Valery Levaneuski: “Nothing Has Changed In Prisons Since Stalin’s Times”
After two years of imprisonment a political prisoner Valery Levaneuski is released. The first thing Valery has done was to visit a tomb of his father, who died while his son was in prison. The political prisoner was not allowed to attend the funeral service. “The system created in prison is anti-human. The things that are happening in Belarusian prisons are a legacy of Stalin’s regime. Since that time nothing has changed. Prison is a state within a state, where laws stop to exist,” told the former political prisoner, the leader of entrepreneurs Valery Levaneuski in an interview to the Charter’97 press center.
- Valery, you have been fighting for your rights and rights of other prisoners courageously for the length of the two years in prison. What were your relations with the administration of the colony?
- Total lawlessness starts from the administration of the colony. The law and criminal and procedure code are not observed, a real public control and state control are absent. Violations of the rights of prisoners are taking place every day. Prisoners do not lodge complaints, as they are beaten for that. I was sent to a punitive isolation ward many times for my complaints; I was beaten up in a way when no traces are left. I was forbidden to meet my family, receive food parcels, buy food in a prison shop. I was the most malicious violator in the Republic of Belarus. Those who killed, robbed, had more rights in prison that me.
All my complaints for violation of the law were considered negligently. The prosecutor’s office turned a blind eye to that. But all my complaints will be repeated, and I will continue my fight for stopping this lawlessness, now that I am at large.
Besides, I was stunned by legal illiteracy of the administration. I had to explain elementary things to them. It was the main reason for conflicts.
- We know that you haven’t been allowed to attend the funerals of your father…
- Yes, today on my release to come to the grave of my father was the first thing for me. It is a blasphemy, not to allow me to come to the funerals of such a close person. Moreover, representatives of the administration first gave me hope me and told that they would allow me to go, and at the supreme moment they refused. It seems that they wanted to reduce me to a nervous breakdown. They have been trying to do so for two years. They staged provocations, clashes, insults, planted some things all the time…
- And all that happened disregarding of the fact that thanks to you a library was founded in the colony, didn’t it?
- Beside to the library, a sports ground is to start working. I was told that the KGB (State Security Committee) had ordered to bring me on committing a crime. The matter is that in the colony policemen themselves are shaping people. The system created in prison is absolutely anti-human. The things that are happening in Belarusian prisons are a legacy of Stalin’s regime. Since that time nothing has changed. Prison is a state within a state, where laws stop to exist. I was writing about that, and I was placed to the disciplinary intraprison confinement because of that.
- What kind of relations did you have with your cell-mates, including those whose rights you tried to defend?
- If some conflict situations arose, they had been caused by the administration. The administration made prisoners conflict with me. The prisoners had told me so themselves. But nobody wanted to quarrel with me. Many people addressed me for legal assistance, I wrote complaints and different requests for them. Legal assistance is totally absent in prison, though it is guaranteed by the law. There are no lawyers there. People are in a “law vacuum”, and anything could be done to them. They are absolutely helpless.
- Your notes about prison life have disappeared. Do you know why?
- They have disappeared many times. There was concrete information on the crimes committed by the representatives of the administration there, and copies of complaints not sent by the colony administration.
- Are you going to restore your diary from memory?
- Certainly, I have already started that. Not only dairies, I will continue all my work: legal actions that have been denied. I will continue struggle in my case. Information was received that the judge who tried me is now suspected of a bribe.
- You had health complaints because of long hunger strikes. How do you find yourself now?
- I have hearth complaints. I was cracked down on all the time, intimidated. I do not rule out that they could have putting something to food to cause a heart attack. Analyzing the situation with Marynich, one could concede anything. And the fact that in prison equipment could not find problems with my heart is another proof for that.
-What are the chances to lose one’s health in Belarusian prison?
- It is very easy to one’s health. There is not enough air in cells. Medical check-ups are not taking place. Civil medical institutions are providing assistance only on paper. In fact, there is no medical control. I have lost many teeth, probably because of the food. They didn’t want to provide dentist’s service; they offered to pull them out. We were given mostly porridge. Food had no vitamins, it was insufficient, and nobody controlled that. Food was cooked by prisoners themselves, not by cooks. The conditions for cooking food were unsanitary. They used articles of food of the lowest quality, and many of them were stolen.
- Have you had work in prison?
- I had an unskilled work. I worked as a cleanup man for two hours a day, though I had applied for a job at the place of production. It was useless. I was paid 7,000 BYR a month (USD 3).
- What was your first thought when released?
- I could not believe I am at large. Only now I am coming to my senses…
- What would be the beginning of the free life for you?
- First I will start with medical treatment. Then I should get a job, get a new start in life, as my property had been confiscated. I should adopt myself. I will continue writing, a screenplay. Ilf and Petrov could not be compared with that. There have been so many funny stories in prison every day.
- Are you going to drop out of politics?
- I would not do it for anything! Politics is forever.