“Dear President Bas, 
President Metsola, 
Dear Minister Baerbock, 
Dear Lord-Mayer Keupen, 
Dear Mr Linden, 
Excellencies, friends,

Yesterday, a journalist asked me what my children will say, when I return with this medal. They will probably say: Mom, did you win a competition? 

Let me clarify, this Charlemagne prize belongs not to me, and not to our trio – it belongs to all Belarusians. To Belarusians who have been showing enormous effort and dedication in their peaceful, non-violent struggle against tyranny. 

It belongs to Belarusian women, journalists, and fearless volunteers. It also belongs to every kid waiting for her mom or dad from prison. To those, who will never see their beloved ones anymore.

In 2020, Belarusians surprised everyone and themselves first of all. It felt like it was a national awakening after 26 years of coma. Hundreds of thousands marched in 40 cities demanding free elections. We have chosen freedom over tyranny.

Belarusians lit up our fire of freedom. Since then, our resistance did not stop for a single day, but went underground. You don’t see mass demonstrations: what demonstration can you expect in a GULAG? But every day we heard about a small protest, a graffiti, a sabotage action. The flame kept burning. 

Belarusians realized that their fate is in their hands, and no one would make changes happen for them. We also have developed immunity against dictatorship. We realized it’s our duty to make sure it doesn’t repeat. 

Belarusians also pay a big price for their bravery. Lukashenka’s regime used every tool from “dictator’s playbook”. If Orwell were writing about Belarus today, we would consider his books non-fiction. Arbitrary arrests. Torture. Kidnapping.  Interrogations. False confessions. Death Threats… 4700 years – this is the combined sentence of 1300 political prisoners. Just imagine: 4700 years of stolen life… 

For this regime, human life has no value. Last November, I spoke at the European Parliament and said that we don’t have another year. And it came true: we really didn’t have another year. 

Lukashenka unleashed terror against its own citizen, then he threatened European security with a flight hijack, orchestrated the migrant crisis. Just last week, the dictator signed a law permitting capital punishment for “attempted acts” of terrorism. De facto, this is a murder warrant. Shootings of political opponents are becoming a reality. Mikalai Autukhovich, a Belarusian enrepreneur charged with terrorism, could be the next victim.

You are probably tired of listening about the horrors our people are experiencing. Tired of hearing how two countries next to Russia suffer and constantly tell you that you are not doing enough. But I am not asking you to come and win for us. But I do ask you to keep the focus on Belarus. 

I am grateful for the unprecedented international solidarity. Our voice has been heard at the UN Security Council, the European Parliament, Bundestag and all across the world. As Charlemagne united Europe 12 centuries ago, we united Europe again. I couldn’t imagine seeing such strong solidarity with Belarus across borders and political divisions.

Today this unity is as important as ever. Your Unity is important for peace in Ukraine. Your unity is important for democracy in Belarus. Dictators are trying to divide the united West, to split the United States and Europe. They are trying to drive a wedge between the countries of the EU. They are blackmailing the world with hunger, migrants, and nuclear weapons. Sanctions on dictators should not be lifted because of blackmail. Putin and Lukashenka  raise the stakes and pretend to be the lesser of two evils. The biggest sanction against Putin would be Free Belarus.

I often hear that what happens in Belarus and Ukraine is the fight between the West and the East. it’s not true. It is the fight between democracy and tyranny. But it is also a struggle between past and future. Our people chose freedom and democracy, but the past keeps dragging us back. 

This evil past only wants us to be frightened and oppressed. And we, dear ladies and gentlemen, need to follow the examples of the good past. Examples of great Europeans like Robert Schuman, Vaclav Havel and John Paul II who truly dedicated their lives for the sake of our continent.

Let us be inspired by their bravery, by the bravery of Belarusians and Ukrainians. And let us ensure that dictators won’t make history again. The history and the future should belong to us, the free people of Europe.  

Thank you!”

Source: Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya