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Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya: ‘Volny Chor performances give Belarusians hope and energy to continue the fight’

Volny choir
©Council of Europe

In the framework of the debate on “Addressing the specific challenges faced by Belarusians in exile”, the Volny Chor today performed before the Parliamentary Assembly. Volny Chor emerged from the rallies arranged by the musicians of the Belarusian State Philharmonic in August 2020. Almost instantly they were joined by the members of other Minsk collectives: conductors, vocalists and choral singers. Both professionals and amateurs were united by one common desire: to stop the violence and return to justice.

“In spite of all the difficulties that these musicians have been confronted with, they are today here with us, and we are grateful for that. I'm really looking forward to seeing their performance, and can I end by saying that I really hope that as soon as possible you will also be able to perform in your own country, in Belarus, where you belong,” said PACE President Tiny Kox.

“I listened to the Volny Chor last year in Berlin and I was strongly impressed with the performance and their courage,” said Frank Schwabe, Chairperson of the German delegation and the initiator of the visit. “Its members risk prosecution and repression, and some of them live in exile. Nevertheless, they sing for freedom. They are a great example of ordinary Belarusian citizens fighting for democracy, human rights and the rule of law, the values that are key to the Council of Europe,“ he said.

“Volny Chor means a lot to me personally because one of their songs was written by my husband, Sergei Tikhanovsky, who sent his poem from prison,” said Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, leader of the Belarusian democratic opposition. “He was sentenced to 19 years in jail and I have not seen him for three years. The regime can imprison people but it cannot imprison people's will for freedom, their dreams and their creativity. Among thousands of political prisoners, there are hundreds of people of culture – musicians, painters, writers, and producers. The regime fights writers, artists and creators because it is afraid of them. But the power of art demolishes dictatorship more than weapons,” she said.