A teenage child, a grandmother and even a pregnant woman may find themselves in a paddy wagon after a peaceful rally in Belarus. No wonder various forms of protest appear. People express their discontent by displaying white-red-white flags in their windows, hanging ribbons of the same colours and painting benches, singing protest songs in public places, shooting videos and creating photo projects. Expectant mothers couldn’t stand idly by and had a photoshoot to stand in solidarity with all protesting Belarusians.
“The fear of having to live in a country with no law has become the main incentive for our new photoproject,” says family photographer Dina Ermolenko. For her, this is not the first series of protest photographs, earlier she took photos of mothers of newborn babies to help them express their emotions.
Meet Nastya Shilina from Minsk, she is a mother of a three-year-old boy and is expecting her second child. Like many other pregnant women, she is afraid to take part in peaceful protests and she feels guilty about it.
“But it doesn’t mean we don’t read the news and don’t see what is happening. It hurts me that my friends and other brave, courageous people are suffering. I am scared that what we only read in fairy tales and history books – murder, torture, beatings – are becoming our everyday reality.
It is unbearable that I cannot do anything about it. If I participate in a rally, I will risk my baby’s life. If I say nothing, I will miss the awakening of my country. Most often, my fears remain deep inside, isolating me even more from my friends, because what do emotions mean compared to real fractures, arrests and dismissals?”
The women of Minsk united and came up with a photo project dedicated to pregnancy in the context of the political crisis in Belarus.
“Our project is about fears that do not let expectant mothers to join the crowd. Everybofy know how dangerous it is. At the same time, many are already emotionally tired of the horrors and absurdity happenning on the streets,” explained Dina Ermolenko.
Evgenia is in her sixth month of pregnancy. At first, she took to the streets, but taking into account brutality of security forces, she came to the conclusion that this was too much of a risk. And, even just going out to the city on business, the woman does not feel safe.
“It is very scary to find yourself in a wrong place, see a smoke grenade flying at you or a running crowd of security forces who sweep away everyone in their path, both old people and children. It seems that nothing is sacred to them. We are scared to let our children go outside.
We have about 900 pregnant women and young mothers in our chat, and they all fear for their husbands, for their parents, for their children, for their health and for their lives. After 10 August, their husbands did not come home, the women were waiting for them at home with newborns. No one can put up with this anymore, there will be no apolitical people soon.”
In total, five pregnant Belarusian women took part in the project – all of them are heavily pregnant. It was easy to find those willing to speak up. It turned out to be a very hot topic for pregnant women.
“Many expectant mothers wanted to express themselves. We even had to say no to three women, since the number of participants was limited. But they shared clothes for the photoshoot. I found two raincoats and a coat in a neighbouring house. People are very willing to help, they understand that the topic is important.”