Another source of support is meeting our readers, talking to them. These meetings were more common while the paper version was still in print but people still write to us, call us, come visit. These are people of different ages, professions and interests. Some ask how they can help us. Some want to talk. Some come to get contacts of the families of political prisoners. We have a whole cycle of articles about the families of political prisoners. Our readers come to our office to contact these families to help them in some way.
Meeting the relatives of the political prisoners is very helpful. Not all of them, but many. It is a great support for me, personally. And according to the relatives of the political prisoners, the feeling is mutual. It is a huge energy exchange!
When our paper was removed from Soyuzpechat kiosks and we started to file subscriptions through our office, it was a positive moment, too. We had a chance to meet our readers in person. It was certainly hard physically. We had to meet hundreds of people per month: on the phone, via messengers, email and post. But it was important both for us and for our subscribers. Each felt their importance, that they are doing something good and helpful, contributing to the common cause.
Our correspondence with the political prisoners was very valuable. When you discover they read the paper all together in the cell and expect each new issue… It's indescribable.
I think it was for the first time in all these years that we felt how important our work is. It gives a good energy and a great impulse to carry on. "What will i do without Novy Chas?": How is the newspaper doing which was printed in Belarus for as long as it could be
I often talk to my colleagues from other editions and I can see it is the most difficult for those who have no direct contact with their readers. When one reads only the news—which is mostly negative now—their environment shrinks down to this negativity. It is extremely hard to get out of it.
But when in addition to reading the news you also meet and talk to people you can see everything is not that 'dark and scary'. Because here they are, real people who keep doing things, believing in something and understanding there are things they can affect. This changes your view of the world.
True, arrests didn't stop. But talking to people I can see this pressure didn't frighten them, but made them angry. I see a lot of such examples. Also true that there are those who got scared and don't want to do anything at all. But the latter are the minority. I'm not talking only about our readers now, I see it in my district, in my city. Nothing is lost.