Krystsina Tsimanouskaya is starting a new life in Poland after defecting from Belarus at the Tokyo Olympics—and to help fellow athletes in her homeland, she is selling one of her most prized possessions from her old life. The 24-year-old sprinter is selling the silver medal she won in the relay at the 2019 European Games in Minsk to benefit the Belarusian Sport Solidarity Foundation, which aids athletes punished by Alexander Lukashenko's regime for their political views, reports Reuters. "Those competitions were extremely important for me as they were held at the home arena," she said in a statement, per the foundation. "Lots of people, including my family and relatives, came to cheer for me." The current top bid for the medal on eBay is $21,000.
Tsimanouskaya tells Al Jazeera that she feared for her safety after she complained about her coaches on Instagram when she was added to the 4x400 relay—a race she had never run—without her consent. She says she was ordered to return home early and given 40 minutes to pack but decided to seek help after her grandmother told her she had been attacked in state media and it would be unsafe to return. "Had I returned to Belarus, two things could have happened. I would either be sent to a psychiatric hospital or to jail," she says. She got away from Belarusian officials after asking police at the airport for help. She was granted a visa by Poland, as was her husband, an athletics trainer who arrived separately from Belarus. They both plan to continue their sports careers in Poland. "Life changed in one day, and now we are starting it from scratch in a new country,” she tells the AP. (Read more Krystsina Tsimanouskaya stories.)