From PR-specialist – to a packer at the factory. Anna about moving to Poland

To launch a new product on the market, to promote an important social issue. But suddenly she decided to leave her favorite job, leave the country to become a simple factory worker and live in a modest hostel. Due to her active life position, she said, it was just not safe for her to stay in Belarus.

– Anna, tell us about your favorite projects.

– Last year, I promoted the environmental project “Tetris” for the Goal 99 initiative – an information campaign on how to get rid of old home appliances. For its implementation, my colleagues and I received many awards in the sphere of advertising. The main event was a game of the giant Tetris, the figures for which were real old TV sets, washing machines and refrigerators: children pressed the buttons “right”, “left” and “flip”, and the garbage disposal site workers lined up the “figures” in the right order. During the game we shot a very characteristic video, which, thanks to the media and social networks, became viral. After this campaign, even more people in Belarus began to properly dispose of old home electrical equipment – so everything is for good reason.

Also in 2019 I created an interesting pr-campaign against uncomfortable underwear for a very famous Belarusian brand. It was an important project, because the right lingerie is a matter not only of aesthetics or comfort, but also of health. As a result, we got a unique creative installation – “Traces…”, which was presented to Minsk citizens and guests of the capital at the Night of Museums. Invited master Ilya Dudarev prepared an exposition of women’s sculptures-mannequins with traces of tight underwear on their bodies.

From the latter, she promoted the movie “Forbidden Zone” directed by Belarusian director Mitriy Semenov-Oleinikov. It was an absolutely new activity for me in which it was very interesting to work.

– And then?

– And then there was an election campaign. In spring, Viktor Babariko declared his desire to run for presidency and became a candidate. He offered me to become one of the coordinators in his headquarters. I gladly agreed, because I had encountered him many times before on working issues, knew him as a wonderful person, a philanthropist and a good leader. I will agree right away: everything I did for Babarico’s headquarters was absolutely free. I received my salary at my main place of work as a pr-manager of projects. This is a completely volunteer story.

– Then why did you do it?

– There was a desire to create a country with a great number of opportunities. For yourself, but also for your loved ones, for people who not only can and want to prove themselves. We did not share any positions, nobody offered me to be Minister of Public Relations. (laughs)

– Okay, but in the end what happened. The headquarters stopped working, you left, and what were the accusations about you?

– At first, no complaints. To tell the truth, as you know, the candidate, his closest associates, some significant members of the headquarters were arrested. Then, not long ago, one of the detainees, one of my former colleagues, Yuri Voskresensky, gives an interview to the Belarusian channel. In it he listed a number of names of various people (including me) who were more or less involved in the work of the headquarters. He urged the named people to “stop” and stop taking people to the streets protests. Although everyone has long known that marches are a natural and unregulated phenomenon. Nevertheless, I realized that my arrest is a matter of time: they come to everyone. So I decided to leave.

– You were scared of that?

– Not for myself. My mother is a retired woman, my sister is an unemployed disabled person. Without me they will have nothing to eat. And I just couldn’t afford to be imprisoned. Therefore, now I am in Poland. I took my sister with me. I had a working national visa, which helped me a lot.

– What are you planning to do?

– I will work at the factory. My Polish is still at a mid-level, so my profession is the most basic: I will seal in cellophane bags cosmetics, work on the conveyor. I will improve my language, and then I can hope for more interesting offers. Or maybe the situation will change and I will be able to go back to Belarus. I am glad, of course, that working at the factory here, I will earn more than the staff PR officer in Minsk. Prices for housing are higher here, but food and clothes cost the same or cheaper. We live together with our sister in a modest hostel.

I decided not to apply for a refugee: I would be provided with three meals and accommodation, but it would be forbidden to work. Refugees (namely those who apply for refugee status will receive this status) live in dormitory rooms for 4-6 people each. On the day of writing the application the passport is confiscated from the emigrant before the decision on the status is made, i.e. for 3-6 months. And it is problematic to work and use social benefits without documents: it is impossible to connect a SIM card, to open a bank account.

In general, of course, it is better to move with a small stock of money, if you have it.

– How were you met here in Poland?

– Kindly. On the first day of arrival in Warsaw, my sister and I got a little confused at the station: we couldn’t find where our train leaves to the place where we were to spend a two-week quarantine period. We approached the local policemen with a certain caution – and, oh my Gods, they smiled at us, came with us to the scoreboard, sorted everything out together, and then they walked us to the platform. They did not even throw us into the car park! (laughs)

Then we arrived at the camp for newcomers. We were placed for free in an ancient castle, which, unfortunately, did not provide either water heating or heating. At this time of year it is quite problematic to be without these benefits. But here I met a very large number of talented, interesting people who had to leave the country, some of them have already been charged, others have not.

Now we live among Poles. In the first days I as sociable person got acquainted with Polish actors, a lawyer and a director. They all have a very positive attitude towards the Belarusians.

But there is a lot of misinformation about the situation in our country. Thus, my new Polish acquaintance, a professional lawyer, was sure that the purpose of our huge protests is not the new elections, but a negative reaction to joining Russia. He was surprised that we just dreamed of choosing the president, and Russia is our good partner, with whom we want to continue cooperation, not being a part of it, however, as well as any other country.

– Do you regret that you came as a volunteer to the campaign headquarters and all your interesting and successful life turned upside down?

– I do not regret my decision to participate in the election campaign. Moreover, I am waiting for the release of our candidate to support him again if necessary. It was obvious to me, by and large, that before the election it was time to do something. The situation with the coronavirus was very indicative for me. When in an emergency situation the Belarusians organized themselves, went towards each other and were able to unite. By the way, I helped in the same way that I could. There was a sewing machine, a certain amount of fabric and time – I learned to sew masks. I sewed and handed out about 500 pieces.But this is not what we are talking about now, but the fact that in the conditions of the pandemic it became very clear that within a short period of time the Belarusians together can make a change for the better.  And I really wanted this story to continue, so that all of us could feel more comfortable and interesting to live in our country.

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