Berlin (dpa) – Belarusian athlete Kristina Timanowskaja doesn’t feel like a symbol of freedom after her escape.
“Maybe I’m more of an example that you shouldn’t be afraid, that you shouldn’t be silent. Although I myself was afraid for a long time and I kept silent for a long time. But I was less afraid of myself than of my husband and my parents,” the 24-year-old said in the interview “Zeit” (Saturday).
After a conflict with sports officials at the Tokyo Olympics, Timanovskaya would be sent back against her will to her homeland, which is authoritatively ruled by President Alexander Lukashenko. She then turned to the Japanese police and the IOC. She is currently in Poland, which has issued her a humanitarian visa.
After the presidential elections of 9 August 2020, which were widely regarded as rigged, there were mass demonstrations against Lukashenko in the ex-Soviet republic. Athletes were also affected by the government’s massive action against opposition and dissenters.
“After August 9, it was a difficult time for me personally. I had to take a two week break. I was in some sort of depression at the time, so I tried not to expose myself to negative news. But then, of course, I saw how the people who had just joined a demonstration were released, how they were beaten, how they were sent to prison,” said Timanovskaya. She was afraid of the consequences if she did something wrong or said, “All year round I tried to formulate everything in such a way that I didn’t say anything political.”
She loves her country, Belarus is her home. But: «For me there is no going back. I have nothing to hide anymore, on the contrary: I would like all other Belarusians to tell the truth too. But it is very clear that those who live in Belarus cannot do this easily. If you say something critical, you will be immediately imprisoned,” Timanovskaya said.