Hanna and Yauhen’s Story, Czech Republic

Hannah and Yauhen in Prague

Hannah and Yauhen in Prague, 2013

Hanna and Yauhen´s Story

“We did not know what to expect. We didn´t know a person in the Czech Republic and we didn´t understand the language. When we arrived at the Prague airport, we wrote “alysum” on a piece of paper and went to show it to a nearby standing police officer. At the beginning he had no clue what we wanted because we were so nervous that we misspelled the word. What we actually wanted was to write “asylum” and ask for it.”

In 2011 Hanna and Yauhen participated in the wave of demonstrations and protests against Belarus president Alexander Lukashenko. That time Hanna was 18 years old and Yauhen was 21. Belarus was full of protests against the ongoing violations of human rights and basic freedoms and thousands of people were asking for a change. Hanna and Yauhen actively participated also in so-called “clapping protest” during which the protesters did not shout or sing, but they were only quietly standing in the centre of Minsk and clapping their hands ironically expressing their “thanks” to president Lukashenko. Unfortunately the protest was quickly interrupted by a brutal police intervention and a lot of participants, including Hanna and Yauhen was arrested.

Although Hanna and Yauhen had been released after few hours, since that time they did not feel safe anymore. The police and governmental forces began to systematically persecute and threaten them and their families. When Yauhen was kicked out from university because of their participation in the protests, the young couple decided to make a radical move. Pretending wish to spend their honeymoon in the Czech Republic, they obtained the tourist visa and asked for asylum immediately after their arrival to Prague. Fearing of the disclosure they hide all documents supporting their claim for asylum in their clothes.

The first months in the Czech Republic were for Hanna and Yauhen tough. They did not know anyone and especially the mandatory stay in the difficult atmosphere of the centre for asylum seekers in Kostelec nad Orlici was very exhausting for them. Fortunately, in the end they finally obtained asylum.

Currently, Hanna and Yauhen are living in Prague. They participated in a theatre show Vadi-nevadi.cz a few months ago and they are trying to build a new life and home for themselves. Using the same courage and energy as three years ago when they made the difficult decision to leave their home and emigrate.

Text: Sarka Ostadalova

1 family torn apart by war is too many

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