Nata Golova
is a cinematographer. She enjoys directing, dancing and music. In her works, she explores the Yiddish dance gesture. Dance is one of her favorite things and is exactly a tool for maintaining a mental state.

I was born in Borisov and, for better or worse, I live there. It is a district center, the center of the largest district in the Minsk region. During the peaceful protests in Belarus, it turned to be extremely difficult to live not just "outside of Minsk", but even in its complete opposite— in a quiet city "where nothing ever happens."

It is hard to experience the underrepresentation of our struggle in the media. Frankly speaking, I had been fighting with it for so long: I was filming everything, publishing it like crazy, especially during the first days, when there was no Internet. I wanted everyone to know about us and so that Borisov would become visible to our country. Since the news usually cover events in the big cities, you feel that your contribution isn't that meaningful.

It is also hard to live here, because of the environment and the general oppressive atmosphere. When your soul is bursting out all the time, you want to do something: protests, flags, fighting! — but you bump into silence.

When Roman Bondarenko was killed, the mourning period was announced, we had to stop at 12 noon — for a minute of silence, and then, at 9 p.m., there was a rally — to light a candle on your windowsill. I went out on the balcony at noon, even though I was sick. It was so creepy: people were walking on the streets with handbags, men with suitcases, someone was on the phone, and cars were driving. I looked at all that and thought: "My God, people, where do you live? What is happening? Why?" Same with the candles. There is no sense of solidarity and momentum, or something. I lit a candle and one of my acquaintances from the street nearby lit one as well. She wrote to me: "I lit it, but it seems that I was the one on the whole street with a candle in the window." And I understand her, sometimes it really seems like everyone around you (except yourself) just doesn't care. And it discourages you.

And what shall we do about all those people? What shall we do about the lack of initiative around us? I have been consciously doing all sorts of cultural activities in this city, after school and university times, since 2012 — for 8 years. During this time, it became clear that people here are ready to watch and be interested, but not to actively participate. In our dance community, we even published one post on the website, something like "How to stop watching our photos on social media and come dancing?" I mean, that kind of passive support is typical for people in Borisov, but to be involved in the process itself is something extraordinary.
The only thing that made me believe that not all was lost yet in the city — was the very first protest march. Then, it was "possible" to go out: there was not a police officer in the city, not an OMON officer [riot police], all of them were taken to Minsk.
That was August 16th or 17th — right after 3 days of terrible carnage; it was the first Sunday. The whole city came out that Sunday! Well, maybe not the whole city, but approximately three thousand were definitely there, maybe more. It was then when I saw that when it is possible, so many people come out, completely different people. I met so many friends there! Even a childhood friend, a big businessman from St. Petersburg, a huge man, who for some reason returned to Belarus again. I looked at all those people and understood that the things must have gone really bad for them. So when it is safe to go out, when there is no fear for your life — people are ready to go out, to show something, to express their opinion. And they do it!

Then, things got even better. Because after the protest marches started, "jabatkas" [colloquial name for supporters of Lukashenko] became more active: they began to organize their own events, they occupied the square and organized weekend fairs there. It came for me as a shock: usually, people attend these fairs every weekend, in crowds — it's still a kind of entertainment. But that time, I came to the square and there was simply no one — em-pti-ness. Two plainclothes cops, hardened damsels — barbecue and alcohol saleswomen.

It was already the second day, but there were no people at all! Total silence and only those damsels were already there: sitting, drinking their own beer, and eating their own barbecue. So the city can when it wants to: it knows how to protest when it is safe and knows how to ignore. Yet still, for me, these two bright moments do not give me a strong connection with the city. I cannot settle for these rare cases of solidarity; I lack strength and resources. All that I am enough for is to rescue myself and my close ones. Because I see that they are already drowning in their depression.

The feeling of a turning point and the desire to participate in the process, or rather that I have no choice — I must participate in it, came much earlier than the loudest protest marches happened and the violence flowed — in July, — when the three women appeared. Not even when they started to imprison the men — that was bad, of course, but usual. During these 26 years, I've seen too much: someone get beaten up, others go to prison, — these things usually happen... Now, there were those 3 women. As soon as this trio arose, everything inside me switched, shifted.

Before, I had no intention to participate in the political movement at all — I didn't even want to go to the elections. It was so clear — nothing will change. When my acquaintances were collecting signatures — for Tikhanovsky, for Babariko — I didn't care, it's still a setup. Nobody was going to give anyone any chance to win. But these three women — they became a symbol of a turning point, as if, finally, the laws of nature in our country began to work differently.

I can't explain it, it's very difficult for me to shape my feelings about this into words. It is what started to take place in Belarus at the same time everywhere, because they appeared. And to be honest, I personally don't like any of them. I am even critical of Masha Kolesnikova. I don't like her rhetorics, I don't like her red lips. I don't like Svetlana Tikhanovskaya as a politician, but at the same time — that's all! All that is personal goes away. Archetypes switching on, a kind of deep I-don't-know-what, but this female trio launched the process of my involvement.

