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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.

Times of revolutions do not determine the fate of people, we determine them ourselves,

making revolutions, first in our thinking, and then in our lives

We often choose the professions of people who made the strongest impression on us in the childhood, and became an authority for us, we want to become like them. So it was with me. At school, I was lucky to meet a wonderful teacher of the Belarusian language and literature, Nikolai Nikolayevich, he was also a teacher at the philological faculty of the Belarusian State University. It was Nikolai Nikolaevich who instilled love for our country, its history, language, literature of Belarus, and also became an example of a teacher, about whom they say "a teacher from God."
It was at that time that the history and fate of Belarusians touched me to the core. Few people abroad know that a few centuries ago Belarusians were free and prosperous people. Many great scientists and educators known all over the world were born among them, such as: Francysk Skaryna, Marc Chagall, Tadeusz Kosciuszko and others.

In my first year at the Faculty of Law, I went to the political party Belarusian People's Front to study Belarusian language, since it is studied rather formally in schools. It was there that the story of my human rights work began.
After my first rally in the presidential elections in 2001, I accidentally got on the pages of newspapers and was presented for expulsion from the University. However, for the high academic performance, the teachers managed to defend me, and I had the opportunity to continue my studies.
Back at the University, our teachers, then high-ranking officials (the chairman of the constitutional court, the head of the presidential administration), told us about the system of separation of powers, one of the attributes of a rule of law state.
3 branches of government: executive, legislative and judicial must be absolutely independent in order to be able to impose their veto in case of an illegal decision by another branch. At the same time, our teachers told us that our president stands above all these branches of power in our hierarchy. He himself appoints all judges - representatives of the judiciary, the prime minister - the head of the executive branch, as well as members of Parliament (legislative branch), since elections to the Parliament are held in our country in the same way as presidential elections, their results are known in advance.
Even then, studying at the Faculty of Law, we understood that with such a hierarchy, power in Belarus is in the hands of a sole ruler, and there can be no question of any legal state. Even then, students of the law faculty, current high-ranking officials, were taught that there is no law in Belarus. In Belarus, there is a law that is written by the sole ruler - the president, and his subordinates on his command. Any dissent is regarded as disobedience and is punished according to the law written by him - the sole ruler.
I met my second most significant rally after the 2010 elections already in the position of an employee of the Higher Economic Office of Belarus. I was sitting in a military machine, I understood that my career was over. But I was not afraid of this, because I went to court to see with my own eyes how this regime works, I did not believe that there are no people there who, like me, want a different life for their people. And there were such people, but they were removed one by one - all those who defended the interests of the people.
I was lucky that day, and I got out of the military machine without arrest, and I quit the job at the court myself, when the most progressive and fairly autonomous system of economic courts was merged with the system of civil and criminal justice in order to keep the entire judicial system in the hands of one person.
After being fired from the court, I opened my own law firm and focused on teaching at the University. I understood that students are the only and last hope of Belarus.
There I saw what happened and worsened since I myself studied at the University. I never tell students what to do before I ask them what they think. I believe that the task of any teacher is to teach the student to think and discover new facets of himself and the world around him. But more and more I heard from students the words: "Just tell me the right thing, and we will do it. Why offer your own, if it will still be beneficial to the state, and you will be immediately expelled for any personal opinion." “A good student is not a smart student, but an obedient one,” one of my students told me with irony.

In the spring of 2020, my friends and like-minded colleagues and I began to prepare for the elections. We knew for sure that they, like the previous ones, would be falsified, but we had to follow every step and stage of the elections, make them transparent and show people the real facts. For those who do not see reality, and for those who know it, but no longer believe in anything or are simply afraid. To do this, in June last year, we created a group on Facebook. 
The 2020 elections were rigged, just like in previous years. Faculty and students were instructed to vote early, as early elections have less control and are easier to change. Some students and teachers voted. Others knew they were taking risks, but they didn't.
After the elections, we began to go to rallies. People were beaten and some were dragged unconscious into military vehicles. I managed to escape. However, after probably the most massive rally in Belarus on August 16 in the morning, when I was walking home, I was called <from the police> and asked where I was. I said that I would not answer, then I was told that if I did not stop the activities of my group, I would be prosecuted for organizing mass riots and I would spend the rest of my life in prison.
It will be honest to say that at that moment I did not have fear, which the people who called me were clearly counting on, and I did not have time for it. I understood that I would not be able to organize the activities of my group from prison, it would be closed, and the regime would achieve its goal. I understood that in prison I would be absolutely useless. Then, within a few minutes, I made, probably, one of the most significant decisions in my life, took with me a suitcase of necessary things, the next day I left Belarus.

