A Letter from an Edge

Tania Arcimovich

Kaptaruny village, Belarus

I write this letter from a country where there are still no restrictions, as the President does not see a reason. He calls the pandemic as ‘a corona psychosis’ mentioning that it is more about politics than an illness. Medical and educational institutions make some recommendations, but it is not obligatory. Cafés, restaurants, schools, and kindergartens are open. You can even make a dance or sport class. The social life is going, as if nothing happened. It looks like it is a country of supermen and superwomen who do not be afraid of anything. Or is it a level of despair? I am not sure.

At the same time, many people try to protect themselves using faces masks and keeping the distance. Some of them are engaged in voluntary services. They organized fund-raising, delivering medical equipment to hospitals and food for doctors. The number of infected people is high, and there is no sign, that the epidemic ever ends.

Some foreigners came to Belarus to escape the quarantine in their countries. ‘You are lucky’, they said, ‘as you can choose’. Some of them even called the country as ‘an island of the freedom’… Are you kidding? Was my mother lucky when she was in hospital almost three weeks? She restricted her social life and followed all recommendations. But the family of my sister lives with her. They should go to work, and the husband of the sister was infected. My mother was lucky, she is alive.

And we were lucky, who are self-employments. It was for the first time when I valued my professional position in this country. I am a cultural worker. Usually, like most of us, I feel anxiety, due to the precarious character of my activities. Moreover, in my country, we face with the censorship and the pressure from the authority every time. It makes a lot of stress. But now we were fortunate to control of our lives.

Since March, together with my family I have lived in a village. Like many others, I should change the plans. Losing the feeling of the future, to place myself in a state of a frozen time.

At the beginning, there was a complicated mix of feelings, especially, due to a non-EU passport I have. The borders were close, and nobody could not say exactly when it will work for us who are on ‘the other side’. In close future, I should go to Germany, due to my research work. But I am still not sure how my trip will be going and which new experience I will get as a person with the Belarusian passport.

It was a moment when I was frustrated with all these matters. I tried to continue my work, combining family obligations with a professional life, that are overlapped every time. It looked like the meeting session never ends.

Then I understood that I should change a point. If I have a reason to be less productive (in many senses), how could I use such unique experience? What does this pandemic that is affected on the whole world mean for me? What are reasons for the fears? What am I really afraid of? The situation of a ruined social life turned into a fruitful space for re-reading and re-writing of a moment where I was finding myself. As my mother says, if you do not know what to do, plant a garden. What I did.

Like most of us, I am not sure about the future we will get after. Every country will experience it by various ways, due to the different levels of social, economic, and political conditions. But I wish to save this state of mind I discovered on my edge. Today, when we suffer from the pressure of acceleration, political and technological manipulations as never before, maybe, it is a liminal state of being has a real political potency to get your life back.