By Nadzeya Haretskaya
Translation: Hanna Komar, John Farndon


To the families of political prisoners

He held the flag proudly
Over his head
As each cross was devoured by machines.

He gulped seas of tears,
Not a single one shed
And his pride stifled the pain.

With her husband’s strong voice
She roused up the crowd
Then at night wept all alone.

She stood in the breach
As shields broke around
To heal souls and hold the line.

He bore the freaks‘ beatings
And the traitors’ vile spits,
And never gave pearls to the swine.

In the soil of suffering
He sent down deep roots,
And drank thirstily its living brine.

She healed pain in his branches
With leaves of her own,
And soothed the blood flowing round.

She sustained him with fruits
In long patience grown,
But drained by warriors‘ wounds.

When the bright rays of dawn
Broke darkness’s cover,
With the victorious sunlight,

Oh how she loved him
And how he loved her.
We sang with all our might.
It’s a shame, but we no longer cry for our Babylonian rivers.
And our husli [1] play in a foreign land.
Babylon has lured us with its comforts,
Embraced us with simple human joys.
And we strike up again Kupalinka, Pahonia, Try Čarapachi [2].
We are looking for a new Jerusalem, because we can’t wait for the old one.
We drive away that velvet evening [3] from the heart,
As we have no time to believe.
We make our own people enemies in order to have a victory in small ways.
Oh, I just hope that Mahutny Boža [4] can’t hear our songs…

[1] The husli is a string instrument, similar to a zither, harp or a lyre. The allusion here is to the lyre of the biblical David, which soothed the evil spirit from the troubled King Saul. But an image of the huślar, a folk musician playing a husli, was used by the classic of Belarusian literature Yanka Kupala too. In one poem, ‘Huślar’, Kupala encourages the musician to play his husli and wake up the people. In another, the epic poem ‚Kurhan‘, the eponymous huślar is the one telling truth to power and is punished for it.

[2] These are some of the most well-known Belarusian songs that people often sing at the protests, including that in 2020.

[3] ‘Velvet summer evening’ is the first line of a poem written by Siaržuk Sokałaŭ-Vojuš about immigration, which became a popular song, well known to Belarusians.

[4] Translated as Almighty God: is a famous Belarusian hymn, based on a poem by Natallia Arsiennieva and music by Mikola Ravienski. Another song sung at the protests.