Belarusians are the second largest minority in Latvia, after Russians. According to the Office of Migration Affairs data for July 2020, there were 64,541 Belarusians currently living in Latvia, of which 28,300 were Latvian citizens.
In Daugavpils municipality, where Nikolajs lives, there are 1,378 Belarusians. The Belarusian cultural-educational association Uzdim has been operating for 28 years.
Nikolajs introduced himself: “I am a Belarusian, born near Braslaw (Vitebsk region in Belarus), we have property, a house. And many relatives in Belarus. My wife and I wanted to get an apartment, so we came to Daugavpils to work for construction. It was very easy to come from Braslaw to Daugavpils at the time. I've been here since 1982, but I frequently visit Belarus."
About the current events, Nikolajs said these were not a surprise.
“I think that the events of 9 August and subsequent events were not unexpected for anyone. And the president himself warned of it. There is no real team of power in the country, Lukashenko's flatterers all around. See, they have good salaries. Lukashenko has to go. I am for it. And for old symbolic."
The old red-and-white symbolic is now used by the opposition. "If it is ancient, historical symbolic, why did it have to be changed?" said Nikolajs.
"I'll say one more thing. If everything was alright, people would have accepted both the new symbol and Lukashenko. It's only when I'm in Braslaw that I see the way people live. One must cry.
Everything broken, looted, people don't have wages. Fifty euros is considered a good salary. Of course people live in different conditions, I have relatives who work in IT, live well, but are not satisfied with the power."
"I've met Lukashenko. It was in 1997 in the world's Belarusian Congress. We were invited to meet the President. There was no selection, it was offered to everyone. I sat in the first row, I was shown and published by all the media. Lukashenko is shrewd – his speech began in Belarusian, everyone began to clap wildly. Then he was asked a lot of unpleasant questions, but the video was then made as if we were foolishly applauding all the President's statements. In this video, there were no critical questions."
About what's going to happen next, Nikolajs said:
“You can't bribe a hundred thousand people. And not only is the capital city rioting, but also small towns, where there have been no riots until now. The main thing above all - not to have a bloody outcome to this. Lukashenko will not give up power just like that.
The old power has compromised itself, it needs young, intelligent people. Lukashenko has to resign – if someone gets 80 per cent [of the votes], he will not be going around the country with a machine-gun."