24 February 2024, Saturday, 14:31
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Following The Departed ‘AutoBusiness’

Following The Departed ‘AutoBusiness’

Let's get loud.

The AutoBusiness no longer exists. Their website has not been updated since Monday, and last Sunday a farewell letter appeared there. The ABW.by team thanked everyone — readers, advertisers, outbids, experts, traffic police officers. Under the text of the letter they placed a song from “An Ordinary Miracle” — the same famous “Let's get quiet, let's lower our voices ...”, which is so suitable for any farewell.

I remember the newspaper AutoBusiness at the very beginning of its publication, in the nineties. I bought it at a kiosk, although at that time I didn’t even have a car—I didn’t even have a driver’s license yet. But thanks to the AutoBusiness, I was immersed in a world of motorists inaccessible to me, and it seemed that thanks to reading the newspaper, the dream of getting behind the wheel was moving closer to reality.

The newspaper at one time helped me understand that the first car for an inexperienced motorist who has just received a license and is saving money should not be a beautiful, sleek, brand new one, but a junk car that is running, so that you don’t feel sorry while hitting bollards and experiencing other delights of parking for dummies. The AutoBusiness helped some people find their dream car, helped other people to sell a boring car, or find a job in this field, or just spend their time on a train with a good read. This was truly a big and important project for Belarus. And I feel very sorry for it.

But I especially feel sorry for the editor-in-chief Yuliya Mudreuskaya and the editor of special projects Yury Hladchuk, who traveled all over the country on a motorcycle. They were detained last summer for participating in protests and sentenced to prison terms. And a month ago, on October 28, the law-enforcers detained director Vital Paliakou and, as usual, posted a repentant video on their garbage Telegram channel, in which Vital, at the request of the punishers, also talks about his salary. The owners of the company that owns AutoBusiness immediately hastened to disown their employee: he was hired on a probationary period, detained on the last day of his first working month, so he did not have time to receive the salary he talks about on camera, we didn’t pay him anything, we didn’t finance any protests, and in general, all our employees know that the AutoBusiness is not about politics.

I understand everything perfectly: it was probably important for them, the owners, to preserve the company, which owns not only the AutoBusiness, but also restaurants, bars, and shipping factories. But for some reason it was unbearably disgusting to read this commentary that no one paid Paliakou any money, and in general, between business and politics, the company always chose business, as the wise Aliaksandr Ryhoravich Lukashenka advised in one of his interviews. Then this comment disappeared from the site. But the bad taste lingers, as is said not by Lukashenka, but by an old joke character.

More than anything, I would like it to be a mistake. I would like someone to call tomorrow and say: “You just don’t know anything, the owners deliberately publicly disowned their employees in order to mislead the punishers, but in fact they are helping the families of Yuliya Mudreuskaya and Yury Hladchuk, and Palyakou was not left without a salary, everything is fine with him.” Perhaps, subconsciously, this is precisely why I am writing this text. But something prompts me: no one will call and say that I’m wrong.

Of course, I really want to go back to 2020, when business stopped pretending that everything was fine and correct in the country and began helping the protesters. Remember how car repair shops repaired cars destroyed by law-enforcers for free? Medical centers treated victims of police batons, boots and rubber bullets free of charge. Cafes opened their doors to protesters, various taxi services took people to the gathering place for the next march and did not take money. I think each of us has more than one similar story. And we really want it to always be like this. But it’s like dreaming of returning to childhood — it was great, of course, fun and carefree, but it will never happen again. A difficult adult life has begun. Sometimes it’s completely unbearable, but it’s the only one we have. Actually, 2020 turned out to be childhood for many Belarusians — when everything was for the first time: delight from one’s own courage, and happiness from meeting people who, of course, are now the closest friends for life, and an unexpected blow with a baton, and fear, and the realization that you are not immortal.

But I’m not talking about that amazing time now. It’s just that since the owners of AutoBusiness did not say anything about their employees who were arrested and sentenced to imprisonment, I would like to thank Yulia Mudreuskaya and Yury Hladchuk, as a reader. Thanks guys for making a great project. Thank you guys for coming out to protest. Thank you guys for being with everyone. We are waiting for you.

Iryna Khalip, specially for Charter97.org

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