“Women Who Held Flowers”

On March 8th, the International Women’s Day, ANU Museum of Jewish People screened the documentary “Women Who Held Flowers” by Ksenia Svetlova and Michael Veksel. The documentary, initially released in 2021, pays tribute to the courageous Belarusian women who participated in the August 2020 protests against Lukashenko’s regime. These women stood at the forefront of the movement, armed with white flowers instead of guns.

Journalist Ksenia Svetlova, who previously covered events during the “Arab Spring” revolution, together with Michael Veksel, Roman Kovgan, Yuri Leshk, and Kirill Sapozhnikov, came to Belarus in 2021 to interview the protesters in confidence. During an open discussion with the creators at ANU, director Mikhail Veksel and producer Roman Kovgan shared that they were inspired by the wave of support shown to Belarus in Israel on the streets of Tel Aviv. While interviewing and shooting, the group met dozens of female activists who decided to stay in the country and the leaders of the 2020 protests, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya and Veronika Tsepkalo, who found refuge in Lithuania and Latvia after being threatened and attacked to leave Belarus.

The documentary raises important questions about civil society and feminism in the face of a nationwide health crisis like COVID-19. Can the feminist movement conquer dictatorship, and what actions does an oppressive system force people to take? “Women Who Held Flowers” paints a truly scary picture of hope and fear, struggle, friendship, and solidarity in a totalitarian state where women and men fight for the freedom of their home.

Photo: Yael Ilinsky