Integration Nightmare

Stories of a badly integrated immigrant

This is a story about bread. And politics. But mostly bread.

My life was always connected with bread. And if word “bread” wakes up in your head some loafs of ciabatta or baguette or some fancy bread from middle east let's forget about it. Bread is black and it has several names, but most of it tastes the same. Black bread is really important in belarusian culture. Old tradition says that you should great people with bread (black one, of course) and salt. In fact, I visited several weddings where this bread and salt was one of the procedures to go through.

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Seit nun drei Wochen finden auf den Straßen von Belarus Proteste gegen den Diktator Lukaschenko statt. Er ist der erste und einzige gewählte Präsident der Republik Belarus, der das Land seit 26 Jahren regiert. Im Internet gibt es eine Menge Meinungen über ihn. Einige glauben, dass er ein Leuchtfeuer der Hoffnung für den Kampf gegen den westlichen Imperialismus ist, während andere wissen, dass er ein verdammter Psycho ist, der bereit ist zu töten, um an der Macht zu bleiben. Dieser Text geht auf einige Argumente ein, die in anarchistischen und linken Kreisen auf der ganzen Welt online geführt werden. Und am Ende werde ich versuchen zu antworten, wird Belarus frei sein, wenn Lukaschenko stirbt?

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For the third week, protests are happening on the streets of Belarus against dictator Lukashenko. He is the first and only elected president of Republic of Belarus ruling the country for last 26 years. There are a lot of opinions on the internet about him. Some believe that he is a beacon of hope for the struggle against western imperialism, while others know that he is bloody psycho ready to kill to stay in power. This text will go through some arguments that are going on online all around the world in anarchist and leftist circles. And at the end I will try to answer, will Belarus be free if Lukashenko dies?

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Moscow Death Brigade (MDB) is a band well known in Germany. Russian antifascists singing against homophobia, sexism, racism and for everything good. I rarely met people from western european left who didn't like them. It became quite annoying to answer every person the question what i think about the band. So the decision was made to write a text.

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Through my political activism I have visited a lot of house projects in Germany. However, understanding of the concept of “house project” as many other political ideas takes time. At first i thought it was a squat. And actually many people were explaining it in that way. “It is a squat. Not a real squat, we pay rent, but it is like squat” was an explanation that I got from different people in Germany.

Squatting was easier to grasp as it was little to do with the bureaucracy of the state and more with direct action. Yes squatting was not the most rosy way to live but for many people it was a form of political protest. Some part of belarusian anarchist movement got so inspired by this form of direct action that we squatted a building in Minsk in 2008 for 6 months and turned it into a social project, with presentations, political organizing and some parties.

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Originally written for Circle-A magazine

The reason for this article came up several years ago when I had a chat with a good comrade of mine. We were talking about the current situation with anarchist and socialist movement in his country, and he pointed that students were in long run actually a counter revolutionary part of the society. The person who said that was not a one-day anarchist rather a comrade that was fighting for revolutionary ideals for years. One of the main points of our discussion was the background of those students that are getting involved in the struggle – mainly this is the people from financially successful families that have little troubles in their lives. Most of them work for the pocket money but their life till the end of university is organized. Of course there are exceptions to those who are the first generation of students in their families, however those are in many cases exceptions in the left and anarchist movement. Apart from that distance from the serious economical or social problems gives them an easy way in and easy way out of social struggles – in case you are giving up your current group, collective or organization there are little consequences of that step. Together with this point comes the issue of short attention span – as a student you can jump to the hot topics as soon as they pop up and switch easily because of the previous issue. Unfortunately we didn’t have enough time to have a deeper discussion, but this conversation pushed me further into the topic although i never came back to talk to my friend about it. The irony of it was that he was considering doing several more years in university as a student (in his age he would rather fit as a professor than a student).

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I was born into dictatorship. Back then it was the dictatorship of one party that was falling apart. Later on I ended up living in another dictatorship in Republic of Belarus. So most of my life i spent in dictatorship. Most of my political life I spend as well in dictatorship. When you are born and live in the world of dictatorship, you believe that what is happening in your world is horrible and people outside are not helping because they don't have any idea on what is going on. The same dynamic happens all around the human society. The prisons, the working places, the borders. Wherever you end in hard times, you think the reason for this injustice to exist is the fact that the world doesn't know. After all, what kind of intelligent person can allow this to happen.

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One of the reason i moved out from Belarus was this notion to learn something from activists from the other country. But also to exchange experiences and maybe come up with new things out of this cooperation.

And even though i was not a young activist moving to Berlin to experience all the beauty of radical politics in Germany i believe i was as naive as it gets. The experience that you bring to this country is of no interest to the local activists. It is actually in many cases perceived to be something weird. You are this alien that comes from the world where the things are different and nobody actually wants to hear from you about it.

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Couple of days ago I had a chat with a former activist of anarchists against the wall Yossi Bartal. He moved from Israel to Berlin over 14 years ago. Until recently i didn't know about his existence at all. After all he is in Berlin and i am not. The reason why he came to my attention was a shit storm around him about israelian politics and BDS. He is an activists who is part of Palestine solidarity movement in the country. However he is also a leftist.

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If you are person who is passing by Germany you might find a lot of exciting things. Mostly what people tell you are their stories of success and it is in general a good thing. So the people who are here just for couple of days see the good infrastructure, worthy struggles and interesting people. There is this image of a good place where the things are rolling. Some people based on those experiences might even make a decision to move to Germany.

Don't get me wrong, i knew already before that German leftists are crazy about this things they call antigerman. And i've heard the stories how the people fight with each other on the topic of Israel. Literally fight. On the streets with the fists and sticks. But i think it was really hard to imagine the scale of weirdness around political topics not only in leftist circles, but in anarchist ones as well.

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