Andrej Dynko is the editor-in-chief Nasha Niva, the oldest Belarusian-language weekly newspaper in Belarus. Founded in 1906, it turns 100 in November. On 21 March Andrej Dynko was arrested in the centre of Minsk near the tent camp.
He was sent into prison for 10 days for allegedly for “using curse language in conversation with police”. This is a letter he wrote from his cell.
By Andrej Dynko
I am writing these lines on Monday, at 11 p.m. With luck, these notes will reach the office of Nasha Niva just in time to be printed. The lights are out, but the prison is not sleeping. It is loud, as a jungle in the night. Voices and even laughter can be heard from the cells. By the sound of it, the prison reminds of a summer camp for children. During the day the prisoners play chess (with figures sculptured from bread), “mafia”, sea battle, solve crossword puzzles. When the night comes, it is the time for verbal games. Prisoners recall the riot policemen and guards they’ve met, tells spicy jokes about the dictator and his camarilla, state radio hosts and sergeants, which were gathered from all corners of the Belarusian capital to Akrestsina prison in Minsk. “Calm down, mother f*****!” - the guards remind the prisoners about their existence, but the buzz doesn’t get any more quiet. There is a lit bulb in a small window above the door. It gives me enough light to write.
An hour ago the guard told the guys in the cell opposite us, that 300 more arrested are being taken to Akrestsina. It sounds unreal, we don’t tend to believe him. Who can joke like that after the whole week of conveyor arrests? We have heard of the last big prisoner transport on Saturday. In the beginning we’ve heard the rumour, that a 15,000-strong protest march is heading towards Akrestsina. Two hours later the interior minister Navumau confirmed this in his interview to the Belarusian state radio. The prison met his words with chanting “Long live Belarus!” accompanied by rumbling and clanking at heating radiators. Barely warm now, they are totally cold during the day.
We sit in a new prison building, not completed yet, but already fully loaded with the arrested on the square and around it. We are 8 people in a cell designed for 5, and, by using a method of proportion, we try to evaluate the quantity of the internees. We have no idea how many cells there is in the old prison building. There are about 40 in the new one. How many of us are there? In the dinner list we put our numbers as 327, 329… Five hundred? Six hundred? Belarusian state radio, the only means of information we have, doesn’t tell anything about the numbers of the arrested - the clear sign, that the number is huge!
…I was standing with my hands back, facing the wall, in the reception of the old prison building, and Aliosha Yanukevich (deputy chairman of the Party of Belarusian Peoples’ Front) was speaking to me from behind the steel door. There is Yury Sidun, Andrej Tserashkou - total of 11 prisoners in his cell. The old building is warm, bust stinks as a homeless tramp. There are no separate beds here. As I stand in a line to be searched, I can hear the voice of Anatoly Lyabedzka (Chairman of the United Civic Party) in the cell number 4, he demands something from the guard. And isn’t it the baritone of philosopher Akudovich, which I hear from the sanitary check room?
On Saturday we will receive the fresh issue of Nasha Niva together with the package from our relatives. Using the cardboard pack of the toothbrush, we will cut it into separate pages, and I will be amazed to see the advices by the experienced alpinist Akudovich for those, who want to survive in the tents. Haven’t I really recognised the voice of the brother of mine?
Two buildings of the prison are fully stuffed. Enzymes are fermenting in the cells. Obedient citizens get used to prison. There is no depression. We know about the newly arrested and about the widespread protest on the Freedom Day (25. March). The prison greets with rumbling applause the people who are chanting “Long live Belarus!” and “Hanba!” (‘Shame!’) near the Akrestsina prison gate. My inmates discuss the best ways to throw the idea of a solidarity action into the masses of their colleagues at work - for example, the people outside could begin to have 2 meals a day, as prisoners, until everyone is released. The guys read into the column of Vaerka Bulhakau in Nasha Niva: “Be ready for everything, but don’t bend in”.
We are proud to receive packages from the freedom. Some women have chosen not the most convenient husbands for themselves. We are glad to see, that the people, who came to Minsk from the regions, also receive packages. We were just as glad during trials, when we saw our lawyers and human rights activists - present, but unable to change the verdicts.
