“And you're disturbing public order by the mere fact that you exist “
Liankievič
Uladź
By BY_culture authors
Images: TUT.by, budzma.by, Alisa Achramovič, Aliaksandr Ždanovič
BE
Uladź Liankievič
“And you're disturbing public order by the mere fact that you exist “
By BY_culture authors
Images: TUT.by, budzma.by, Alisa Achramovič, Aliaksandr Ždanovič
Uladź Liankievič is a musician and author, for whom the world, perhaps, was not “divided into before and after” in August 2020: he was established as a creative person long before those known events. Uladź is the author of the book of poetry 70 % of water, he translated into Belarusian such works as Peter Pan, poems by William Blake, Apollinaire and Jim Morrison, he was a member of the bands TonqiXod, Eryk i Ja and luty sakavik. But after 2020 the experience of being behind bars in the prisons of Akrescin Street, Žodzina and Baranavičy city prisons was added to his worldview, hence "cellmates" and "guards" appeared in his new poems, while musical art experiments were temporarily postponed due to his will to speak out “here and now” all overPartyzanski praspekt[“Partyzanski Avenue”, the name of the biggest avenues in Minsk and Uladź’s new music project].
Uladź Liankievič is a musician and author, for whom the world, perhaps, was not “divided into before and after” in August 2020: he was established as a creative person long before those known events. Uladź is the author of the book of poetry 70 % of water, he translated into Belarusian such works as Peter Pan, poems by William Blake, Apollinaire and Jim Morrison, he was a member of the bands TonqiXod, Eryk i Ja and luty sakavik. But after 2020 the experience of being behind bars in the prisons of Akrescin Street, Žodzina and Baranavičy city prisons was added to his worldview, hence "cellmates" and "guards" appeared in his new poems, while musical art experiments were temporarily postponed due to his will to speak out “here and now” all overPartyzanski praspekt [“Partyzanski Avenue”, the name of thebiggest avenues in Minsk and Uladź’s new music project].
32 years ago I was on the march on this route for the first time
To understand how Uladź Liankievič’s personality was formed and where the prerequisites for both literary and musical activities, as well as the constant civic position, arose, you need to look at his childhood. Uladź was born in 1987 and he went to school when the white-red-white flag [Belarusian historical national flag, currently forbidden by the regime] was quite officially flying over the government buildings.

– When I went to school, instruction in Belarusian language was quite a natural phenomenon. Belarusian language was always spoken in my family. My uncle was a member of Majstroŭnia [youth free creative association in 80s], where he met his wife, they talked at home in Belarusian. My grandfather, a lecturer at BNTU university, switched to Belarusian in the late 80s, and on Sundays he read us New Land poem by Jakub Kolas [Belarusian national poet]. And polite words at home were never told in Russian – you could not get up from the table after a meal and say "Thank you, it was delicious!" in Russian, we only used to say "Dziakuj, vielmi smačna!"[the same in Belarusian]. I was lucky: I never questioned mynational identity. I was born a Belarusian and grew up a Belarusian.

Later, when the Russian language was introduced [as an official language in Belarus], it was perceived as a disaster in my family. The results of the 1995 referendum [which led to the changes of official languages and state symbols], the change of the state symbols… – we mourned it all at home. My parents asked me which language of instruction at school I’d prefer, because I’d had to go to a new class to continue learning in Belarusian, and I chose this path.

– For a big part of my life, I lived with my parents on SurhanaǔStreet, and the way to Bangalore square passed through my house. It’s probable, that at my first protest action I was present in a baby stroller – this was the Dziady-1988 manifestation. Fortunately, my mother managed to leave with me before the authorities began to disperse people. As a child I greeted the column with a white-red-white flag from the window. I was with my parents and on one of the first "Chernobyl routes"[the annual opposition march dedicated to Chernobyl disaster anniversary]. But now, of course, I don't remember anything from that. I suspect that my parents, like many others, eventually lost faith that something could be achieved solely by street politics, and after 1996 many simply gave up. Only my grandfather went on visiting to all the political events, and the family even joked: there is a representative from our family there.

I never wrote poetry in Russian, because it appeared to me that poems could only be written in Belarusian. My grandfather used to write poetry in Belarusian on holidays, and I grew up on books like Where our people came from by Uladzimir Arloǔ. We had a collection of poems by Anatoĺ Sys, which influenced me at that time. There is such a phenomenon when you have a book at home that your teacher does not talk about – in my case that was "Pan Lies" [“Mister Wood” in Belarusian by Anatoĺ Sys]. At the same time, I was already composing and singing songs as well as writing poems.

