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Who Is Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, Belarus’s Unlikely Opposition Leader?



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When Svyeta, then age 12, arrived in rural Ireland from Belarus in the mid-1990s, it was her strong grasp of English and her kindness that stood out.

One of thousands of children brought to Ireland by charities in the years after the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster in northern Ukraine, she used her language skills to help interpret for others in the program.

“She was a very compassionate kid,” said Henry Deane, who along with his wife, Marian, hosted her at their home in the central Irish town of Roscrea. “She would hold their hands at the dentist and interpret and, really, comfort them.”

It would be decades before the girl they call Svyeta, now known as Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, became the main opposition candidate in last Sunday’s disputed presidential election in Belarus. Ms. Tikhanovskaya, 37, on Sunday fled the country for Lithuania under what her associates said was pressure from the Belarusian authorities.

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