The prison unites. There is a lot of us, and we watch, as our optimistic power catches the attention of convoy guards. The novices stare at us, start talking. Some even show the V-shaped fingers into the peep-holes of our doors - and this is our victory. “Why so sad, guys? - asks one of them. - Over there, in the girls’ cell, there are syringes and porn magazines” (Shortly after the tent camp dispersal the Belarusian state television showed the images of the tent camp, allegedly full of drug accessories and porno publications). We burst into laughter.
“The dear motherland of mine” (words from the old popular song)
We are listening to the radio. We hear about the looming social crisis in France, and that as a results of Irish pubs going bankrupt, 1200 people lost their jobs. We note the week-long silence of the “guarantor of the stability of the socio-economic course”. The victory of orange forces in the Ukraine becomes clear, when we hear that the state radio reports the alleged chaos at Ukrainian polling stations. The guys feel that there is a drop of our input in this victory. The Ukrainians noticed on time, what the Belarusian pals of Simonenko and Vitrenko are doing, in order to stay in power. Nine times a day we hear as the Belarusian Foreign Ministry wrathfully condemns the US and EU interference in Belarusian affairs, and we know: they are trying to make our release possible. Our guys spoiled the “elegant victory” of the regime. That is why Lukashenka is silent.
Before March it seemed to me that the Republic of Lies will live longer than its creator. In prison I realised that everything can be over much sooner. I underestimated the force of the moral engine, which keeps the protests moving, and the width of the social basis for these protests. Differently from 1996 and 2001, those, who went to the square this spring, knew what they were doing.
Who are my inmates? Mostly people, who were imprisoned for the first time in their life. Mostly young 18-35-year-old people. Computer programmer from Minsk (born in the town of Braslau, in the North of Belarus); D-Jay from Mogilev; sole trader from “Dinamo” market in Minsk (born in Russia, son of a military officer, came to Belarus when he was 17) - they are walking refutation of stupid nationalistic clichés. There is also a businessman in a cashmere coat, who is also a protestant priest; a worker and at the same time musician from Gomel; journalist of the newspaper “Belarusy i Rynok” Vadzim Aleksandrovich; minsk plumber with an experience of the leadership in “Malady Front” youth opposition organisation, also experienced in translating American cartoons into Belarusian language.
Akrestsina cells are living vibrant spiritual life. The preachers preach about ordeals, which the God sent to Joseph, dissidents with 20-year-long experience tell about the deeds of the past times. The younger prisoners don’t know a thing about the protest spring of 1996. Members of “Zubr” (“Otpor”- od “Pora”-like youth opposition organisation) are our special troops - I have learned to recognise and value it only here in prison, where they show their knowledge and skills. There is no grief, no fear. There is a feeling of a fulfilled duty. “Who, if not us?” - says the manager from Grodno, who loaded the trunk of his “Ford” with ham, cheese, tangerines and, at 6 a.m. on 21. March set off for Minsk. He reached the square, and was arrested there.
I was arrested in the morning of 21. March, after the first night on the square. I was not alone in the police bus - riot police loaded it with people, who had heard about the tent camp through Russian TV-Channel NTV or through the Internet. The first reaction was solidarity. Only one was carrying a tent and a fishing-rod for a flag (subjects of Akrestsina anecdotes), all the rest were carrying food. One woman - 8 bread rolls and a vacuum flask with hot tea, another man - 40 sweet cheese curds. When I looked at him, I recognised my neighbour. We knew each other’s faces, but have never said “Hi!” to each other before. In 1996 the courts fined people for scuffling with police. In 2006 they convicted girls to 7 days on a plank bed without mattresses for a flask with tea.
Inmates and girls
When the shock of the first day fades away, these girls will be singing the N.R.M song “Balloon”, irritate prison guards with their jokes and ring the melody of the “Long live Belarus!” chanting with a prison bell.
The inmates, who were arrested later, tell me that these were girls who began chanting “We shall stay!” in tehnight of 21. March, when Kazulin proposed to dissolve the tent camp. Milinkevich hesitated, the men kept silent.
One of the articles in the previous issue of Nasha Niva was called “The first day of the revolution”. There were no revolution, there was a protest. I believe, they had a rather moral, than political nature. If there are any reasonable people in power, they couldn’t help paying attention to the fact, than two of every three cars, passing the square during the protests, hooted as a sign of solidarity with the protesters. People say, beginning with 21. March, road police reported the license plate numbers to police blocks further down the road. The drivers were stopped and fined two blocks away from the square. On the square itself the authorities played the game of “democratic façade”.
