Sasha Solodukhina, Class of 2011

Major: Film and Anthropology; Organization: Independent Project: Actors, Exiles, and Immigrants: Youth Activism Within the Belarusian Diaspora; Location: Minsk, Belarus / New York, New York

Sasha Solodukhina, Class of 2011For the past two months, I have been in Belarus, collecting materials, doing research, and recording footage for an ethnographic film on youth activism in the country. Prior to going, I did a substantial amount of reading on both the history and contemporary situation in Belarus, but nothing could have substituted the experience of actually being there. In Belarus, I got to have face-to-face contact with many representatives of the different activist groups that I had only previously heard about. I spent a lot of time talking to people my age who either are, or have been students amidst the political turmoil of the country. I attended an underground theatre performance by the Belarusian Free Theatre and interviewed its founder. I observed and documented a flash mob pillow fight organized to honor the 600-anniversary Battle of Grunwald, and then, got to observe the subsequent police interference and arrests. My visit coincided with that of a respected academic who writes substantial amounts about Belarusian culture, history, and politics, allowing me to directly describe my experience to someone who is considered an expert in the field. Every day that I spent in Belarus, I encountered and absorbed different cultural elements that prior to this trip, I could only imagine. I saw first-hand the interactions between different sectors of the population with the government, with their country, and with each other. I visited places that I had previously heard about, made many important contacts, and most of all, I developed a more acute understanding of what life in Belarus was actually like, giving me a strong foundation from which to continue my documentary project and further research. I am getting ready to go to New York City, for phase two of this project, in order to meet with Belarusian immigrants, and I know that my intense in-person-crash-course on Belarusian life and activism is going to allow me to more acutely, honestly, and thoroughly understand the experience of the Belarusian Diaspora in the United States.