My father was a music lover, a rock'n'roller from the '80s, he swapped records [with other music lovers, a popular hobby in soviet time], played in a band, had a vinyl collection, so there was always good music playing at home. I learned how to pick up the first chords on father’s guitar. So it has never been quiet at our home. We used to listen rock’n’roll in the broadest possible sense – so called "firm" [the soviet term for a high quality music], foreign rock classics. In the 90s it was Dančyk's[Belarusian emigration singer] music cassettes, Palac [The Palace] and Novaje Nieba [New Heaven] bands recordings. We always appreciated Piesniary [soviet Belarusian folk and classic rock band], we had a recording of their Husliar rock opera – this is the music that "entered me" from early youth. Later Narodny Albom recording was brought home already by myself. The LP Cepieliny by Novaje Nieba band was very important to me, as well as the first LP by Zet rock band – it had such incredible sound!
To understand how Uladź Liankievič’s personality was formed and where the prerequisites for both literary and musical activities, as well as the constant civic position, arose, you need to look at his childhood. Uladź was born in 1987 and he went to school when the white-red-white flag [Belarusian historical national flag, currently forbidden by the regime] was quite officially flying over the government buildings.

– When I went to school, instruction in Belarusian language was quite a natural phenomenon. Belarusian language was always spoken in my family. My uncle was a member of Majstroŭnia [youth free creative association in 80s], where he met his wife, they talked at home in Belarusian. My grandfather, a lecturer at BNTU university, switched to Belarusian in the late 80s, and on Sundays he read us New Land poem by Jakub Kolas [Belarusian national poet]. And polite words at home were never told in Russian – you could not get up from the table after a meal and say "Thank you, it was delicious!" in Russian, we only used to say "Dziakuj, vielmi smačna!"[the same in Belarusian]. I was lucky: I never questioned my national identity. I was born a Belarusian and grew up a Belarusian.

Later, when the Russian language was introduced [as an official language in Belarus], it was perceived as a disaster in my family. The results of the 1995 referendum [which led to the changes of official languages and state symbols], the change of the state symbols… – we mourned it all at home. My parents asked me which language of instruction at school I’d prefer, because I’d had to go to a new class to continue learning in Belarusian, and I chose this path.

– For a big part of my life, I lived with my parents on Surhanaǔ Street, and the way to Bangalore square passed through my house. It’s probable, that at my first protest action I was present in a baby stroller – this was the Dziady-1988 manifestation. Fortunately, my mother managed to leave with me before the authorities began to disperse people. As a child I greeted the column with a white-red-white flag from the window. I was with my parents and on one of the first "Chernobyl routes"[the annual opposition march dedicated to Chernobyl disaster anniversary]. But now, of course, I don't remember anything from that. I suspect that my parents, like many others, eventually lost faith that something could be achieved solely by street politics, and after 1996 many simply gave up. Only my grandfather went on visiting to all the political events, and the family even joked: there is a representative from our family there.

I never wrote poetry in Russian, because it appeared to me that poems could only be written in Belarusian. My grandfather used to write poetry in Belarusian on holidays, and I grew up on books like Where our people came from by Uladzimir Arloǔ. We had a collection of poems by Anatoĺ Sys, which influenced me at that time. There is such a phenomenon when you have a book at home that your teacher does not talk about – in my case that was "Pan Lies" [“Mister Wood” in Belarusian by Anatoĺ Sys]. At the same time, I was already composing and singing songs as well as writing poems.

