Lavon Barščeŭski – author of several hundred publications, politically discriminated in Belarus, writer, translator and human rights activist has become this year’s grant holder of the International Cites of Refuge Network (ICORN) in Kraków. The author of translations from Latin, ancient Greek, German, English, French and Polish is the fourth ICORN grant holder in Kraków. The Villa Decius, an important residential centre for writers and a place for reflection on human rights and freedom of speech, implements the grant programme and provides the grant holders with a space for creative work, in cooperation with the Kraków Festival Office and the City Council.
The role of Kraków in the ICORN international strategy has been emphasised by the fact that the head of the Villa Decius Association, Danuta Glondys, has been selected for a new member of the management board of the network. This prestigious circle also includes other cities belonging to ICORN: Peter Ripken (Frankfurt), Leikny Haga Indergaard (Bergen), Jasmina Arambasic (Ljubljana), Annika Strömberg (Uppsala), Chris Gribble (Norwich). International cooperation within ICORN has a strategic position in the UNESCO programme, Kraków –City of Literature, assuming the development strategy consisting of 10 key thematic areas, including relationship between literature and human rights.
We are happy to present you another literary personality who has gone under the wings of ICORN, says Izabela Helbin, director of the Kraków Festival Bureau. The problem of fighting for freedom of speech and creation is still very valid, and there is still need to protect both literary independence and writers themselves. This time ICORN has offered a shelter for an outstanding Belarusian specialist in the humanities and activist, Lavon Barščeŭski.
International Cities of Refuge Network founded in 2005 offers asylum to writers and defenders of human rights, who cannot live and work freely in their own homeland due to persecution. One of the originators of the network was Salman Rushdie whose “Satanic Verses” caused violent protests in the Islamic world and a fatwā issued by ayatollah Khomeini – a sentence ordering every true Muslim to kill the writer.
Kraków joined ICORN in 2011. The moment of joining the Network by the City fell in the Czesław Miłosz Year ceremonially celebrated in Poland. Kraków received an invitation as the first city of the Central and Eastern Europe region. In the speech directed to the City Council, ICORN executive authorities pointed out to Kraków as an important and reasonable candidate which will serve as a perfect example for other cities of this European region. Helge Lunde, director of ICORN pointed out that thanks to its cultural traditions, rich artistic and literary life, Kraków will be a perfect place of refuge and creative inspiration for persecuted artists. He indicated that geopolitical location of the city is equally important and called it “Gate to the East”, especially that from the ICORN point of view there are still many writers persecuted in countries neighbouring Poland from the East.
Since that time, within the residential programmes, Kraków has played host for three writers: Maria Amelie (real name: Madina Salamova (North Ossetia / today in Norway), Kareem Amer (Egypt/today in Sweden), Mostafa Zamaninija (Iran).
In 2014, within ICORN, the residential stay was granted to Belarusian writer, poet, translator and human rights activist, Lavon Barščeŭski. As a result of protests against pro-Russian policy, in which he had participated, in 1996-99, he was excluded from parliament where he had been a deputy in the Supreme Soviet of Belarus of the 12th term. Despite of political discrimination he was still politically engaged and acted on behalf of Belarus in an international forum. He has translated, among others, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Bertolt Brecht, Franz Kafka, Stanisław Wyspiański, Brunon Schulz, Czesław Miłosz or Sławomir Mrożek. In 2003-2005, he was the president of the Belarusian PEN Club. During his stay in Kraków, Lavon Barščeŭski translated a drama “Snow” by Stanisław Przybyszewski, and currently he is working on the translation of “Balladyna” by Juliusz Słowacki.