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Sandro Rosell
FC Barcelona President

Belarusian Independent Bologna Committee is launching a series of articles with stories of fired university teachers. We cite articles in their entirety, without editing. All authors could hide the names of universities and departments for security reasons.

I'm 47 years old. I am a former employee of a regional university, Ph.D. I worked in the educational and methodological department for 20 years, defended my dissertation, taught. After the events related to the elections, I participated in protests, signed the appeal of students, staff and alumni of the university against violence.

What happened in my city is difficult to describe in words. People were beaten. Many were detained. The Internet was turned off on August 9 for 3 days. It was a shock, a complete feeling that the city was occupied by enemies. I connected to the Internet through a VPN, watched the news for days and cried in horror. I was tormented by the thought that everything that was happening was also my fault: we were really not interested in politics, we went about our own business: we raised children, built apartments, while teaching HONESTLY, but with horror, silently, we watched the massacres of people who allowed themselves to tell the truth Everyone was terrified of losing their jobs. Earlier, several of my colleagues were already repressed at the university. We knew perfectly well how elections are rigged, how students are "driven" to early voting, threatening that they will be evicted from the hostel.

They didn’t conduct “educational” conversations with me: I myself came to the rector and said that I had signed this appeal, because it was no longer possible to be silent, there was simply no strength to be silent. And my leadership was well aware that it was useless to conduct such conversations with me. Election fraud is, at a minimum, the seizure of power by unconstitutional means; according to the legislation of the Republic of Belarus, these are criminal offenses regulated by articles with very serious sanctions.

I was fascinated by the scale of the protests: it was really incredible. All representatives of society came out to protest: students, doctors, teachers, workers, employees, athletes, Catholic and Orthodox clergy. People fundamentally emphasized their professional affiliation! I suddenly saw a sea of ​​decent, honest, smart, brave people around! And the same number of people cowardly hiding their eyes and whispering behind their backs. I watched smart, educated and decent people engage in repression, even get a taste of it and begin to believe that they are doing everything right. The instinct of self-preservation always prevails over morality. And in our case, is over the rule of law.

I was well aware that I would be subjected to repression and immediately told the rector that he could fire me. In December, my main contract ended, my position was reduced, I was offered another one with a salary almost half of the previous one. I refused (I understood that sooner or later I would be fired under any pretext), so I was transferred to 0.25 of the workload and I received some 200 Belarusian rubles (about 70 euros).

I did not immediately quit my job also because my course is taught in the spring semester. I really wanted to conduct it: the only thing I could do in such a situation was to teach students to tell the truth. However, I note that representatives of the administration came to me right in the middle of the lecture, invited me into the corridor and said that they had “checked” study materials posted on the portal and demanded that they be edited. I will not argue that censorship is generally prohibited under the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus. What kind of Constitution is there if the country “sometimes has no time for laws”, and the legislation has been turned into a repressive tool.

In the summer, it became clear that I would be fired: they explained that there was no workload for me at the faculty. When they refused to admit me to a private university, it became clear that I received the so-called "ban on the profession."

It is incredibly painful, unbearable to live and work in such a country, especially when you understand the scale of the problems, the degree of threats and, unfortunately, there is an understanding that today the problem is far from being resolved.

I made my choice, fully aware of the obviousness of the forthcoming massacres and repressions, which did not take long. But I do not regret my decision to support students, because law and legality are moral guidelines for me.

I moved to Russia, got a job as a manager in the educational department of a federal university. To my surprise, no one here asked too many questions. Why Russia? Firstly, I am Russian by birth, but I have lived all my life in Belarus and identify myself only with it. I was taken in by friends for the first time. Secondly, there are many preferences for Belarusians in terms of status, my scientific degree is automatically recognized, which gives some hope to return to teaching someday.

Talking about problems:

1. Terrible lack of money, panic, horror, 8 months without a normal salary. I had to close my retirement savings account. For relocation procedures, according to my calculations, you need 1-2 thousand euros (provided that you can quickly find a job).

2. Support. I don’t know and I’m afraid to even imagine what I would do without help. I was simply saved in every sense by colleagues from Germany, who invited me to an online internship scholarship program, I improved my skills for 3 months, they found me a small part-time job at a German university (I prepared and read an author's course on human rights, but I think this was a one-time event). I was lucky to participate in a research project of the Lithuanian Foundation. With the money I received, I was able to move, rent a house, start legalization procedures and get a Schengen visa. The Polish project "Belarusian Academy" on the basis of Polish universities supported me a lot, where I had the opportunity to teach.

3. Psychological. The "immigrant syndrome" turned out to be worse than I thought. Complete loneliness and an incomprehensible future, health problems began ... I even asked for help from fellow psychologists.

4. I can't talk about participating in large outreach programs, but I know a few people who can share their experience. The biggest problem here for many of my colleagues is the lack of knowledge of languages. I know a little Polish, but this is clearly not enough for research.