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In 2020, Eugene started working in the civil sector, namely in the PEN Centre. A year later, PEN, like many other organisations, was subjected to an inspection by the Ministry of Justice and their office was searched. Eugene had to leave for Poland. He decided to share his thoughts about emigration with our editorial staff.

His story “Not Today, Not Yesterday, Not Tomorrow” starts a new section: “Letters from Readers”.

Eugene, 27 years old

“Constantly needing to prove that you’re not worse…”

It’s impossible to prepare for emigration. Just as impossible as preparing for your own birth or the afterlife. “You can only come to terms with it”, wrote Dovlatov in one of his works.

It feels strange to write, talk about this topic. In fact, I try not to think about it. About family, about friends. I never imagined myself wearing the mask of a migrant. It sounds loud, maybe even slightly pretentious, but be prepared to be disappointed, to be shattered by this seemingly mysterious reality.

There was no need to choose. Polish partners were ready to help the team with the relocation. Therefore -Warsaw became a city that welcomed. A choice without a choice.

From the very first minutes you will realise what it means to be different. Even if everyone you know tells you that you are the soul of the company: forget it, it doesn’t work like that here. It’s all new here.  A third-rate sausage has a better chance of getting off the shelf than you do of getting your own. You constantly need to prove that you’re not worse, that you’re just as human, even if your passport is a different colour. And no wonder, there are enough problems of their own here, and here you are on the taxpayers’ money to open your mouth.

Evgeny, photo “Not today, not yesterday, not tomorrow”

The first and most difficult thing about emigration is socialisation. Family, friends – everything you can’t fit in a suitcase, no matter how hard you try.Only after the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine did people whom I knew back in Minsk join in. The year before, I had to relearn how to “make friends.”

Besides, the new bureaucratic realities did not add optimism. Pesel and meldunek, which were already time to describe in songs, seemed something incomprehensible and terrible. And just looking at the prices of local info gipsies who offered to help with this, illegal life under the bridge began to seem even something attractive.

All this talk about looking for a better life. It seems to me that I didn’t understand the true meaning of a “better life”. A better life not because it’s good at home and better somewhere else. No. Better because it’s become unbearable to live here. Better means more or less adequate, human. That’s how you should say it: I left in search of a human life.

“We constantly have to do more than we can…”

I’m sure that most often people leave not because of a good life. And I’m not talking about young people right now. They have different motives. But even they didn’t always succeed: I personally know many who travelled through America, Europe, Asia in search of that dream. These people tried to fit in, integrate into unfamiliar cultures, alien mentalities, and build a new life. Half of them ended up no better than lace knickers. Beautiful, but very uncomfortable. And they returned.

Someone will say: at home, nobody cares about you either. I agree.  But at least there you’re a member of the community. You’re a full-fledged participant in this attraction called life. With a caveat: in Belarus, you are half-right. “Half”… we still have a problem with rights. But we’ve got a great deal with duties. I’ve always been disgusted by the inequality of these columns in contracts. By some Soviet coincidence, we constantly owe more than we can.

“Delaying this painful and unpleasant moment of departure…”

That’s why we often underestimate and deliberately minimise risks, especially when comparing ourselves with others. It seems like everything is fine with you, nothing to worry about, after all, you’re alive, you’re healthy. But it’s just a mask, tear it off – and you’ll understand the true reasons for your procrastination. Simple human desire to be at home. To be where you’re loved and expected, even if only by a couple of people. You don’t need much. And then, you do your best to delay this painful and unpleasant moment of departure. But then there’s a knock, and your heart breaks. And what seemed distant covers you all at once.

Evgeny, photo “Not today, not yesterday, not tomorrow”

I didn’t wait for my knock on the door. Or rather, I lived waiting, like many others. I invented, reflected. What I’ll say when I see it, and will I say anything at all. Because whatever you say can be… and so on. But that’s only in Hollywood movies, but in our reality even the things you have never said or relied on will be used against you. You can easily be accused of something you never even thought of. You understand yourself: there’s no law.

I left. I was worried for a long time, but it turned out not to be for nothing. Yes, conditions have changed. Yeah, it’s a little more difficult. But at least I’m safe. Although, apparently, like the crisis, it’s in our heads.

P.S. If you would like to share your emigration story, please email us at nottodaysocialmedia@gmail.com.

The article was created within the framework of the scholarship programme of the Free Belarus Centre.