She has faced it all. After winning multiple Olympic medals for Belarus, Aliaksandra Herasimenia was accused of damaging the country's reputation, and the swimmer was forced to live in exile in Ukraine to avoid political persecution. (More Sports News)
Herasimenia even sold her 2012 World Championship gold medal in 2021 to help "political prisoners". But the ordeal is not over for the 36-year-old and her family. She has been exiled again!
Aliaksandra Herasimenia, a three-time Olympic medallist, was again forced to flee Ukraine, this time to save her family from the onrushing Russian army in Kyiv. She is now in Warsaw with her husband, Olympic swimmer Yauhen Tsurkin, their three-and-half years daughter and mother.
Herasimenia, a freestyle swimmer, won silver medals in 50 and 100-metre at 2012 London Olympics and finished with a 50m bronze in Rio 2016. She has won multiple world championship and European medals, including gold in 2011 Shanghai world aquatics.
"Of course I had to make something up because how do you explain to a child that war has started?" Reuters reported Herasimenia talking about the ordeal.
Last year, the Belarusian government opened criminal proceedings against Aliaksandra Herasimenia for criticising the Belarusian government led by President Alexander Lukashenko.
Detention of Belarus athletes continues. Belarusian Muay Thai champion Aliaksandra Sitnikava, and world champion and coach in Thai boxing Yury Bulat are arrested. 3x Olympic swimming champion, Aliaksandra Herasimenia, said she's ready to be arrested rather than compromise beliefs pic.twitter.com/cFECTBs3Vr— Franak Viačorka (@franakviacorka) October 14, 2020
Herasimenia is also a co-founder of the Belarusian Sport Solidarity Foundation (BSSF). It was founded in 2020. The BSSF supports athletes who have suffered at the hands of the Belarussian government.
Notable among them is Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, who refused to return to Minsk from the Tokyo Olympics. The 25-year-old sprinter eventually got a humanitarian visa to stay in Poland, where Aliaksandra Herasimenia is now seeking refuge.
The regime treats athletes like enemies. Many were fired, thrown out of the country. The Olympic laureate and leader of independent athletes Aliaksandra Herasimenia faces up to 5 years in prison. She calls on the IOC to take action against the corrupt Lukashenka system. pic.twitter.com/51OG1lLioD— Franak Viačorka (@franakviacorka) April 5, 2021
Alexander Lukashenko, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, is the longest-serving European president. His election for the sixth term in 2020 led to the largest anti-government protests in the history of Belarus with many accusing the 67-year-old of rigging the vote.
"A year and a half ago, we were the ones who were fighting for our rights, our freedom," added Herasimenia. "We called on the Europeans, Americans and everyone in Ukraine for help. We warned that Lukashenko was very dangerous."
Congrats to the Olympian Aliaksandra Herasimenia & @BSSFofficial with the achievements in support of the repressed athletes of #Belarus. You're effectively convincing intern. sports org. to work with athletes, not Lukashenka's regime. We should stand together against repressions. pic.twitter.com/2dhQgxbTtw— Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya (@Tsihanouskaya) December 8, 2020
Putin used Belarus, formerly a part of the Soviet Union, as a staging ground for Russian troops in the build-up to the invasion of Ukraine. Belarus became an independent country in 1991.
Lukashenko has been the president of Belarus since the enactment of the new constitution in 1994. The country became independent in 1991.
"It's as if this never happened... No difference is being made between those who support Lukashenko and those who fought against him," Herasimenia said about the plight of ordinary citizens.
The Investigative Committee has put Aliaksandr Apeikin and Aliaksandra Herasimenia, who recently sold her #Olympic🥇 to support repressed athletes, on the wanted list. They face 2-5 years in jail for the creation of @BSSFofficial. The foundation that helps #Belarusian sportsmen. pic.twitter.com/RHtOyylCqm— Dzianis Kuchynski (@Dz_Kuchynski) April 24, 2021
In the wake of a crackdown against those who protested the fraudulent re-election of Lukashenko, many fled Belarus including elite athletes like Aliaksandra Herasimenia.
"We've been running for a long time," said Herasimenia, whose family waited for nearly a day and a half at Ukraine's border to enter Poland.
(With agency inputs)