Producer and narrator Donal O'Herlihy introduces this week's remarkable Documentary On One, which brings us from the Belarusian capital, Minsk to Vilnius in Lithuania to Roscrea, County Tipperary in the South of Ireland. Listen to Svyeta above...

In May of this year a Ryanair jet was grounded in Minsk by two fighter jets from the Belarusian military. The regime claimed there was a bomb on board but what they actually wanted to take off that plane was a journalist who had spoken out against the President of Belarus who has been there for 27 years. His name is Alexander Lukashenko. But it's the backstory of this event that’s the subject of this doc.

In 2020 there was an election in Belarus. A man called Sergei Tikhanovsky ran against Lukashenko. He opened a Youtube channel. His agenda initially was promoting small business but he moved on to parsing the regime politically. For his troubles he was thrown in jail and remains there. But the fight didn’t stop there.

His wife is Svietlana Tsikhanouskaya.

She took up the gauntlet against Lukashenko, and ran against him.

Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya

She beat him. But the election was rigged and the official result gave Alexander Lukashenko 80% of the vote. Her life was threatened by the security services and she was forced to flee to the capital of Lithuania, Vilnius, with her children.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko

But Vilnius isn't her only second home.

Sviatalana spent her summers in Roscrea, County Tipperary in the South of Ireland. She was in the zone affected by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986. The Irish response was to rush to the aid of the children affected. Bringing thing into their homes for summers, loving them, feeding them, looking after them.

I spoke to her on a number of occasions and what's most striking is the kindness, gentleness and total lack of ego which, with all due respect, has been rare over my 20 years of interviewing politicians

Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, meets with members of the local Belarusian diaspora
outside St Stephen's Green in Dublin, during her short visit to Ireland in July 2021

Svyeta is the remarkable story of a Belarusian woman with strong Irish roots, living in Vilnius who is taking on Europe's last dictator.

In May of this year a Ryanair jet was grounded in Minsk by two fighter jets from the Belarusian military. The regime claimed there was a bomb on board but what they actually wanted to take off that plane was a journalist who had spoken out against the President of Belarus who has been there for 27 years. His name is Alexander Lukashenko.

But it's the backstory of this event that’s the subject of this week's Documentary On One.

Documentary On One: Svyeta, RTÉ Radio 1 @ 2:00pm, Saturday 11th September - listen to more from Documentary On One here.