I am sitting on a long wooden bench (which I also use for sleeping). My inmates pressed their backs to each other on the plank bed - the bed is so narrow that they have to sleep reversed, facing each others’ toes, muffling up their legs with their coats. The cold crawls inside through the iron-barred hole with the fire alarm, which leads into the corridor, the chilly wind drifts through the chinks in the window with a matted enforces glass - during the late soviet times such glass was used to make foppy doors in the apartment blocks of panel multi-storeyed houses. Akrestsina is finally quiet. Socks get dried on a radiator. “Kent”-butts stick out of the ashtray, made out of bread - the only accessible building material. The brown wooden floor reflects the light of the bulb, a guard is coughing in the corridor, a small square window of the feeding-trough is oozing out on the tin-enforced door. If you don suffer from claustrophobia, it is quiet and calm here. Everything is provided for you, nothing depends on you.
Being imprisoned feels like being pregnant: it’s worrisome in the beginning, and in the end. Prisoners discuss, which provocation can wait for them at the prison exit. Almost everyone here has an acquaintance, who is under politically motivated criminal investigation. It was especially painful to hear from Siarhej Salash (he was sent to our cell one night before the court) that secret services stealthily put drugs into the home of Kastus Shydlouski, the museum owner from Braslau. One can expect everything from this regime. The worst tricks of the Soviet times are back, and the repressive machine has grown much larger.
Soviet Union prepared itself for the war with the outside enemy and invested into advanced missiles. Lukashenka’s regime invests everything into fighting the internal enemy. That is why secret paramilitary units such as SOBR, “Almaz”, PMSP, special departments of President Security Service, KGB have grown bigger and multiplied themselves. Above them is the Security Council with Victor Lucashenka, the president’s son, who is in charge of all that. Internal troops have grown several times larger, in comparison to the Soviet time. It seems like each of these structures is active around the square.
All arrests went differently. One student told me, that “Almaz” soldiers collected the people they have arrested in the Yanka Kupala park, beat them unmercifully and took them to Akrestsina, loaded on the floors of police buses in several human layers. I don’t know, whether this is an exaggeration. “Zubr” and regional activists’ phones were tapped. They were arrested as dangerous criminals, in suburban trains or on apartments, rented in Munsk for a day or two.
As far as I can tell from the personal contact, the regime will be able to rest on the shoulders of a thousand handpicked fighters of special troops for so long, for how long it will be able to pay their salaries. Elite units are being trained in the spirit of absolute devotion to the orders of their commander, the law is not important for them. The fighters feel totally comfortable, falsely accusing other people of “cursing”, etc.
The construction of the repressive system is over. The “ideological vertical” substitutes with itself the party structure. It coordinates the indoctrination process of the society and controls the behaviour of people. The “vertical” joins its ranks with the apparatus of secret services (ideology specialists often fulfil the duties of staff managers). Together they organise or forge the pseudo-election procedures. All this is orchestrated by the manipulated mass media. The protests are being strangled by law enforcement structures, most eagerly - in advance, with courts, election committees, etc. just affirming the decisions, which where approved “above”. The favourable economic state of the market allows its participants to believe in its durability and, more importantly, in its fairness. Lukashenka’s system will be creating the unlimited spiritual corruption and propaganda idiotism. But in the beginning it causes nearly totalitarian devotion in those, who receive pecuniary benefits and ideological satisfaction. This can be seen on the example of Lidzia Yarmoshina, the Chairwoman of the Central Election Committee.
We, the inhabitants of the cell number 13, saw this on the example of another person. We didn’t understand completely, who he really was. Neither have we understood, why he visited us. It happened on Friday, 24. March, in the evening. I want to remind, that in the night of 23. to 24. March the tent camp was dissolved by force.
