The awarding took place at Stuttgart ECLAT Festival on February 7. Sister of Kalesnikava, Tatsiana Khomich received the award as the activist remains in custody in Belarus.
The honorary certificate states that Kalesnikava is awarded for ‘role-model and impressive contribution in the creation of the free society in Belarus’. The founders of the award called Kalesnikava ‘gleaming symbol of Belarusian opposition movement’ and noted that together with Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya and Veranika Tsapkala, she became ‘female symbol of opposition’ in Belarus. The award is grant-aided with €10,000.
Khomich read out the statement of Kalesnikava and stated that ‘we definitely know that the freedom is inside – neither prison, nor walls, nor bars can kill it’.
Artistic director of the ECLAT festival Christine Fischer called Kalesnikava ‘person with social responsibility’, noting that ‘as an artist she could always reach people, to make a difference’. She underlined that the award notes the courage of the Belarusian people, particularly, the Belarusian women – who protests against Alexander Lukashenko for many months.
Maria Kalesnikava was detained at the Belarusian-Ukrainian border in September 2020. She was put in the investigative prison in the accusation in urges ‘for actions aiming for harm to the national security’. In December 2020, she became the person of interest in the case on ‘creation of extremist formation’ opened against the representatives of the presidium of the Belarusian Coordination Council for the Transfer of Power.