Natalia Kaliada is the co-founder and artistic director of Belarus Free Theatre, an underground theatre group formed in response to the severe censorship and repression of Alexander Lukashenko’s regime, the last dictatorship in Europe. Since its founding in 2005, Belarus Free Theatre has performed provocative plays (often held secretly) that focus on the consequences of state repression and its accompanying culture of fear.
The group has repeatedly endured harassment from Belarusian authorities. In August 2007, Belarusian police stormed an apartment during a private performance, arresting all participants. In December 2010, Kaliada and her husband were beaten and arrested by security forces in a brutal crackdown during the 50,000-strong protest following the rigged re-election of Lukashenko. After being released, they were forced into exile and sought political asylum in the U.K.
The Belarus Free Theatre has received numerous awards, including a special mention for the 12th Edition of the Europe Theater Prize in 2007, and the 2007 French Republic Award in Defense of Human Rights. Although she was forced into exile, Kaliada continues to fight against the dictatorship in Belarus. She connects with members of the theater group via Skype and works tirelessly to bring abuses in Belarus to the international community’s attention.