“I’m tired of being silent. I’m tired of being afraid.”
Svetlana Tikhanovskaya was born in Mikashevichy, then Soviet Union, now Belarus. She grew up in Belarus but spent many summers in Roscrea, Ireland as part of a Chernobyl children´s programme which provided recuperation of health after they were affected by the radioactive fallout during the nuclear disaster in 1986. Her time in Ireland helped her further develop her English skills and earn money for school. Thanks to that, she later became an English teacher. However, after her son was born nearly deaf and much of her attention and time shifted to him and her daughter, she decided to be stay-at-home mother.
She married vlogger and pro-democracy activist Sergei Leonidovich Tikhanovsky. Sergei Tikhanovsky became famous quite fast in Belarus by publicly criticizing the president of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, mainly on his YouTube channel. In May 2020, he decided to run for the 2020 presidential elections. He was arrested only two days afterwards. Furthermore, the Central Election Commission of Belarus refused to register the initiative group to nominate him. That was the moment for Svetlana to step up. She announced her candidacy for the president of Belarus. She claimed she did it out of love and to free her husband. In addition, she promised to free all political prisoners and introduce democratic reforms. Her main goal became the free and transparent elections and vowed to deliver them within six months after taking office.
Although, during her campaign, she gained a lot of supporters, she experienced discriminatory treatment such as questioning her abilities because she is female, threats of sexual violence or threats to take her children to state-run orphanages. This resulted in Svetlana sending her children abroad during campaign to protect them.
The presidential elections were held on Sunday, 9th August 2020. According to the Central Election Commission, Alexander Lukashenko officially won the election with 80.1% of the votes, while Svetlana Tikhanovskaya scored only 10.12%. There were serious allegations of electoral fraud and Lukashenko controlling vote counting. The elections were marked as neither free nor fair. Svetlana declared herself the winner of the elections, claiming to gain between 60% to 70% of the votes.
After the elections, Belarus ended up in a difficult situation during mass protests. Clashes between protesters and riot police broke out. There was visible torture, arrests and violence against protestors. After the elections, Tikhanovskaya left to Lithuania in order to be safe. Afterwards, she published a few videos on her YouTube channel. She called for the creation of a transitional council, which will handle the transfer of power from Lukashenko. On Monday, 17th August, she said she is ready to lead the nation in order to end the protests and organize free and fair elections as soon as possible.
Although, the future of Belarus is uncertain for now, hopefully Svetlana Tikhanovskaya will be able to start a new chapter for Belarus where discrimination and oppression does not take place.
Written by Mária Trubanová, WAVE Intern