From that moment everything started for me. I started feeling that, in reality, this is it for me... For the projects that I have now — this is it for them too. This process is stronger than I am, I cannot overcome it, it means that I need to cancel my plans, cancel some part of my life and myself, because this all more powerful.
It was the time when we still planned certain shows, and trips, and other things with my music band "Zhydovachka". On August 8, just before the elections, I wrote to them: "Girls, maybe we'll have to cancel everything". Then, I had a feeling that something global was coming, some kind of strong flow. I didn't feel that before, it didn't exist. It is some kind of very powerful human field and it suddenly started to manifest itself. I can't get away from this. I can get distracted at some point, but I, as a part of this, — I already belong to this place, to these people.

I was stressed on August 9th when the elections were held. It was the most terrible condition: I felt very great anxiety. It is similar to the sensation of taking blood from a finger. I hate it, it is so disgusting, especially when they press on the nail. I always cringe before the puncture, I close my eyes and wait in horror for the needle to prick.

And in this "injection-any-minute" state — I mean, with a presentiment that it is going to hurt — I was on that August day. I went to the elections, then to the square, I met my friends... All that time I was in a state of stress, waiting for this pricking. Eventually, it happened. I now recall this moment and understand that it was so difficult, because I could not understand: why? This moment of pricking your finger, when you are at the hospital, you at least understand the reason. Whereas then — you were pricked, but the question "why?" remains unanswered.

How it was. I returned from the square, I split up with my friends at the crossroads; we agreed about our next meeting. They couldn't call a taxi because the internet hadn't been working since lunch. In at most half an hour — it was still August: everything was so good, warm, beautiful. So I walked home, fed the street cats, but still the feeling of anxiety hasn't disappeared.

I entered my apartment and heard somebody screaming outside. I was standing with unwashed cat bowls, when I heard that it was from the square and I understood that everything had started. I went out on the balcony. The first thing I saw after these screams were two very young guys running from the square, covering their faces. I called them and asked if they needed help. One raised his face — it was all in blood. I said: "Come in, wash yourself, have some tea, call a taxi. At least wait out all that and go home". They refused and said they would leave straight away. I saw the road ahead was clear, that there was no one, and that they could manage to reach a safe place. And I asked: "What's going on?" The guys, almost shouting, said: "Damn, they are just roughing up everyone indiscriminately, it's crazy!" They ran away, and I remained standing on the balcony, all numb.
Then I saw how everyone was being dispersed. I stood on the balcony and watched. I understood that I could do nothing. If I start screaming, they can come to my apartment: we have a very weak door — you can easily kick it down. So I stood in complete confusion and simply did not understand what I needed to do at that moment... And it was so hard... that feeling of complete helplessness.
As a result, I turned on my mobile phone and started filming, and what was not visible on the screen — I was commenting by myself, telling what was happening. Those people passed by under my balcony and I was just recording and commenting, because there was nothing else I could do.

I did not understand at that moment: for what? Where did this cruelty come from? My finger was pricked with a needle, but not for tests, not for diagnostics, not to help me, to cure, to determine my condition. But, in fact, it did define my state, my condition very well. Because the violence was committed. And this violence — it ended the work of these three women, because it was committed by men. It seems to me that even people who do not have gender optics, they also realize the dynamics of today's balance of power. Everyone feels the fact that protests have a feminine energy, and it is obvious in the way people think and how they speak about protests.

Finally, the authorities did everything wrong. They let women out and let women do everything. They resorted to violence and then stopped their violence, so that people could feel their unity. They did it all wrong and that is good. But, f*ck, how hard it is. I've been recovering from the early days for all these three months, and honestly, I think I'm still in the process. My body tells me that I am stressed. I don't know how strong these panic attacks are, but I have to suppress them almost every day. For the last 1-1,5 weeks, I don't remember a single day when I was not trying to suppress panic attacks or episodes of severe anxiety.

Then came the second moment of horror, when I realized that I am really not able to do anything. That it is very hard for me to feel my body, I don't dance, I can't work on my projects, I don't write, I can't organize any event. I'm petrified.

How can you think of anything else now? I have no energy and, it seems, I have no moral right to enjoy and take pleasure. Once, my friend persuaded me to dance with him. We also dressed up in stupid costumes and waltzed, but at the same time I realized that I was forced to do it. I simply have no desire to dance: it seems to be harmful to my body, harmful to myself, to my emotions, to my emotional state. Some kind of disgust to my body in motion has emerged inside me. Dancing is something joyful and good for me, but how can I dance in this state of mind now? You're right — I can't.

Now I'm slowly starting to discover myself. At least I try to understand and find my footholds, even if with professional help. The day before yesterday, I visited a good workshop on how to cope with trauma. I began to find and apply some supporting practices, not my personal, but specialized ones, because I understand that I cannot cope with it by myself.

But it's not without small positive moments in all this. Due to these worries and stress, I started returning to myself, in a physical way — to ground myself a little. Now, I take care of my body, my health, I'm taking some heroic doses of anti-COVID vitamins, and doing gymnastics. I even put some masks on my mug, choose clothes. Recently I decided to order boots, even though I hadn't bought anything for a million years. As if I got into contact with my body. I really hope that if this contact has appeared, I will be able to dance soon.

Made on