Two men in plain clothes entered the cell. They were accompanied by the Akrestsina cops, all of them high police officers. The first person had blond hair and was wearing a mink hat. He had a piercing stare of the eyes, which never blinked. He could easily win the “Bealrusfilm” casting for the role of SS-officer. He demanded that we tell him, who we are working with. He told, they decided to go and check the cells, in order to see, “what kind of public caused all these disturbances”. “The minister of education and I are going to get all of you together for a chat”, he told the youngest of us. Then he swooped down on our programmer, “What do you lack? Don’t you get enough money?” The exchange with the D-Jay was over with a short lecture, which told us, that:
- Kazulin is a traitor and a Gapon priest, he doesn’t have any supporters, except of those, who accompanied him to the Palace of Railroad Workers on 2. March. Kazulin’s aides wrote such a program, that you can easily substitute the name “Bealrus” for “Nizhny Novgorod region” in it;
- Milinkevich is a mumbler;
- We are used to make money, big money. While we were freezing, Milinkevich dined and wined his family in a restaurant;
- A country for people is being built in Belarus, and no one has the right to question the will of 83% of voters;
- Any actions of protests will be severely stopped.
At this point he appealed to another plain-clothed man, calling him “my university friend, who is now working in Moscow”.
The visitors vanished, when Vadzim Aleksandrovich began to argue with them in Belarusian. The Russian “colleague” asked the Akrestsina director, “which language does this prisoner use?” “Belarusian”, was the answer.
The visitors left, and we began to think, who they were. We asked the guard, and he answered: “Deputy minister”. But the ways and manners of the visitor did not resemble a deputy minister of interior. He was more like a secret service man. Or a special unit man. I spent a lot of time trying to recall where I have seen this face. Wasn’t he sitting between A. Lukashenka, S. Sidorski, and M. Pavlov during the “Belarus-Spain” tennis match? And what was this Russian secret agent doing side by side with this man in plain clothes? Does this mean, that on 19.-25. March there was (were) Russian consultant(s) in Minsk? That would be an interesting turn.
What did this visit mean? Perhaps, just a desire to see the “prisoners of war” with his own eyes. Who are they, who dare to challenge the empire? The most pleasant thing this man in plain clothes said, was that nobody left the tent camp before the assault, “except of our people”.
It is getting light outside, that means that the cell number 13 will wake up soon. I have to finish this letter: it is impossible to write, when the inmates talk, smoke or satisfy their natural needs by your side.
The country made another step in the opposite direction from normality. The atmosphere of terror was created before the elections, and there were total arrests during the March protests.
It doesn’t matter anymore, whether your break the law. You can be expelled, fired, beaten up, detained, imprisoned, any time you begin any activity, which is considered to be oppositional.
The regime wanted to strangle the tent camp by blockading it, to take it over by starvation. The very essence of the regime showed itself in these arrests of people, who were going to a toilet, grabbing the girls with thermoses, hiding the police buses behind the billboards reading “For prosperous Belarus!”. For this regime the TV-picture outweighs everything else. The authorities interned everybody, who they saw as potential organiser of protests, then they arrested everybody, who seemed to stir up the protests. But the unexpected happened - three new people came to the place of every arrested, people began to carry food on their bodies. Photographers documented a boy, who, happily smiling, undressed and took down the sausages, wrapped around his waist.
The existence of the tent camp inspired thousands of people for heroic deeds, both small and big. These deeds will stay with these people for years, lighting up their hearts.
Sacrificial therapy - that was the sense of the protests-2006. The regime understood, that it had lost. They clumsy cleared the tent camp. This didn’t help, that is why the authorities stages a really primitive provocation on the Freedom Day. This is my vision of these days, most of which I had to spend behind the bars. Please, forgive me, if I am wrong.
Aliaksandr Milinkevich said, that after 19. March Belarus will wake up as a different country - courageous and free. I was not sure then, whether it was just a propaganda trick. I don’t know, what is happening over there, outside prison walls. I don’t know, who is still free. I am spending these 10 days among people, who have undergone sacrificial therapy, and these are bright days among bright people. Perhaps, Milinkevich was right.
11 p.m. 27. March - 6 a.m. 28. March
Political Prisoner’s Diary: “And at that instant it got really scary…”
We continue to collect stories of people arrested during protest actions in Minsk. It’s a diary of a young man who had spent 7 days in Akrestsin Street detention center. He was detained on October Square on March 21.
