Feb 24, 2021

Great grandmother becomes icon of Belarus efforts to overthrow president

Nina Baginskaya with police officer

In 2020, Baginskaya joined protests after the presidential elections, which were widely believed to be rigged, and soon became a symbol of the movement, being interviewed by press all over the world and appearing in memes and murals around the country.

Baginskaya has become famous for her expression ‘I am just walking’, her response to riot police who tried to stop her and remove her flag, the historic red white red flag of Belarus.

In September 2020, Baginskaya appeared in Italian Vogue under the title ‘The mother of the Belarusian revolution’.

Baginskaya sews all her own flags, which she then uses in protests. She also sews flags for others. 

Baginskaya has amassed large fines from appearing in hundreds of protests, and the state has stepped in to sell her summer home. The government also takes 50% of her small pension.

Baginskaya was born in Minsk, Belarus, in 1946, and was a competitive cyclist in her youth. 

She graduated from the Belarusian State University of Informatics and Radioelectronics, but continued to study, obtaining a second degree from the Ivano-Frankivsk Institute of Oil and Gas (Ukraine). She fulfilled a childhood dream to become a geologist and gained specialisation in oil and gas exploration. 

While working as a geologist at the Belarusian Research Geological Institute, Baginskaya became a member of the Belarusian Popular Front and created a local association of the Belarusian Popular Front.

Baginskaya has been actively participating in protests since 1988, and has been detained dozens of times by police and spent many days in temporary isolation cells. 

In 2014, she was arrested for burning the Soviet flag near the KGB building in Minsk to mark 1 August 1937, the day tens of thousands of Belarusian cultural manuscripts were burned and their authors executed.

On 25 March 2017, or ‘Freedom Day’, dozens of activists were arrested and detained. In the following days, Baginskaya visited the KGB building every day carrying her flag and a poster that read ‘Freedom to the people’.

In 2019, Baginskaya protested ‘landscaping work’ that demolished 30 memorial crosses along the perimeter of the mass graves of those shot in the 1930s. She was consequently detained.

An inspiring elder who shows us that we can grow braver as we grow older.

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