I met Alexander Kozlyanko in the summer of 2002, long before anarchism started to show its grin in Belarus. At that time Brest guys had their own group of friends in Kavala (well known residential area of Brest – Kovalyovka), to which I “joined”, being a frequent visitor in this nice western Belarusian city. I can say with confidence that that group, and Sasha in particular, were at the origins of Brest anarchism. While most of the guys, with whom we drank beer together, discussed music and books, played soccer, simply dissolved in the everyday life of Belarus, Sanya, overcoming subculture, remained in the movement. And he did not just stay in Belarussian anarchism, but, it seems to me, by undergoing a rapid evolution, became its important component.
To say that it was he who “brought up” more than one generation of Brest anarchists and anti-fascists is hardly an exaggeration. It’s hard to find any initiative in the city on the Bug that Sanya hasn’t touched. Counterculture, ecology, FNB, anti-fascism… He issued zines, was engaged in trade union activity, participated in all-Belarusian actions, kept in touch with the international movement. At the same time he remained a simple worker and maintained a healthy lifestyle.
Back in 2014, I wanted to do an interview for a foreign publication with the organizers and participants of the DIY League, once a well-known soccer initiative. The guys, as they wrote to me themselves, prepared extensive answers to my questions (the preparation process was very long), but then abruptly disappeared and did not respond to my emails. Of course, I was very angry, because I cannot stand irresponsible people who do not keep their word. But Sanya told me clearly, “Don’t be offended by the guys. Their life situation is not the best right now. Everyone in Minsk is under a lot of pressure right now…” And he wrote their stories and how fucked up our cops, the KGB, and their methods are. All the complaints fell away by themselves.
As far as I know, Kozlyanko had almost no conflicts with people, which is so rare in the movement. But being quite a public figure in Brest, he regularly ended up in jail. And how many times the pigs came to his house … I think he lost count himself.
Due to his character Sanya was able to find a common language with the Belarusian opposition and human rights activists (he was even an independent observer at the elections), but at the same time, he did not give in to the liberal or nationalist rhetoric, and always remained faithful to the ideas of self-organization and direct action, not trusting the hypocrisy and corruptness of the party structures. Once in one of the conversations about the opposition (I note that he still appreciated some of them for their ideology) Sanya said: “And if changes start to happen in the country, and they will sooner or later, the opposition will simply not be ready to start any sane reforms and everything will go very painfully, as in the early 90s.
He has not managed to shave off his mustache yet, but Kozlyanych was right in other respects. The pain of the Belarusian Revolution of 2020 will write future history textbooks and fiction novels, films will be shot and museums will be built… By the way, Sanja has been writing poetry for a long time, too! In a word, he is a creative and multifaceted personality.
Having said that, the Brest anarchist has never tried to become a “leader”. He has never played the first role. He worked hard and diligently in the name of his idea, demanding neither fame nor recognition. Though he was undoubtedly an important link in the movement, charging people with energy and uniting them. This is why he got caught up in the flywheel of repressions. I knew that sooner or later they would come for him. Most likely, he also knew and was ready for it.
I am convinced that the prisons would only strengthen his will and his ideals. After all, Sasha Kozlyanko belongs to the most committed libertarian revolutionaries in Belarus. He is the soul and conscience of Brest anarchism.
С. N., December 2021.