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Ales did not want to leave Belarus. And then he was given 3 years of “chemistry” – and the guy realised that it was impossible to continue the struggle at home. So Ales found himself in Ukraine, where the war caught up with him instead of the Belarusian colony. About “Kyiv in three days”, work in hot spots and how not to burn out – in the new material “Not Today, Not Yesterday, Not Tomorrow”.

Ales, 25 years old

“When you see the consequences of war in reality, not on TV, it has a strong impact on the mind…”

In Belarus, I taught the Belarusian language at school. This later helped me with my work in exile: I translated and wrote texts for “Nasha Niva” and other independent media.

When the full-scale invasion started, I did not even hesitate whether to stay or not. I liked Ukraine very much, I initially believed in the Ukrainian army and did not share my friends’ panic about the imminent fall of Kyiv. Besides, I wanted to work as a journalist. I wanted to cover the events in Ukraine and help Belarusians who stayed there.

Ales, a photo from the hero’s personal archive

I did not discuss my decision even with my relatives: I determined for myself the risks I could take and those I could not.

Having received accreditation from the Armed Forces of Ukraine, I was able to work not far from the front line. One of the first points was Kharkivshchyna – right after the liberation. When you see the consequences of war in reality and not on TV, it has a strong impact on the mind. Next was Balakliia and Izium. And again the same feeling: the media gets a small fragment of the picture. And here you walk down the street, and those whom you meet – they have all faced this terrible reality, they all have very difficult stories.

I went to the interview and realised that I would have to work with a traumatised person. It works like this: you talk to a resident of a frontline town about remote topics (for example, how stores work) – and suddenly the character gives a real horror story. Yes, one woman was talking about trade and then in the middle of the conversation it turns out that her son died. In Ukraine, unfortunately, such stories are commonplace.

My thoughts are simultaneously with Ukraine and with those who are now behind bars in Belarus.

When the full-scale war started, I thought about what I could do to help. And I quickly realised that covering the events is one of the forms of struggle, and I can do it.

How not to break down? I think my work brings the day of my homecoming closer. And this, in my opinion, is not an information struggle – I would rather talk about unbiased coverage of reality. The task is to truthfully show the situation as it is. After all, truth beats propaganda.

It seems important to me that during the total blockade of information Belarusians see that these articles were created by a Belarusian. I get a lot of feedback, people write to me on Instagram, share their stories – this is the main motivation to travel to hot spots and do my work.

A foreign reportage and a reportage made by a fellow countryman are perceived differently.

We, journalists, are looking for points of intersection so that readers from Belarus could draw parallels: after all, Ukraine is close to us both territorially and historically, and there are always people connected with Belarus in the frontline and de-occupied territories. Through the “Belarusian trace” our readers perceive the events in Ukraine closer to their hearts.

What prompted me to travel to hot spots? It’s easier for me to experience these events. In Lithuania or Poland, I think I would be depressed. By the way, it was the same during the Belarusian protests: I was more worried when I couldn’t be on the march myself, I was worried about others. And now I’d rather be in Ukraine and worry inside than abroad.

Ales, a photo from the hero’s personal archive

“Life goes on…”

I got used to the war almost immediately, now it is a daily reality. The curfew is the most annoying: I like to work at night, go out for a walk with a cigarette, and I haven’t had that opportunity for two years. But I realise that this is for safety reasons.

In Kyiv, air alerts are frequent, but not everyday. I know it’s wrong, but I often neglect safety: for example, I don’t go down into the basement because it’s not convenient for me.

And the city mostly looks the same as it did before the war. Life goes on: stores, cafes – everything works, concerts and events are organised.

True, in some neighbourhoods there are demolitions from the arrivals, facades destroyed, windows blown out, and you often come across the wreckage of missiles and downed drones. And although all this is lost among the big Kyiv, it reminds you of the military reality.

I had no thoughts of leaving. I would like to go to Poland to see my friends, but I can’t do it because of my documents (my Belarusian passport has expired).

We are under two information waves: one is the war and shelling, the other is news from Belarus about arrests and repressions. There is almost no good news since the beginning of the full-scale war.

So far I seem to have everything under control, but sometimes I get down, I just can’t write texts. In case of burnout, I have special techniques to restore my resource: chess, for example. If I used to spend 30 minutes per game, now I play blitz – I can play up to 20 games in an hour. And it really helps.

What else helps? I love Kyiv and walk around the city a lot. Order and a good cup of coffee helps. Another topic is rearranging (I did it five times in a rented apartment). Making very, very small plans also helps: I often write out a task on paper for ten or more points. It is easier to work in this way, even if there is no moral and physical strength.

It’s important to give yourself the right psychological attitude as to why. Fortunately, our journalists know what they are doing it for. And it is worth remembering that.