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Car Accident Kills Two Unknown Belarus Team Members, Severely Injures One

Unknown Belarus co-director Vladimir Mikhailovski (left) and sound director Maksim Gavrilenko
Unknown Belarus co-director Vladimir Mikhailovski (left) and sound director Maksim Gavrilenko

Unknown Belarus director Vladimir Mikhailovski and artist-sound engineer Maksim Gavrilenko were killed on May 14 in a car accident on a highway leading from Gomel, Belarus to the Belarusian capital, Minsk. The Current Time series’ co-director, Lyubov Zemtsova, is in critical condition in intensive care.

The team had been in Gomel (also called Homyel) to film an upcoming episode for Unknown Belarus about volunteers helping Belarusian medics fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

Both Mikhailovski and Zemtsova had expressed a lively interest in the volunteer campaign, said BYCOVID19 campaign volunteer Andrei Stryzhak, a Belarusian rights activist, a Facebook post. Mikhailovski said he might like to join it once the Unknown Belarus project finished, Stryzhak added. The scenes of what he saw at the hospital in Gomel had also clearly made an impression on Gavrilenko, he said.

“In a day, we all very much hit it off, as happens with people with whom you’re on the same wavelength,” commented BYCOVID19 campaign volunteer Andrej Stryzhak, a Belarusian rights activist, in “This was more than a documentary film.”

The Unknown Belarus team had worked at area hospitals from 5 in the morning on May 14, Lyubov Zemtsova’s 28th birthday, her mother, Svetlana Zemtsova, told RFE/RL’s Belarusian Service.

She last spoke with the group at 6:10 pm. An hour and 20 minutes later, their Minsk-bound car was hit by a vehicle traveling in the opposite direction, Zemtsova said.

The driver of the Rover that hit the Unknown Belarus team’s car was also killed. Its one passenger was hospitalized, Belarus’ Investigative Committee, which is overseeing the case, reported.

A relative newcomer to documentary filmmaking, 33-year-old Mikhailovski, who had a background in hospitality marketing, wrote on LinkedIn that he and his team worked on documentaries “that will make all of us better.”

Zemtsova, a graduate of Warsaw’s Wajda School for film, is an established documentary filmmaker whose works have appeared in international film festivals. Aside from handling sound for film, Gavrilenko, 26, also worked as an artist.

“This is the worst possible news,” commented RFE/RL President Jamie Fly. “These young filmmakers were brilliant, talented and inspiring people, and part of a new initiative we launched to bring the best stories from Belarus to audiences that know little or nothing about the country’s people. They imbued their work with a spirt of freshness and hope that we all felt.

The loss of Vladimir and Maksim is devastating, and we mourn them with their families. Yesterday was Liubov’s birthday. All of us at RFE/RL are hoping and praying that she will fight this and live.”

Current Time expresses its condolences to our colleagues’ relatives and friends and wishes Lyubov Zemtsova a speedy recovery.