Kicking off the new academic year with guest lecture by the President of the Belarusian Exile Cabinet | 1,200 guests at Congress Innsbruck | Joint live event with UC Berkeley | New scholarship presented
MCI Rector Andreas Altmann with Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya at the Congress Innsbruck. ©Thomas Steinlechner
Successful MCI Welcome 2023 with Distinguished Guest Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya at Congress Innsbruck ©Thomas Steinlechner
As in previous years, the new academic year 2023 at the Entrepreneurial School® begins with a top-class speaker: More than 1,200 guests at the packed Congress Innsbruck witnessed a rousing lecture followed by a panel discussion by Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, the opposition leader living in exile in Lithuania, sentenced to 15 years in absentia and President of the Belarusian Cabinet in Exile. She described her path into politics, the dramatic situation in Belarus, the imprisonment of her husband for 18 years for "seditious behavior" under the Lukashenko regime, and the importance of democracy, freedom and the rule of law in Europe and the world.
In cooperation with MCI's partner university UC Berkeley, the guest lecture was broadcast worldwide via live stream. Rector Andreas Altmann was part of the MCI panel, while Jeroen Dewulf, Head of the Institute of European Studies, and John Connelly, Head of the Institute of Slavic, East European and Eurasian Studies, joined the discussion live from UC Berkeley.
In her moving speech, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya outlined the fate of her husband Sjarhej, who was kidnapped three years ago and of whom she does not even know whether he is still alive, and the dramatic developments in Belarus in recent years. When she took her husband's place as a presidential candidate in 2020 after his imprisonment, she did so not only for her family, but for all of Belarus. "Everything I have done so far, I have done out of love for my family, because in families you take care of each other. And I realized that my family is 9 million Belarusians."
The widespread assumption that Belarus is only an appendage of Russia does not correspond to reality. Rather, it feels like living in a prison. To her, it is clear: Belarus belongs to Europe. "Our ultimate goal is the membership in the European Union. We want to return to our European family," Tsikhanouskaya emphasizes. Thus, she calls on Europe to stand together as one community to resist the oppression currently prevailing in her home country.
Young people in particular play a crucial role here, she said, which is why she addressed the young people in the room, "You are the future of Europe and the world, and you will decide the fate of nations and generations to come. Be daring, don't be afraid to make mistakes, and never give up."
The prestigious visit of Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya was concluded with the presentation of the new Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya Scholarship at MCI, which aims to promote freedom, democracy and good governance as a common goal and supports students from Belarus and other Eastern European countries in their studies at MCI.
A successful MCI Welcome, a grand start to the new academic year and an exciting "Distinguished Guest Lecture" ended with a standing ovation for Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya and a feeling of cohesion, inspiration, and hope that filled the entire hall.