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Denis is a musician from Belarus. Like many Belarusians, he suffered the fate of a political emigrant. Now he lives in Poznan.

Denis, 23 years old

I was in exile for more than two years. It happened because in 2020 my acquaintances, people who were with me in the same sphere and activity, started to be massively repressed and detained. I myself worked in many places, was a volunteer, participated in various organizations. And my face was known to the special services. So there was a certain threat that made me leave. And it became a justified decision. In March 2021, my apartment was searched. They took my equipment and told me that I was involved in a criminal case. If I had been at home, they would have detained me.

I left in no hurry, I prepared in advance. Because I knew it could happen.

I chose Poland. I had friends here, it was easier for me to acclimatize and I had a place to live right away.

I was lucky, and I immediately moved to Poznan. Here I was more or less comfortable. I had a place to live, I had friends with whom I could communicate offline and not go crazy. So it was easy at first.

But then normal life comes and you start getting lost in it, you start drowning in it. You have to earn money, look for some options, get settled in a new place.

After a year it became hard emotionally, I started to think about returning home.

It is very important for me to stay in the context of Belarus, to know the news from inside. I really want to return. I know that it may not happen soon, and I realize that it will be difficult in Belarus. But I still want to be able to come at any time.

And the more time passes, the more thoughts of wanting to go home but not being able to. It’s been a year, two years, more. It’s much harder for me to go through all of this.

Denis. Photo from the personal archive

But there is the factor that many people I know have also moved to the city where I live. Over time, we created our own community, with which it became easier to stay in the context of my country. And it’s become easier to be with.

Our community is very good, super. We have activists here from the Youth Bloc, the Belarusian Student Union, a lot of creative Belarusians who are always doing something. We have our own Belarusian-style bars and a place where creative young people gather – cafes – so it’s very cool.

But sometimes it wasn’t easy. The worst moment and event in immigration was when I once fell into a trap. I was looking for a job online and I fell for scammers. And the scam ideas were done at my expense. But I immediately went to the police when I realized what was going on and said: “I’m fine, I was scammed, I was just looking for a job”. And basically everything ended well.

And the second unpleasant moment – I had an expired student visa, and it is not possible to extend it in Poland. I couldn’t get a humanitarian visa either, because according to their rules I don’t fit in…because I used to have a student visa. And I had some kind of collapse with my documents, which makes the legalization process more complicated and longer for me. So I got it and now I’m filing for international protection.

I’m the kind of person who can live when I have a lot of money and when I don’t have a lot of money. I’ll be happy either way. Mental issues are more difficult for me in emigration than financial or domestic ones. I am used to doing many things in life.

I’m involved in music. And this move has had a big impact on my work. Because for the first six months I couldn’t write anything. It was only by searching my house that I wrote and made the first song. And by summer I started to write other songs. That’s how the album turned out, which was released in the autumn.

There are moments in life without motivation, when I don’t feel like doing anything, when I can’t leave the house, do other things.

Denis. Photo from the personal archive

I would advise people in emigration not to go through difficult times alone. At least with the help of people close to them, and better to apply to a psychotherapist. I applied once and went there for a while. I recommend it to everyone, I think it’s a very important thing to do.

The experience in another country changed my outlook on life, yes, I saw a lot of new things in Poland. How people live here, what their mentality is like, how they treat certain issues. I would like to mention that I like how the infrastructure in the cities of Poland is made. Streetcars, buses and all public transportation are very convenient and allow you not to use cars, which is an ecological solution.

I like the openness of Poles, I have become a much more open person, communicative, improved my skills in this. There is no fear to ask for help when you need it, to help someone when you need it.