My father was a music lover, a rock'n'roller from the '80s, he swapped records [with other music lovers, a popular hobby in soviet time], played in a band, had a vinyl collection, so there was always good music playing at home. I learned how to pick up the first chords on father’s guitar. So it has never been quiet at our home. We used to listen rock’n’roll in the broadest possible sense – so called "firm" [the soviet term for a high quality music], foreign rock classics. In the 90s it was Dančyk's[Belarusian emigration singer] music cassettes, Palac [The Palace] and Novaje Nieba [New Heaven] bands recordings. We always appreciated Piesniary [soviet Belarusian folk and classic rock band], we had a recording of their Husliar rock opera – this is the music that "entered me" from early youth. Later Narodny Albom recording was brought home already by myself. The LP Cepieliny by Novaje Nieba band was very important to me, as well as the first LP by Zet rock band – it had such incredible sound!
Pour the mountains [of ground], pour them!
Shortly after the release of the book of poetry 70% of water by Uladź Liankievič, the debut LP record of his band TonqiXod was released. At the time of it’s appearance, the band was already rehearsing hard. According to Liankievič, to a large extent it was through the band and music that people got to know and bought his book, which was awarded the Maksim Bahdanovič Debut Award in 2014.
Maksim Subač and I met during our first years at the university. We hung out at the same rehearsal point with different bands, and he didn't really like the music I played since high school. But at a certain point my project fell apart, it also didn't work out with the Maksim's project at the same time, so he now only had the cover band Ty nie ǔ Čykaha, dzietka [“You are not in Chicago, babe”]. So we decided to take part in Bardaǔskaja vosień [an author song festival] with two of our songs. That's how it all started. Andrej Aliaksiejenka, who played with Maksim before that, joined us then. Our music was well received by the critics, and I think a fair portion of the TonqiXod audience were actually musicians just like us. Only they didn't play this kind of music, because they were convinced that no one would listen to it.


Maksim Subač and I met during our first years at the university. We hung out at the same rehearsal point with different bands, and he didn't really like the music I played since high school. But at a certain point my project fell apart, it also didn't work out with the Maksim's project at the same time, so he now only had the cover band Ty nie ǔ Čykaha, dzietka [“You are not in Chicago, babe”]. So we decided to take part in Bardaǔskaja vosień [an author song festival] with two of our songs. That's how it all started. Andrej Aliaksiejenka, who played with Maksim before that, joined us then. Our music was well received by the critics, and I think a fair portion of the TonqiXod audience were actually musicians just like us. Only they didn't play this kind of music, because they were convinced that no one would listen to it.
The guys with no musical high-end education, almost amateur students, decided to play fancy music, although, perhaps, they did not know how, but they were highly interested in it.
— One of the reasons why TonqiXod band ended its existence is that this primary impulse and desire for pure creativity somehow encountered not much of feedback from listeners and had little demand. It became less fun, and the euphoria of the first years disappeared.
We live in the world of a social networks’ feed
— It was precisely because I tried not to reflect too much but to come up with something new that the collapse of TonqiXod band was easier to live through. Also we had previously thought about doing something as a side project with Eryk Arloǔ-Šymkus. And he is a fan of the concept of simultaneously run projects: somewhere he plays baroque music, somewhere it’s electronic music, somewhere he improvises with Viktar Siamaška... We live in the world of a social networks’ feed where you meet all styles of things. Somewhere you make sad slow songs, somewhere electronic and funny ones, here you write your own literature, and here you translate – and this multiplicity of manifestations of yourself helps me personally a lot.

In the current conditions in Belarus, I chose this approach for myself, because I am interested in working with different people who have different skills than I, and together we can make an original product.
Eryk Arloǔ-Šymkus – a kupalaviec [a nickname for Janka Kupala Theater actors], musician in Harotnica mix and luty sakavik bands.

Eryk was detained at the march on October 25, 2020.

When he was detained, he was beaten with batons and marked with a marker [this was used to be done by Belarusian policemen to mark the persons to be worse treated and harder beaten later], and the heating was turned off in the cell. He came out of the prison of Akrescin Street in the status of a suspect in a criminal case.
Eryk Arloǔ-Šymkus – a kupalaviec [a nickname for Janka Kupala Theater actors], musician in Harotnica mix and luty sakavik bands.

Eryk was detained at the march on October 25, 2020.

