What is Day of the Dead and what does a Belarusian refugee in Latvia dream about / Article

What is Day of the Dead and what does a Belarusian refugee in Latvia dream about / Article
What is Day of the Dead and what does a Belarusian refugee in Latvia dream about / Article

Авторская версия па-беларуску — here.
Авторская версия на русском — here.


Actions related to Дзень Воли (Freedom Day) will be held in more than twenty cities around the world. Among them, of course, is also Riga, where Belarusian political refugees have found their homes. A meeting with Belarusian writer and historian Uladzimir Arlov is planned in Riga.

I know that March 25 is the commemoration day of the victims of the 1949 communist genocide in Latvia. Belarusians understand the pain of the Latvian people and, of course, sympathize with them. During the Soviet repressions in the 1930s, the flower of the Belarusian nation was uprooted. Even today, Belarusians face persecution – now from the modern Belarusian regime.

I have already written about Belarusian places in Riga, which are related to the work of the government of the People’s Republic of Belarus (BTR) in exile, as well as about the interactive map of “Belarusian” Riga of the first half of the 20th century, developed by representatives of the diaspora. Activists continue to search for archival materials and piece by piece piece together the history of the BTR in Riga.

How did the People’s Republic of Belarus come about?

On March 25, 1918, in German-occupied Minsk, the Rada of the People’s Republic of Belarus declared BTR a free and independent state. The BTR Rada announced that the Brest-Litovsk Peace Treaty signed by the Greats and the Germans had lost its validity, and therefore called for a review of its terms.

The Germans reacted to the declaration of independence by expelling the BTR Rada and People’s Secretariat, but then banned them. However, the authorities continued to operate in Belarus, but then in exile. The BTR government is the record holder in terms of the time spent in exile. Even now, BTR Rada exists abroad. It is led by Ivonka Survilla, who continues the tradition of her predecessors.

In 1918, the leading institutions of the BTR approved the white-red-white flag and coat of arms “Pahoņa” as national symbols.

For the first time, the white-red-white flag was raised over the governor’s house in Minsk after the expulsion of the bigots from the city on February 19.

Belarusian was declared the state language in April 1918.

BTR Rada managed to gain support in many regions of Belarus and gradually expand its influence. Decisions on recognizing the authority of the BTR government were sent to Minsk from the district cities. Documents were received from Babruisk, Radaškovići, Barisava, Slutka, Nyasviža, Navahrudak, Koidanava, Rečica and other cities. Belarusian local radas advocated the creation of a single, indivisible Belarus in the form of the BTR.

Historian, author of the book “BTR Soldiers” (“Жавнеры БНР”) Alekhs Latishonaks believes that from 1917 to 1923, about 11 thousand people, mostly volunteers, served in the Belarusian military formations. A heroic episode of the battle for BTR was the 1920 Slutsk armed uprising, when the hastily created BTR Slutsk rifle brigade continued fighting with the Red Army for a month.

How long did the BTR last?

Active activity of the BTR Rada and government in Belarus continued in 1918 and 1919. The leading institutions of the BTR went into exile in 1919, they moved to Lithuania, Germany and the Czech Republic. In 1925, the Soviet special services tried to organize a liquidation meeting of the BTR Rada and the government. However, the chairman of the BTR Rada, Piatro Kračeuskis, and with him also Vasiļs Zaharka (BTR financial people’s secretary) remained faithful to the ideals of independence. After the Second World War, the BTR Rada and the government were restored in West Germany thanks to the new wave of Belarusian emigration.

What happened to the creators of BTR?

Most of the creators of BTR were arrested and killed by Soviet penal institutions in the 20s and 30s. Such a fate befell Prime Ministers Anton Luckevic and Vaclav Lastouski. Janka Serada, the first chairman of the BTR Rada, miraculously survived and was released from prison in 1942, but what happened to him after that is unknown.

Only a few BTR statesmen lived in freedom and left their lives outside their homeland – Jazeps Varonka (the first prime minister of the BTR, minister of the Republic of Lithuania for Belarusian affairs, buried in the USA), Piatro Kračeuskis, Vasilis Zaharka, Tamas Gribs (member of the BTR Rada, Belarusian newspaper “Rodni kraj” ( “Родны край”) editor (all buried in Prague).


Reading archival materials, reviewing names and dates, putting together the puzzle of the People’s Republic of Belarus in my head,

I realized that in reality we Belarusians, who have gone into exile since 2020, are repeating the scenario of our predecessors.

However, perhaps we still have a chance to influence not only our personal destiny, but also the destiny of our Belarus.

So – what do I dream about in Riga? In my life so far, the most pleasant memories are of the spring sunrise, which I met alone in the middle of the forest on the shore of Lake Drivjat near Braslav.

You can feel full support under your feet only in your native land. And I dream of someday returning home, under the skies of Belarus. And let none of this – no horrors – repression, illness of loved ones and death of friends, destruction of previous life, terrible and unjust war in Ukraine – as if it never happened.

Or at least not anymore.

The article is in Latvian

Tags: Day Dead Belarusian refugee Latvia dream Article


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