belarus, as well as the migration crisis on the Polish-Belarusian border and the situation of people in extremely difficult circumstances, provoke lively interest among people of culture. Warsaw and the Capital’s cultural institutions stand in solidarity with the inhabitants of Belarus, supporting their aspirations for freedom and promoting Belarusian culture.

In cooperation with the Culture Department, we are striving, jointly with the Capital’s institutions and non-governmental organisations, to support those Belarusian artists who stay in Warsaw and to demonstrate in solidarity our disagreement with violations of human rights, said Aldona Machnowska-Góra, Deputy Mayor of Warsaw.

Teatr Powszechny will host special presentations of the stage sketch “Nastia” on 3 and 4 December. The performance will feature artists from Belarus, Poland and Ukraine. The December presentations will be held in Russian with Polish subtitles. Some of the Belarusian creators of the play were forced to leave their homeland after a wave of repressions and are now living in Warsaw on artistic residencies at Teatr Powszechny and other Warsaw theatres. On 3 December, after the premiere performance of “Nastia”, a debate will be held on the situation of artists and civic society in Belarus. The events at Teatr Powszechny are organised as part of the “We are with you” project which supports people of culture repressed by Alaksandr Lukashenka’s regime.

Also Nowy Teatr, TR Warszawa and Teatr Studio have some interesting proposals for activities supporting artists from Belarus and promoting Belarusian culture. The latter has provided work space for members of the Kupalaŭcy group, the former company of the Janka Kupala National Academic Theatre, the oldest theatre in the country. As part of the Theatre Institute’s residency programme in Warsaw, the Capital’s theatres have accepted artists-in-residence and hope to offer them an opportunity to further develop in Warsaw.

Warsaw was also visited by the “Free Choir”, banned in Belarus, one of the most important symbols of the Belarusian protests, where the choristers hide their faces behind masks. The September performance at the Warsaw Uprising Museum was a tribute to the Belarusians who, singing traditional songs in the streets of Minsk and other cities, protested against the rigged elections in August 2020, for which they were persecuted and tortured by the regime. “Free Choir” also sang during the Hippolyte and Ludwika Festival, organised by the Wolski Cultural Centre. Further performances in the Capital are planned, and the rehearsal space has been made available to the group by the History Meeting House.

Warsaw welcomes Belarusian writers. In April, we launched the first literary residency programme for writers, translators and literary translators with the Staromiejski Culture House, in association with the Literary Union Association and the Association of Literary Translators. The shortlisted applicants include two writers from Belarus. We are currently recruiting for the next literary residencies – for writers and translators from Belarus.

One significant element of support is the attention dedicated to Belarusian non-governmental communities and cultural activists. Belarusian NGOs registered in Poland can apply for grants in competitions organised by the Culture Department of the City of Warsaw.

The deputy head of the banned Belarusian PEN Club, Taciana Niadbaj ‒ a poet, writer and translator, currently living in Poland ‒ has accepted an invitation to join the jury of the Ryszard Kapuściński Award, organised by the City of Warsaw. The selection process for the 13th edition of the Award is currently underway.

A special Belarusian issue was prepared by Dwutygodnik (opens in a new tab), an online art magazine published with the support of the City of Warsaw. The latest edition features texts by Belarusian authors reporting on their country’s struggle for a democratic future.