On August 25, the fourth anniversary of imprisoned Ukrainian filmmaker and 2017 PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write honoree Oleg Sentsov’s sentencing, PEN America’s Eurasia Project Director Polina Kovaleva attended the Solidarity of Arts Festival in Gdańsk, Poland, where Sentsov received the NEPTUNE award from the city’s mayor. The NEPTUNE award is presented to an artist “whose life and creative work reflect the values of freedom and solidarity.” PEN America continues to call for Sentsov’s immediate and unconditional release. Read the translation of his acceptance speech, written and sent from Sentsov’s detention facility, below.

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It’s easy to be a revolutionary when revolution has already won. And much more difficult when the oppressor is still strong and the chances to win are small. Many have already tried to challenge the biggest communist monster. Hungarians in 1956—they were crushed with the help of tanks. Later, Czechs and Slovaks in 1968—same result. Poles succeeded in the ’80s. Yes, at that time the empire wasn’t that strong and bloodthirsty anymore. However, it still reacted negatively to any manifestation of freedom, even on the territory of its satellites.

Nevertheless, the Poles revolted. Not openly and not armed with weapons—it was impossible and honestly silly. They started a peaceful and well-organized resistance hoping not for a better piece of bread or butter but for more important things in life—for truth and freedom. Because they were the first ones who became sick and tired of living as slaves in the state of widespread lies. No one knows one’s future, and they didn’t know how all this would end: in a hospital, a prison, or a grave. But they believed in victory, they did everything they could and eventually won. Yes, it can be impossible to overthrow an empire which uses slavery as one of its tools at its most powerful time; Spartak couldn’t back then, but when the times comes and the system grows decrepit, breaking this system becomes more possible. For this, brave people are needed, those who won’t be scared.

One of the first freed from communist captivity, the Poles were able to join the common family of European peoples and occupy a worthy position there. Yes, the European Union now has problems, but these are the problems of equal partners who freely and honestly decide how they should continue to live and cooperate with each other.

But there is a country that now has completely different concerns, whose leadership continues to think in categories of the 19th century, trying to keep its population in fear and submission, convincing it that there are enemies all around who only dream of attacking it. At the same time, this country attacks itself, arrogantly and cruelly.

But the Soviet Union 2.0 cannot be built. It is impossible to lie to people forever. And this post-empire will also collapse, like all similar ones before it. This will happen not only under the weight of its own structural problems, but also because, inside it, there are people who disagree, who do not believe their state that is lying, and people who want only one thing: truth and freedom. And they will definitely win, like the Poles 30 years ago, because in this struggle their main weapon is still the one—solidarity.