Photojournalist Misha Friedman has been reporting on LGBTQ issues in Eastern Europe since 2012 and will be publishing his second book on the topic this month, “Two Women in Their Time: The Belarus Free Theatre and the Art of Resistance.” Both this and his first book are part of the Diverse Humanity series.
The book, in collaboration with writer Masha Gessen, follows the Belarus Free Theater and the couple, in work and in life, who run it, Svetlana Sugako and Nadezhda Brodskaya.
“I first met Sveta and Nadya in 2017,” Friedman told In Sight. “I photographed them and the theater company in Belarus and on tour abroad in Finland, Canada and the United States.”
“What I found fascinating and very telling was how different Sveta and Nadya acted at home and abroad. In Belarus, their world was contained by their rural home and the theater company. Despite being part of the resistance, they organized their life to limit exposure to [Belarusian President Alexander] Lukashenko and the state. At the same time, I watched them being a lot more open with each other publicly whenever they were abroad. They were holding hands, kissing and generally feeling very comfortable as a couple in these environments.”
Friedman remains in touch with Sugako and Brodskaya, and recently he was back in Belarus covering the presidential elections and subsequent protests. The couple was arrested Aug. 9 and spent five days in Okrestina jail in Minsk, the capital of Belarus.
“Since then, the theater company has been performing in different neighborhoods on the outskirts of Minsk,” Friedman noted. “As people continue to protest, a lot of street action has shifted to outer boroughs.
“Nobody expected this protest movement to become so massive. Sveta and Nadya have been part of the resistance for many years, and they themselves did not expect for this to happen. It is beyond their wildest imagination.”
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