2020 upended the plans of most of humanity. But few saw expectation and reality diverge quite so sharply, and with such far-reaching consequences, as Svetlana Tikhanovskaya.

The former language teacher from southern Belarus began 2020 with the modest aim of returning to work after a decade at home caring for her children, and waiting for her husband, Sergei Tikhanovsky, a YouTube activist and critic of Belarus’s despotic leader Alexander Lukashenko, to be freed from prison...

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