For another month and a half, I taught remotely at the University. The joint work with students inspired faith and charged with enthusiasm. However, in mid-October, the head of my department informed me that the rector had received a command to dismiss me urgently, as it became known about my activities and the reasons for my departure. I was ordered to return to Minsk to sign the documents. I understood that this could become a trap for me and refused. Then I was informed that I would be fired due to violation of the law. I am a lawyer, and I worked at the University for 10 years, and I could not allow this. I wrote a letter to the rector about my work at the University, about my scientific work, about international activities, asking me to allow me to continue my remote work at the University. I have not received an answer until now, but after registering my letter, I was informed that I was fired due to the agreement of the parties. So I was left without income, like many Belarusians now who dared to go against the regime.
At first I was very scared, and at one moment I thought that perhaps this was the end of my life path: my loved ones, my work, career, my beloved students, all my property remained in my country, where the road is closed to me. I was lifted to my feet only by faith in victory over this degrading regime, as well as faith in victory over myself in the past. And I began to look for like-minded people. Or rather, they themselves began to knock at my “doors” at the moment when it was vitally necessary for me. Social networks began to bring me information about a variety of associations of people who provide assistance in finding jobs for repressed teachers. So I began to cooperate with one of the Polish universities, and received financial support from the European diasporas of Belarusians, which allowed me to pay for housing and buy warm clothes. I had hours at the Polish Academy, however, my disciplines were planned for the next semester, but this certainly gave me strength.
These events took place in December 2020, I could not find a job in the country where I was located, and this country is not a party to the Dublin Agreement, and does not have a mechanism for helping political immigrants, I decided that I should ask protection in a European state that can provide me with such support, for the period until I can find a job. The Polish ambassador in the territory of the state of my residence gave me great help and issued a Schengen visa, and the funds that remained from the support of the diasporas called to pay for the road to the border of the nearest European country.
People in my environment told me: “You have no chance: Covid, New Year holidays, they won’t let you go anywhere.” But did I have a choice? The funds that the diasporas transferred to me are the money that ordinary people got from their family budget, Belarusians like me, and living on them and doing nothing to improve their future meant living at the expense of other people.

Italy did not welcome me with open hugs. On the way to it, they were waiting for me: crossing the borders of three states, denied boarding at the airport, denied boarding a ship in the port, New Year Eve in a hotel in a completely unfamiliar country. But at every step of my way, I met amazing people who, without knowing it, each of them, one after another, became participants in cardinal and amazing changes in my destiny.
On December 31, I found myself at the border in an unfamiliar foreign country "between heaven and earth." Fortunately, I had enough funds for the hotel, in which a pleasant surprise happened: around midnight, almost to the sound of the chimes, there was a knock on my room, and when I opened it, there was a table on wheels with a gala dinner. Since the topic of food has been closed for me in recent days, this event has become a great happiness for me. But the most important surprise was waiting for me in my e-mail that day - a letter from my fellow countrymen from the German diaspora of Belarusians, that I was accepted to participate in the program to support Belarusian repressed teachers, which suggested the possibility of additional education with the prospect of further employment in one of European universities, as well as financial support for the period of study. This news inspired me, gave me strength and self-confidence. And two days later, Italy finally opened its doors for me, where I found my home, my job and my happiness. Another than it was before, happiness with its pros and cons, but this happiness is to be yourself, to do what you really love, without fear that you will be judged for it, or just to survive.
Despite my main professions as a lawyer and teacher, back in Belarus I was always attracted by the restaurant business, I even tried to open my own restaurant a few years before leaving the country, but it all collapsed under the onslaught of a regime flawed from all points of view. And, probably, it was precisely for this, then without fully realizing the true reason, that I received a second higher economic education.

They say: “40 years is a milestone”, yes, probably. Now I know exactly what I want, what kind of work brings me the most pleasure, which means I can be as effective as possible in this. And although I am still collaborating with one of the Polish universities, my main and favorite job is in a restaurant, and it is here that I now want to grow as a professional, but to grow in a completely different way, not the way I built my career in High Court, in my law firm, the University and other educational institutions where I worked.
Perhaps this is what it means to "find yourself"... And it's amazing, but it was in a foreign land that I truly understood who I am. Yes, I am Belarusian, not Russian, not Polish, not Italian, but Belarusian, which I am proud to be, and who I have remained in spite of everything, and who I will be until my last breath ...