When he was detained, he was beaten with batons and marked with a marker [this was used to be done by Belarusian policemen to mark the persons to be worse treated and harder beaten later], and the heating was turned off in the cell. He came out of the prison of Akrescin Street in the status of a suspect in a criminal case.
Eryk i Ja [Eryk & I] is a live project. We are constantly discussing how we will start recording new material. And we still like everything we do. The project is unusual, in some ways it’s closer to TonqiXod with its certain eccentricity. Not a “verse-chorus format” music, but more experimental, made only with the use of electronics. So far there are only raw demos.
But somehow we had a thought that we should make a minimal wave EP with the songs in a "two verses – two choruses" format. That’s how luty sakavik came to existence. I wrote all the texts for the EP (and even more) in 50 minutes, while my wife and I were sitting in a cafe in Mahilioǔ, waiting for our family.
But these projects were not very suitable for a quick and direct message in 2020, since the lyrical hero of Eryk i Ja songs is reasonable, contemplative, self-directed. And luty sakavik tells about the relationship in the couple. Potentially, it was possible to do something on an actual topic within the framework of this two projects, but something sharp and concise was needed at that moment, without any frills in the musical plan, so that nothing was superfluous. To some extent a diary in songs. Songs to cheer yourself and those around you.
To speak out about what is happening
Partyzanski praspekt is a joint project with Roman Žarabcoǔ (member of SnopSnoŭ band). Right, that’s another side project formed due to the events of 2020. There was a desire to write urgent songs and record them without any delays, in order to release them as quickly as possible, as I wanted to speak out about what was happening around me quickly.
Arrested not as a creative person, but as a citizen
— Let's just say that I witnessed all the events that took place after August 9, 2020. Like everyone else, I witnessed falsifications [during the presidential election]. At our polling station, a man who was an official observer came out and said: "I saw the piles, not the protocol data, the stack for Sviatlana Cichanoǔskaja [also spelled Tsikhanouskaya; an opposition candidate] was 4-5 times larger, and the official figures are lies." It was not clear what to do, but the primary impulse was to speak out, to show our civil position. And I'm glad so many people did.

In fact, I was arrested not as a creative person, but as a citizen. Although I also performed in the yards and neighborhoods [a popular form of a free citizens’ political activity during 2020]. It just so happened.

The first time I was detained, it was the end of a so called “mild period” – it was the beginning of September 2020. The system pretended that August 9-11. did not happen. And when I was transferred from the prison of Akrescin Street to Žodzina city prison, there were such "witty" comments from employees there: "Well, did they beat you? Cause I heard so much that I'm afraid to go to work myself." Then there was a mattress with linen in the cell all day long, you were allowed to lie down, there was food and water, even the lights were turned off at night. Frightened by their cruelty, they were “nice” at that particular moment.

The trial was certainly funny, it was held via Skype: no one really listens to you. I then realized that exactly in those days in Akrescin prison, the propagandist Azaronak filmed his story, because I remembered the only day when they gave us a decent pickle.

In September, everything was more or less close to the "normal" conditions, except for the fact that we were detained with violations, and witnesses lied at the trial.
— Let's just say that I witnessed all the events that took place after August 9, 2020. Like everyone else, I witnessed falsifications [during the presidential election]. At our polling station, a man who was an official observer came out and said: "I saw the piles, not the protocol data, the stack for Sviatlana Cichanoǔskaja [also spelled Tsikhanouskaya; an opposition candidate] was 4-5 times larger, and the official figures are lies." It was not clear what to do, but the primary impulse was to speak out, to show our civil position. And I'm glad so many people did.

In fact, I was arrested not as a creative person, but as a citizen. Although I also performed in the yards and neighborhoods [a popular form of a free citizens’ political activity during 2020]. It just so happened.

The first time I was detained, it was the end of a so called “mild period” – it was the beginning of September 2020. The system pretended that August 9-11. did not happen. And when I was transferred from the prison of Akrescin Street to Žodzina city prison, there were such "witty" comments from employees there: "Well, did they beat you? Cause I heard so much that I'm afraid to go to work myself." Then there was a mattress with linen in the cell all day long, you were allowed to lie down, there was food and water, even the lights were turned off at night. Frightened by their cruelty, they were “nice” at that particular moment.

The trial was certainly funny, it was held via Skype: no one really listens to you. I then realized that exactly in those days in Akrescin prison, the propagandist Azaronak filmed his story, because I remembered the only day when they gave us a decent pickle.

In September, everything was more or less close to the "normal" conditions, except for the fact that we were detained with violations, and witnesses lied at the trial.
A month later, I was "overwhelmed" by the realization that this should not be the case. This is how the later series of poems came about
A month later, I was "overwhelmed" by the realization that this should not be the case. This is how the later series of poems came about
– The second time I was detained on Šaŭčenka Boulevard, although then I actually did not participate in anything. I simply missed the manifestation. And if I knew that there was some local movement there, I would have really taken the flag with me. I was just going to visit my sister. They grabbed me at the entrance, I even managed to dial the apartment on the intercom.

Those 15 days were more difficult for me psychologically and physically, because when you are grabbed like this near the house, the sense of injustice becomes more acute than at the protest action, where you went, realizing the risks.