I don’t want anyone to think that I was imprisoned for some kind of political views. I mostly don’t give a damn about all this west-east socialism-liberalism stuff. I simply physically sense emotions. One week before the presidential elections the feeling of fear and hang in every corner of my city, shot out of the eyes of almost everyone, who I saw on the streets. Lies and intimidation by the authorities worked very well. I have never experienced anything like that anywhere. And I also want to add - I am Christian. I remember very well: evil does not exist. You can build any awesome castles and impregnable prisons on the foundation of sin, lie, blackmail, but it will be enough that God looks down on all that with his eye half-open, and everything will turn into ashes. But will He really look at people, who believe in the power of sin, and not God, at people, who turned their backs not only at heaven, but at one another as well?
No more elections of coups. What we need, is “the Great Convention” , as the Belarusian poet Kupala wrote. Everywhere, forever. That week the Great Convention was held on the Kastrychnitskaya square inn Minsk.
But instead of looking into the dragon’s eyes, I was forced to study his insides for the whole week. But I have no regrets. Below you will find my observations, which should be attached to the “history of the monster’s illness”.
The last drop is the lie of “Moscow Echo” radio station. A store - canned food, candy - a drugstore - anti-cough medicine - telephone - I’m the latest to go where everyone goes - whatever, I’ll break through on my own too… I was walking from the Victory Square - no groups of people are in sight, only one girl with a blue ribbon. Route-100 Buses are stuffed with people, no way to get in with a big backpack. I go by foot. Having reached the Circus I call Burbalka, she tells me that there are arrests already, but our guys went through the subway tunnel. Heck with it, I don’t have time to get back and take a subway train… I cross the street, there are a lot of people around already. On the corner of a building someone grabs my hand, “Stop! Police!”. Two huge jerks in plain clothes drag me and press against the wall. Documents - open your bag - follow us…
Two more of those appear, lead me into the court near the Veterans’ Palace of Culture. They are scoffing along the way, curse me with the worst words there are, promise to beat me up (luckily they didn’t do it). They force me into a back seat of a “zhiguli” car. The driver and a man by his side on the front seat are totally alike, the same square mugs instead of faces. The one on the front seat is leafing through a porn magazine. About 5 minutes later they throw another one into the car - they caught him at the same place, he was carrying a fishing-rod and a conceived EU-flag. The car starts. The cell phone rings in my pocket - “don’t pick it up, or it’ll get worse”. The roads are jammed, we are moving slowly. Out of the window I see the “blue Notting-Hill”, which I failed to reach. Amazing and majestic sight - white-red-white flags in the snow haze, in the ghostly light of lanterns… People are streaming from all directions, their happiness has no limits, it reaches through the glass of the car’s window. Out there there was no fear… Only there…
They took us to Akrestsina prison in Minsk. Ordered to turn off our cell phones. Examined and made a list of all my possessions, confiscated my belt, shoelaces, elastic for my hair, tore off all ropes on my coat and hat, they even took away the little cross I wear on a lace around my neck. Everyone was taken to the first floor, shot by a VHS-camera, had his personal information written down… The procedure has little to do with real questioning: two jerks, who took us here, sit at a table and write a report, a cop writes nothing, just keeps asking who I voted for, how much money did I get for this, and why in the world didn’t I sit at home. After the two finished their writing, the cop writes down the charge: article 156 part 1 - minor hooliganism. “Read and write your explanations”. I read that I allegedly “used curse words, yellowed, did not react to the notices of policemen”. I write honestly, that was going to the square. End of questioning.
