Written by Charles Meacham
It was with a bit of sad irony that Sergey Yenin would choose Independence Square to meet me. The 20 year old LGBT activist who now lives in Warsaw has returned once again to Minsk with the task to help organize and lead this year’s Slavic Pride. His goal isn’t an easy one. Officially banned by the Belarusian government, Slavic Pride is illegal, making those that plan to break the government’s ban criminals. But being arrested isn’t the worse scenario the LGBT community can think of. Belarus is still rife with homophobia and several death threats have been received in recent days. Having attended the Prides in Moscow, Sergey knows how bad things can get.
We duck down into the crowded Minsk subway and pop up by a small housing community made up of grey rectangular concrete apartment buildings. Sergey apologizes in advance for the state of Gay Belarus’ office, but money is scarce and a room in one of the other organizer’s flat is all that is in the budget. I am immediately offered a cup of tea and we begin to chat about our lives. It’s hard for me, someone twice his age, to comprehend the drive of this young man – what he has already done, and what he plans to do. The phone rings, and Sergey receives word that the printer of the first edition of the organization’s magazine has refused to finish the order due to a political sketch of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. I suggest to Sergey to leave the space blank, but with an explanation of the empty space. The printer agrees to do the job, and the deadline will be met.
We go back down into the metro to meet a couple of Australians here doing a film documentary on the Pride. The four of us then catch a cab and head to an apartment where Russian LGBT activist Nikolai Alekseev is staying. Having organized Moscow’s Prides, which face similar circumstances Nikolai has in his own words “A lot of experience in such matters.” The atmosphere in the apartment is relaxed but an air of uncertainty looms. Nikolai gives the Australian film crew an interview, and the room falls silent. His words are honest and inspirational.
The location of the Pride is being kept a secret until an hour before the meet, and the group’s main focus is now on having not only the most effective display, but the safety of everyone involved. When asked what he would like to achieve from Saturday’s Pride he simply answers “A peaceful demonstration and the right for discussion.” With Saturday only two days away everyone seems to be holding their breath and waiting.
To find more updates about Slavic Pride, here’s the link to the Gay Belarus website – http://gaybelarus.by/english.html