University students in Pilsen express support for their colleagues in Belarus

Students Press Release Public

Through photographs and signatures, students from the University of West Bohemia and the Faculty of Medicine in Pilsen, Charles University, have expressed their support for students and academics in Belarus.

By joining the 11+1 Project, which has been circulating around Czech higher education institutions, they want to draw attention to the persecution which the academic sphere in Belarus is facing.

"Unfortunately, even today there are countries where academic, creative and political activities, and not just those of students, are restricted by the ruling elite. One of those countries is Belarus, where in November 2020 eleven university students were arrested along with their professor. They are still being held in a Belorussian prison," notes Dominik Schejbal, Chairman of the Academic Society of Political Science Students, the organizer of the Pilsen leg of the 11+1 Project.

As part of the 11+1 Project, through portraits of those that have been arrested and personal messages and signatures, nine UWB students and two students from Charles University's Faculty of Medicine in Pilsen teamed up to express their sympathy not only for their Belorussian counterparts, but also their families, friends and everyone in Belarus who is persecuted for their political opinion or academic work. On behalf of academics, the project was supported by Alena Pařízková of the Department of Sociology of UWB's Faculty of Arts. "We can neither ensure the release of our Belarusian colleagues nor change the Belarusian regime. However, we consider those who were arrested our colleagues, and it is perfectly normal for colleagues to treat one another in line with the principles of humanity and solidarity," says Dominik Schejbal.

Pictures taken at Czech colleges are gradually being added to the social media sites of the 11+1 Project. The aim of this initiative is not only to draw attention to what's happening in Belarus, but also to establish student groups that will assist their colleagues from Belarus to overcome problems which they may encounter in the Czech Republic. "Our long-term goal is to strengthen support programs for Belarusian students and academics on which Belarusian democratic expats could lean," adds the founder of the 11+1 initiative, Petr Ťoupalík.

There are currently 45 Belarusian students at the UWB's nine faculties, most of whom are studying at the Ladislav Sutnar Faculty of Design and Art. Eighteen of them have been receiving support since September 2020 provided by the Czech Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports. UWB offered other students from Belarus a chance to take a one-year Czech preparation course for free, including accommodation in the accommodation facilities. At this time, one student is taking advantage of this opportunity, and in February he will be joined by a female student from Belarus. In September 2022, both students should commence their studies in a degree program of their choice. There are currently 18 Belarusian students studying at the Faculty of Medicine in Pilsen, Charles University.

The 11+1 Project should move to Slovakia, Austria and Germany and should conclude in Vilnius at the European Humanities University – originally based in Minsk, but which since 2006, due to restrictions on academic freedoms and autonomy, has been based in Vilnius.



Šárka Stará

02. 02. 2022