Just a week before the Belarusian presidental election, the result of which left the ruling authoritarian president Lukashenko in power, Gabriel Stille met two you Belarusians living in Warsaw.
Wladzimier works with computer and news graphics, and lived in different countries before he finally settled in Warsaw with his wife, also from Belarus. And Dzimitry, who is a student, majoring in journalism. We met in a busy shopping mall cafe.
The hopes of a change within the existing systems are low, as Lukashenko still controls the media. But as a light in the tunnel, Wladzimier thinks this election could prove a turning point for the oppositional forces:
I think that we will begin something like undergroundresistance, because in an official way, you can not change the power because they just stop every simple activity. I think that political parties and leaders will start something that we had in Poland in the eighties, something like Solidarnosc in Poland. This almost underground movement.
Even if the press is controlled by Lukashenko, and as Dzimitry put it, the lack of unbiased information and freedom of speech is one of the main problems of Belarus today. Dzimitry thinks that the election period, though not a fair and democratic one, offers a chance for people to spot the alternatives to Lukashenko:
I guess that the political activity in Belarus will be higher than now, because it's true that the oppositional leaders just have two hours, but two hours is still better than nothing. Because people are watching this TV set. I was talking with many people in Belarus a few days ago, and they were watching the TV, they saw the oppositional leaders. It is good because people can see that someone is against Lukashenko
As much as Vladzimier shares the hope of a change as the orange revolution in Kiew, when the Ukrainans managed to get a new president, he points out that the situation is different in Belarus. People have jobs, apartments and generally want to stick with what they've got. And - lacks the tradition of free parties:
We have a different situation. In Ukraine, there is official, legal parties. They stay in parliament, they have newspapers, they have television. Belarusian parties don't have a legal political life. They now stay almost in underground. If, for example, the opposition would have the power now, I think bad things will happen. Because these people don't have experts. Because they don't represent people in official structrures. They don't have real experience of working in workplaces such as the government or factories.
When it comes to predicting the future, both Wladzimier and Dzimitry don't think a change will come immidiately. Ten years - maybe five - is a hope, but again, anything can happen. But for a wider look in the future there is hope - of the new generations
Times are still changing. So, people are changers, young people are changers. They can travel around the world, they can see how the world is changing. They can work in the United States, in England or in Poland even. So I guess this situation will be changed in five years, but this year is very, very important for us. Maybe we can change even earlier than in five years.
So, the new situation after the election is still fresh, and what will change in the political life of Belarus is uncertain. But hope remains among Belarusians in exile - in Poland and all over the world.