"Invisible Trauma"
Personal stories of Belarusians who suffered from psychological violence coming from the authorities or law enforcement agencies
"Invisible Trauma"
Personal stories of Belarusians who suffered from psychological violence coming from the authorities or law enforcement agencies
Since the beginning of August many world media outlets have published stories of Belarusian victims, raising the topics of physical and sexual violence. However, they hardly ever speak about how the repressions of the regime affected the emotional state of people.

It is common to talk about bruises and years spent in prison (and the authors of the project do not dispute the importance of shedding light on the crimes against humanity committed in Belarus). The problem is that amid the horrifying details of torture, beatings and illegal detentions, we often overlook other, more everyday manifestations of repression. The permanent fear, helplessness, paranoia, or difficulty of being forced to leave the country are not mentioned at all, because "there are more serious problems". This is why thousands of Belarusians, including women, are left alone with their traumas, unheard, unnoticed, and invisible.

Lesya Pcholka: co-author of the project, photographer from Belarus

It's been more than six months. We are incredibly tired. Repressions have become a daily routine in our lives. People lose hope and leave the country, closing businesses, cafes, bars and galleries. The situation with COVID-19 in Belarus is catastrophic. Those who are left are investing their energies into building their own alternative state, with horizontal management and mutual support. It doesn't need presidents, government, and ideology. This is also a victory - we have woken up. But our collective psychological trauma will stay with us. We talk about it a lot among friends, but the media rarely write about it. We need to acknowledge it and learn to live with it. We need to stop criticizing those who can't find the strength to fight, those who are afraid to leave home, those who have left the country. We live in a state of war, we need to take care of our health, physical and psychological.
It's been more than six months. We are incredibly tired. Repressions have become a daily routine in our lives. People lose hope and leave the country, closing businesses, cafes, bars and galleries. The situation with COVID-19 in Belarus is catastrophic. Those who are left are investing their energies into building their own alternative state, with horizontal management and mutual support. It doesn't need presidents, government, and ideology. This is also a victory - we have woken up. But our collective psychological trauma will stay with us. We talk about it a lot among friends, but the media rarely write about it. We need to acknowledge it and learn to live with it. We need to stop criticizing those who can't find the strength to fight, those who are afraid to leave home, those who have left the country. We live in a state of war, we need to take care of our health, physical and psychological.

Lesya Pcholka: co-author of the project, photographer from Belarus
Katsya Pamazanaya: Project co-author, human rights activist from Ukraine

How do you talk about loss of appetite amidst stress and fear when your neighbor is in the hospital after being beaten by the police? How can you complain about feeling tired at work when one of your friends is locked up for 15 days and then another 15 days? It's hard not to compare, just as it is hard not to devalue. So we decided to create a tiny and concise project that we hope will do its part to normalize conversations about emotions and psychological trauma. Traumas inflicted by an inhumane authoritarian regime.


How do you talk about loss of appetite amidst stress and fear when your neighbor is in the hospital after being beaten by the police? How can you complain about feeling tired at work when one of your friends is locked up for 15 days and then another 15 days? It's hard not to compare, just as it is hard not to devalue. So we decided to create a tiny and concise project that we hope will do its part to normalize conversations about emotions and psychological trauma. Traumas inflicted by an inhumane authoritarian regime.


Katsya Pamazanaya: Project co-author, human rights activist from Ukraine
Katsya Pamazanaya and Lesya Pcholka have conducted a series of in-depth interviews with people who suffered from psychological violence. Their stories, complete with photo materials, can be read here. If you live or have lived in Belarus and have been actively involved in the protest movement, you can see yourself, your worries and fears in each of these stories. All the stories are different, but they share a sense of total injustice and hope for change.

The project has its own Instagram account. If you want to share your story, hear advice or just write a few words, the authors of the project will be glad to get any feedback.



–°ommentary and advice from an expert
"A normal response to the abnormality of what is happening"
The events of the last six months in Belarus have left many scars on our "collective body". The body remembers everything, the body does not forget. The body is in shock, the body shrinks, freezes, kicks, runs, refuses to move. The body cannot relax, the body spasms, the body goes numb. We lose meaning, we become hypervigilant and reactive, we may experience painful "flashbacks," we may cry bitterly, we may get angry, we may feel trapped, we may lose sleep and appetite, enjoy familiar things, work, relationships. We may feel misunderstood, mute, humiliated. We may feel helpless and out of control, and unable to turn for support and resources, even if they are available.
Trauma is an episode of such overstimulation of the nervous system that a person cannot deal with in ordinary ways - due to a lack of adequate support, resources, time.