They lead us into the cell. I am asking, for how long. “Till morning”, they answer. They locked the door. Here I really got scared. I just had one thought: my mother won’t stand it, she will die… I don’t notice anything, don’t talk to inmates, throw myself from one wall to another…
In a couple of hours we are being led to another cell, similar to the previous one. Only now I begin to pay attention to the setting. The cell is designed for three prisoners, there is a table, a bench, two bedside-tables, a sink, a WC surrounded by iron walls. Everything is firmly screwed to the floor. The walls are pale orange, the plank bed is blue - everything is recently painted, a thick layer of dust-like deck paint is lying everywhere. “The building is new”, explains the guard. We wipe the paint away from the plank-bed, somehow settle in…
After a while the door is slammed open - they lead a new inmate into the cell. We get acquainted. He is Andrej Liubka, the Ukrainian journalist. Riot policemen have caught him and beat him up. He hadn’t eaten anything for 24 hours. I am asking him about Majdan - yes, he was one of the leaders, he says that everything began not much better than here, people didn’t believe in victory… A fourth one is being thrown into the cell - he is polish, also a journalist, a friend of Andrej (I think his name was Peter). The conversation gets livelier, three brother-tongues mix in the cell. The guy, who was arrested with me - his name is also Andrej - tells, that in his district - he comes from the town of Myadzel - the majority is surely against Lukashenka. Peter recalls his recent pilgrimage to Budslau in Belarus - when the Belarusian state television journalists came to them and asked “what are you doing here, don’t you have your own pilgrimages?”. The midnight is approaching, the voices of the inmates are blending, I want to eat, I have to sleep, my thoughts are only about my mom…
In the middle of the night the door is opened - the food is here. We ask what time it is - the answer: 2 a. m. What can we do - we should eat. Andrej from Myadzel declareas a hunger-strike. The porridge is plain salt, we don’t have drinking water, have to drink from the tap…
…The yesterday’s guard is now totally drunk - he was trying to drown his consciousness in alcohol. Later I found out, that in the night a group of girls was brought into prison, one of them was bleeding badly…
.. They load me into a bus and take to Zavadski district court (now I know that all judges of Minsk took part in this farce). There is an old dissident Vadzim Aleksandrovich in the bus, he is accustomed to everything, begins to make jokes about cops, courts and authorities as the whole. Everyone’s mood gets better…
… The first convictions are there. 7 days in prison, 10 days, 12 days… The eyes of the lawyers are about to pop out from amazement. One lawyer insists on two girl being taken into the hospital - the quarrel has no end. The cops say: if there will be a convoy, the girls will go to the hospital. Sveta, the girl with bleeding, gets worse and worse. I forget about everything, begin to pray for her… About 5 p.m. finally the convoy is there. Sveta is taken away…
… My court is almost over, I wait in the corridor. My lawyer got in touch with my parents - I now I know, that my mother is alive, I feel more calm now. Cops say that Sveta was taken back to the court from the hospital. I get a conviction - 7 days in prison. I don’t care anymore…
…Sveta leaves the courtroom. She only manages to show “7” with her fingers and, with her force leaving her, falls down to her knees. This moment was the most difficult for me - I felt like falling down beside her. I saw the faces of cops - everyone stared away, and only the younger one looked at her and made desperate attempts to keep his eyelids from trembling. The lawyer said that the hospital resolution reads “The treatment at home is needed”. For the court it means - in prison…
… We are talking in our cell. I am impressed by a history of Pavel from the aviation college. He never cared for politics, lived his own life, almost occasionally visited the meeting with Milinkevich - and there he understood, what kind of people are against Lukashenka, and what kind of people favour him… In the square he had no doubts about his actions, neither has he doubts about that here, inn the cell…
From 10 people in the cell there are only 3 from Minsk, all the rest are from province - from Pinsk, Barysau, Dziarzhynsk… This day another myth was destroyed - regions are not for Lukashenka! His electorate are “nomenclature” people, their children, “youth” activists from local colleges and old “babushkas”, who suffer from TV-idiotism. But simple workers from the half-dead factories, state-paid employees like teachers and doctors, the students who were sent to the province from bigger cities by force, everyone who suffer under the press of bureaucracy, who are bind to their living-place for their lifetime, without any hope for the decent pension, all of them are ready for changes - no matter, in which direction, they are ready to hold on to any alternative…
…About 6 p.m. new prisoners are brought to our floor. Cells opposite us get filled with 10 people each. We hear the ops talking - they are bringing prisoners to the third and fourth floors already. Riot policemen appear - probably, they brought the arrested. They look into each cell - stone faces, empty eyes. They spend especially long time in front of the girls’ cells. They take out their cell phones, make photos through the peep-hole in the door, send MMS. We tighten our teeth and fists…
… The evening comes, riot policemen are gone. The soup - water with the pieces of potatoes, the tea - tastes the same, as in the morning, I take a sip and spill it away… We calm down, the mood is changing to better. Prisoners in different cells begin to communicate by knocking. In one cell guys begin to sing the N.R.M. song “Three turtles”, the rest of cells clap their hands…
…I begin to pack my things. I found a pink balloon, which by some miracle was not confiscated. We blow it up, throw from one to another. The time runs unbelievably slowly, every minute is shorter that the previous one. 18.10 - they come after me. Finally I can breath fresh air! The cops in the new building, the cops in the old building - everyone asks the same thing: “Will you go to the square again?” in return I fight the temptation to actually commit the crime I was sent into prison for 7 days. But the wish to be set free is stronger. They return me my things, I tie up my shoelaces - and - off we go! I haven’t even checked, if they returned everything. Checkpoint - passport - open doors - everything is calm, I am being met. Freedom!
