Franak Viachorka (Belarus)
As the son of former Belarusian National Front (BNF) party leader Vincuk Viachorka, Franak Viachorka naturally represents the next generation of pro-democracy activists in Belarus. But the 26 year old activist has earned his own place in the country’s opposition, having been harassed, arrested, imprisoned, and abused many times for his commitment to democratic transition in Belarus.
“I am absolutely connected with my country,” he said in an interview with the Prague Post. “It’s a needed patriotism.”
Franak was expelled from university for participating in pro-democratic and political activities and forced into military service. He was abducted and beaten in front of his house, which the Belarusian government says was done by “unknown attackers.” Franak said he is sure the government was behind the assault because of his ties to the democratic opposition party BNF.
While in the military, Franak was subjected to forced isolation and was repeatedly threatened and harassed by superiors. To depict his life in the military, he created Diary of a Belarusian Soldier, a blog published every two weeks by Belarus’ independent news outlet Belapan. The blog went viral, becoming very popular, and military officers demanded that he stop publishing; Franak continued despite threats and persecution.
“Allegedly, I am disclosing service secrets and state secrets,” he told Belapan. “I was barred from leaving the unit and ordered to do extra duty because I wrote in my diary that people in our unit read independent newspapers.”
Upon discharge from the military, Franak received a personal recommendation from former Czech president Vaclav Havel to continue his journalistic pursuits at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, where he presents on its popular news show and serves as new media manager.
Appreciating the importance of culture to drive social change, Franak has also been recognized as an art wunderkind. He starred alongside his father in Miroslaw Dembinski’s award-winning documentary “A Lesson in Belarusian” and co-wrote the screenplay for “Viva Belarus,” a feature film based on his life story which has won a number of awards at international film festivals. He has also assisted with dubbing popular films such as “V for Vendetta” into Belarusian, and has directed and produced multiple musical and audiobook projects.
“I dream of a free, democratic, European Belarus, where anyone can work, make an honest living [and] earn money.”
Franak saw an opportunity for Belarusians to build a culture that encourages dialogue around the most pressing political issues in the country. With other prominent artistic and social activists, he co-founded Art Siadziba, which uses public open spaces like libraries and art galleries to host political meetings, academic seminars, training sessions and concerts. The organization, also a NED partner, hosts more than 100 public events each year.
Despite the arrests, assaults and constant harassment by government officials for his political participation, Franak is optimistic about the future.
“I’d like to help my country improve itself,” he told Tygodnik Podhalanski. “I dream of a free, democratic, European Belarus, where anyone can work, make an honest living [and] earn money.”
Documentary with English subtitles
Documentary In Russian
Rally Speech in Russian