Each detention center has its own specific day for a transfer [of products and goods from a family]. You are taken and transported to Žodzina or Baranavičy city prison from the prison of Akrescin Street in Minsk the next day after the "transfer day", and you wait a week without receiving necessary things. So that it turns out that you have been without necessary things for a week. But I was lucky: they put me in a “habitable” cell in Baranavičy, so it was more or less ok, although they forced us to twist the mattresses, and the lights were not turned off at night. Some of the detainees were thrown out into the "pradol" (a corridor), the employees came with dogs — this was called "petting the dog": there was shouting, barking, people had to stay in unnatural specific poses, the jailers slapped just near the head with sticks... Our camera was considered "good", but at some point we had a global "shmon" [a soviet and Russian term for a raid or search], they took away some things that we had already used for two weeks. Apparently, another "boss" has arrived. As one of the "corridor men" philosophically said: "Well, you see, the rules are constantly changing..."
They basically try to intimidate all the time while you wait for the trial: "You’re finished, you’ll get full experience, you’re dead!" I remembered how the shift supervisor shouted, "Do you know it's all a criminal case?!" And I stand in the corridor and think: "Well, why are you shouting? The verdict will be announced by the judge. Of course, he is not going to acquit me, but whatever you shout here, the verdict does not depend on you. You are just a man in the corridor of Akrescin Street prison." Of course, I personally didn't annoy them once again. After all, what kind of dialogue can there be between a person in handcuffs and a person with a stick?

My experience can hardly be called extraordinary. I am not the biggest martyr, because I have not spent months in jail, although no one in our country is insured against this. What happened, of course, changed me and all of us, and the future will show exactly how.
They basically try to intimidate all the time while you wait for the trial: "You’re finished, you’ll get full experience, you’re dead!" I remembered how the shift supervisor shouted, "Do you know it's all a criminal case?!" And I stand in the corridor and think: "Well, why are you shouting? The verdict will be announced by the judge. Of course, he is not going to acquit me, but whatever you shout here, the verdict does not depend on you. You are just a man in the corridor of Akrescin Street prison." Of course, I personally didn't annoy them once again. After all, what kind of dialogue can there be between a person in handcuffs and a person with a stick?

My experience can hardly be called extraordinary. I am not the biggest martyr, because I have not spent months in jail, although no one in our country is insured against this. What happened, of course, changed me and all of us, and the future will show exactly how.
The nineties are back
– The way I try to live and what I try to do hinders and irritates people of the system, the state, the repressive apparatus. It gives me the strength to know that I have to be who I am. Contrary to what they would not want. They dream that I either go away or shut up and play by their rules in everything. But creativity is a space where I do as I see fit. This, in fact, gives inspiration.

We were threatened by the propaganda all the time that if changes in politics took place in the country, the so called rakish 90s would return – and I think they just returned already. In my life, except in my childhood, which fell on the 90s, there were no such fears as now. When you need to beware of some unknown thugs on the streets, when before going out on the porch, you look in the peephole, when you are constantly wary. Twenty years are as if stolen from life.

But faith in humanity returned. Let's just say, I lived for a long time in the microcosm I created and, so as not to spoil my mood, just did not think what was happening outside. But this year has shown me that there are many people in Belarus, and they retain their dignity. This is very cool! I am glad that they are my compatriots. Now I know what it's like to accidentally meet a stranger on the street and look with solidarity at each other.

The experience of performing in the neighborhoods showed me people who heard Belarusian musicians for the first time, although before they didn't even think about whether we existed [because they were only interested in Russian culture before]. The unique atmosphere of marches and neighborhood performances remains in the memory of one of the most precious memories.

Belarusian musicians, I suppose, felt ashamed and discouraged for some time, say, Belarusian music is of poor quality in terms of recording. But we are not able to do today as they do in New York or London, for this we need a fifty-year-old industry with a lot of money. But gradually the musicians understood how to work to achieve maximum quality, if you really want it. And the acceptable quality of the sound was shown to us in 2010s (especially by young indie bands), and after that, it seems, everyone somehow "exhaled", say, we can make it too. And at the same time everyone understood: if there is no interesting material, presentation and artist in the first place, it will be a perfectly recorded soulless shit. Therefore, everyone began to treat everything easier, because it makes no sense to compete with, say, London. If the creative work works [for our audience] – that’s great!

I agree that everything has already happened: Belarusians, despite the atmosphere in which they were brought up for generations, finally gathered and declared themselves. Nobody thought that people would come out on August 9-11. But they came out to say: the authorities are talking bullshit again. For some it was the first time, but people declared, that they exist. Even if, perhaps, we’ll have to continue to live with this total deception. I don't know what will happen next, but the main thing has come true. What happened cannot be rolled back.