Vsevolod Chernozub (middle-left)   in   documentary performance  Dreamland

Vsevolod Chernozub (middle-left) in documentary performance Dreamland

VSEVOLOD CHERNOZUB, Russia “Working with Russian people is a way to survive as an activist, to have a little influence on what is happening in my country.”

LOUDER interviews gather contributions from activists, community organizers and civil society professionals from Romania, Finland, Russia and all over the world.

We are happy to welcome to our LOUDER interviews section Vsevolod Chernozub, Russian civil rights activist, campaigner, political analyst, currently based in Lithuania.

LOUDER: What does it mean for you to contribute to your community?

After several years of activism in Russia, I had to emigrate. My new community has become refugees from Russia, Tajikistan, Turkey, Azerbaijan, refugees from war-torn countries like Syria and Afghanistan. I met many people in CARITAS, who work with migrants in Lithuania. And I decided to volunteer for several initiatives supporting refugees. At the same time, together with friends, I created a project dedicated specifically to the Russian community.

Working with Russian people is a way to survive as an activist, to have a little influence on what is happening in my country. My colleagues have the same motivation. Support for refugees in general is an attempt to help people who have fallen into a similar situation, often a lot more difficult. In the Baltic countries you can live well knowing the Russian language, having the same phenotype as the locals. People with a different skin color, another religion for the most part face xenophobia, especially outside Vilnius.

LOUDER: Could you tell us an inspiring story about your activity or you working for your community? Do you think art can contribute to a better society/community? How?

Refugees have few inspiring stories. However, I can tell one story that unites the second and third questions. A couple of years ago, CARITAS employees suggested that I take part in a project by Lithuanian National Drama Theater. The young theater team decided to stage a documentary performance about migrants, called Dreamland.

“Actors” became refugees and migrants from Russia, Afghanistan, Turkey and Lebanon. Usually, people who are forced to leave their countries for non-political reasons avoid publicity. However, Zabi, our new friend from Afghanistan, he was denied refugee status, because of his long wanderings, his wife filed for divorce, and the Taliban were waiting for him in his hometown - they considered him an enemy of the people because his shop sold goods to NATO soldiers. The man fell into depression, he was preparing for his arrest and deportation.

The performance helped to draw attention to his problem. The staff of the Department of Migration, the Red Cross, the Office of the UN Commissioner for Refugees came to the premiere. By the time of his hearing date at the Supreme Court in the case of our Afghan friend, hundreds of theater workers and human rights activists wrote a support letter and on the day of the meeting, an action of solidarity was held at the trial. In the end, a half-hearted solution was found that allowed Zabi to remain in Lithuania. The court confirmed the refusal of asylum, but allowed the theater to take the “actor” under guardianship and to apply for a National visa. Zabi received a new passport from the embassy, and a work permit from the migration department, which also allows him to search for other work options.

LOUDER: Any words for our LOUDER participants.

I will definitely say something to you in Bratislava, having learned about the results of the project and watching the exhibition.