Maria Kalesnikava is a Belarusian political activist, opposition politician, musician and music teacher. During the disputed presidential elections in Belarus in 2020, she was initially part of the presidential campaign around Wiktar Barbaryka (Viktor Babariko). After Vitkar Barbaryka was arrested, Maria Kalesnikawa acted as his representative. She called on the Belarusian people to actively participate in the elections and take responsibility for the country's future instead of boycotting the elections. After numerous candidates were excluded from the elections, Maria Kalesnikava and Veranika Tsepkala supported Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya's presidential candidacy. Maria Kalesnikava is also part of the Presidium of the Coordinating Council in Belarus, which works to organize a peaceful transition and overcome the political crisis in Belarus. She founded the party "Rasam" (also "Wmestje", in German: "Together"). While Veranika Tsepkala and Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya had to flee, Maria Kalesnikava refused to leave Belarus. An attempt to take her to Ukraine failed. In September 2020, Maria Kalesnikawa was arrested. In September 2021 she was sentenced to 11 years in prison. The trial of Maria Kalesnikawa drew international criticism, alleging that she was founding and leading an extremist group, inciting threats to national security and allegedly conspiring to illegally seize power. In January 2022, Maria Kalesnikava was transferred to Penal Colony No. 4 in Gomel. Amnesty International classifies them as political prisoners and calls for their immediate release. Despite her arrest, Maria Kalesnikawa continues to support and inspire people fighting for human rights and freedom.
Since Maria Kalesnikawa is still in detention, she could not receive the award in person, so her sister, Tatsiana Khomich, accepted the award for Maria Kalesnikawa instead.
Maria Kalesnikava (English)
Maria Kalesnikava (also Maria Kalesnikawa) is a musician, art project manager and political activist, she was coordinator of Viktar Barbaryka's headquarters during the presidential elections in Belarus in 2020. She is a part of the joint headquarter of Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya's election campaign and member of the Presidium of the Coordination Council for organizing the process of overcoming the political crisis in Belarus. She studied the flute in Minsk, continued her studies in Stuttgart, Germany.
In Belarus and Stuttgart Maria Kalesnikava managed cultural projects, participated in and organized concerts. She is one of the founders of a number of music festivals. Maria Kalesnikava worked as art director of the cultural center OK16 in Minsk. Thanks to her cultural work, she met Viktar Babaryka, who supported cultural projects in Belarus and contributed to their development. In 2020 when Viktar Babaryka decided to run for presidency, Maria Kalesnikava joined his team. After his arrest she became a spokesperson of Babaryka's headquarters. On September 7, 2020, Maria Kalesnikava was abducted by unknown people in the center of Minsk. They tried to deport her to Ukraine, but Maria Kalesnikava tore up her passport at the border. On September 6, 2021, after a year in the pre-trial detention center Maria Kalesnikava was sentenced to 11 years in prison for "calls for action aimed at causing harm to the national security; conspiracy to seize power by unconstitutional means; creation of an extremist group and it's leadership". She was assigned to the general regime of the penal colony. On January 9, 2022 she was transferred to Penal Colony №4 in Gomel.
Even now, while in prison, Maria Kalesnikava continues to inspire and support people who continue to struggle for truth, freedom and human rights.