Screaming artist electrifies Belarus protests in Warsaw
With her blood-curdling cries of protest outside the European Commission office in Warsaw, 28-year-old artist Jana Shostak has become the angry face of the Belarusian opposition movement in Poland.
Shostak started shouting last year after the disputed re-election of Belarusian strongman Alexander Lukashenko, who has ruled the former Soviet republic since 1994.
“It is a cry of spite, anger, helplessness in the face of what is happening in our country,” Shostak told AFP this week after screaming for a minute in anguish during one of the protests almost daily in front of the European Commission office in Warsaw. .
Shostak arrived by taxi – already rallying protesters shouting from the car, wearing a cotton dress in the white-red-white colors used by the Belarusian opposition.
Belarusian compatriots and Polish allies joined the protests. Alongside outdoor cafes crowded with shoppers enjoying the end of the lockdown, dozens of people joined in Shostak’s cries to demand that the European Union take more action against Lukashenko.
“We have had enough. We want real sanctions,” Shostak said.
Their cries are now being heard far beyond Warsaw.
The unusual form of protest has gone viral on social media, and this week Polish actor Bartosz Bielenia surprised the European Parliament by shouting for Belarus after receiving an award.
– “The ultimate way to protest” –
One of Shostak’s screams has proven to be particularly popular online.
It was May 24, a day after Lukashenko hijacked a Ryanair flight between two EU capitals, forced it to land in Belarus, and arrested a dissident journalist and his girlfriend on board.
The cry also sparked controversy in Poland over a comment by left-wing parliamentarian Anna Maria Zukowska, who appeared to criticize Shostak’s cleavage.
Asked about the fury, Shostak said, “I thought we were living in the 21st century and people can choose the sex they want, the clothes they want, express themselves however they want.
“The fact that there was a media storm not because of the dramatic situation in Belarus but because I was not wearing a bra, and the fact that it came from a leftist politician, really surprised, ”she said.
She quickly turned attention to part of the protests, echoing Ukraine’s high-profile Femen movement, known for its topless protests.
She encouraged participants to paint the logos of companies doing business in Belarus on their chests – a way of campaigning for the EU to apply economic sanctions and for individual companies to “stop supporting the regime”.
“I really like this combination of screaming and nudity… It’s the ultimate way to protest,” said Jan Jurczyk, a 25-year-old artist with a Rolls Royce logo on his chest.
Shostak moved to Poland as a teenager to study art and she once campaigned to replace the word “refugee” with the word “newcomer” in Polish and to use feminatives – feminine endings on words, including understood professional terms.
She returned to Belarus in August 2020 to vote in the presidential election and participated in some of the mass protests that followed, accusing Lukashenko of rigging the results.
© 2021 AFP