These are just my personal observations. But everything which was written during these days, proves: today the regime in Belarus is not alive - it is a poorly animated corpse, which can fall into pieces any moment. The only goal of resistance movement now should be to prevent our country from drowning under a thick layer of pus, when this corps falls apart.
Katsiaryna Kliatsouka came from Poland to Belarus with her daughter Vera and Mariusz Mackiewicz, the ex-ambassador of Poland . They took part in the protests and were arrested on the Kastrychnitskaya square. Here is the interview Katsiaryna gave to the Belarusian service of Radio Free Europe.
“Buses came to the square. We were surrounded. Riot police jumped out of the buses. They ordered us “lie down on the ground”. We lied down, and every second or third policemen began to beat us. I held on to Vera. Some girl stood in the middle of the tent camp and began to pray. It was so dramatic. I couldn’t believe I really was there. It seemed to me as if I were an angel, and will now fly away from the Kastrychnitskaya square and won’t have to see all this.
One policemen grabbed Vera by her hair and pulled. Another screamed at him, “don’t beat her, don’t you see that she is totally young”. The other one beat her nevertheless.
They pulled her away. Then they threw me head towards down the asphalt pavement. Falling down, I hit the ground with the back of my head. Then they hit me in the face. Now the left side of my face is injured, I have a bruise under my left eye.
They grabbed me as some pig, threw into the bus. They screamed at us, called us pigs, asked what we were doing here, with this revolution. In the bus they kicked me in by back all the time.
I lie on the floor and thoughts are stirring in my head, “Where is Vera? Where is Mariusz?” I didn’t recognize them. I fainted. When I regained my consciousness, I still haven’t been able to recognise them for several minutes.
Then they prevented us from talking to each other. Every word was as precious as gold. They cruelly screamed at us when we dared to speak.
When they brought us to the prison on Akrestsina, the whole corridor was jammed with people. They treated us as real criminals, screaming, “Face the wall! Stop talking! Turn off the cell phones!” Then they went from one to another, asking, if there were underage children.
So we stood near the wall, I have no idea, how long. They arrested us around 3 a.m. And we had to stand facing the wall till around 1 p.m.
Vera was set free around 11 p.m. That means, she spent 20 hours in prison. She was picked up by her biological father. Policemen threatened him with major problems, if he fails to prevent his daughter from being politically active.
The fear paralysed my soul.
When the court hearing began, I didn’t even care what they accused me of. I was taken to the Leninski district court (in Minsk). There are casemates there, some kind of basement. There, in this basement, there are cells, each of them with 10 people. Some cells were so overcrowded, that the guards even left the doors half-opened. Our cell’s door was locked, though. I was the first to be brought before the court. The judge asked me, what I had seen. What have I heard? I answered that I didn’t chant anything. Except for the slogan “Long live Belarus!” Can it be considered anti-state? The judge told me “not to come to revolutions again”.
And sentenced me to 3 days in prison.
And gave me an advice: stay home and look after your children rather than make revolutions.
They didn’t even give us water. They took me straight into the prison after the hearing. Policemen were very angry, because they also had no breakfast and dinner. Every arrested person was followed by 3 cops.”
Original text can be found here: http://www.svaboda.org/articlesfeatures/politics/2006/3/70381FAC-E18E-43FD-9C91-97B0971CD87D.html
This is a letter of women, who were taken to the prison in the town of Zhodzina from the isolation prison of Minsk district.
“We really wanted to write down everything which had happened to us, since the very fist minutes of our detainment. Yet, only now, on Sunday, 26. March, at 19.00, have we received such an opportunity. During the evening check, we asked the director of the prison to lend us his pen, which he did. During arrest all our private possessions, all hygiene items, as well as all hats, scarves and gloves were confiscated. Pens and pencils were prohibited during the first days of detainment, we also have no paper we could use for writing.
Our names are Valyantsina Palyavikova and Larysa Bukholenka. We are locked in a cell number 5 (designed for two people). I sit here for the 3rd day already. Valyantsina was transferred in the morning from the cell number 9, where he was locked together with younger girls (11 women in a cell designed for 8 people).
This is how our cell number 5 looks like: 3,65 m long, 1,70 m wide, the window opposite the door 83/83 cm, 1,60 m above the floor. The window is closed by thick bars, which barely let any daylight into the cell. The wooden bed has 2 storeys, one storey for 2 people. The bed’s size is 1,90 m by 70 cm. We have to sleep on bare wooden boards, without any sheets or blankets. The cell is illuminated by dim light throughout the whole day and night. We have a real “parasha” (primitive toilet), which is situated right near the bed, not separated from the “living space” by any walls. Cold water drips from the rusted faucet right into the “parasha”. The temperature in the cell is about 0 degrees, there is a constant draught.
The girls in the cell number 9 have to sleep together on one wooden bed. “The strict” regime backed up today, we are being treated more human, offences have stopped, and this is our big victory. Neither us, adults, nor girls have bent to the pressure of psychological and physical humiliation.
I want to tell you about the heroism of our girls. Despite being treated as criminals, they proved to be stronger and wiser than these rude uniformed males. Despite hard conditions and psychological humiliation, laughter, songs and chanting can be heard from each cell. The triumph of our victory became slogans “Zastajemsia razam” (Belarusian for ‘we stay together’) and the song “How great it is, that we have gathered here” (in Russian).
Slogans “Long live Belarus!” and Belarusian songs are heard all the time. We believe there are about 70 women in the isolation prison of Minsk district. Thank God, we, grown-up women, were together with our girls and prevented attempts to humiliate them. We don’t know, what awaits us tomorrow (there will be courts!), and where they will send us. But we try to believe that the most horrible humiliation is already behind us: 3-hour-long staying in the frost, facing the wall near prison on Akrestsina, seeing our men being beaten, having no information where we are being taken to, and what happens next, undressing to our underwear during the examination.
They have confiscated absolutely everything. We have no toothpaste, no toothbrushes, no hygiene items. They have done everything to humiliate us as women. This was being done since the very first minutes of our arrest. Just imagine: in the dark, at 3 a.m., you are being surrounded by a hundred of black-dressed men - robocops, steel trucks everywhere, they force us into these trucks, many are simply dragged by their hair. Not everyone could stay strong in this situation, some girls burst into crying. When we asked, where they were taking us, the answer was - into the morgue or into the forest, to be raped and shot.
The girls were forced to give their fingerprints, they had their mug-shots taken. Those who refused to obey, were threaten that they would not be allowed to receive any parcels from their relatives.
There is time in prison to think over what has happened. Nobody regrets anything, everything is being discussed all the time. The atmosphere of freedom of our free city was taken into the prison. Right now we can hear the laughter from the cell opposite our own, and a couple hours ago a great strong voice was loudly singing the song “You have survived, soldier”. The cells applauded and cried “Bravo!”
My heart aches, when I see these educated, smart, charismatic, determined young women, which came to the square by the call of their heart, and don’t regret it. Each of them understands, what their arrest will bring. Most likely, they will be thrown out of the universities, will loose their jobs. We, adults, look at them as heroes and we are proud of them.
None of the girls in the cell number 9 belongs to any organisation of party. But they are all patriots.
I want to tell you about one woman, Valyantsina from Minsk, and her sister Vera from Pinsk. At some point Valyantsina called Vera and said, “How can we sit in warm rooms, when the children are freezing?” Vera put on 3 sweaters, bough a ticket and went to Minsk. She never left the “Majdan”. Now she is together with the girls and helps them to stand up to the hardships.
The greatest present from freedom for us was the news that people have gathered on 25. March near Kastrychnitskaya square, and there were a lot of them. We all chanted “Long live Belarus!” and cried. Tomorrow we will be brought before the court. And we will do our best to appear before it beautiful and strong”.
Original (with a photo of the letter) can be found here: