Andrei Klimau Meets with Family
On 1-4 December the political prisoner Andrei Klimau had the first meeting with his wife Tatsiana Klimava and his son Stas in Mazyr colony. Andrei’s mother, a disabled person of the second category, could not come to her son, as she cannot make such a long trip.
After the meeting Andrei was not allowed to take grilled chicken, butter and a sweater from us.
‘They said this food is not allowed to take under sanitary norms’, Tatsiana Klimava said to the UCP press-service. ‘And the prisoners are not allowed to wear warm sweaters, as civilian clothes are prohibited to prevent escape. We were allowed to give him a hat, a scarf and warm boots’.
- Tatsiana, what is your impression after visiting the maximum security penal colony?
- It’s like visiting a convict in Siberia. Mazyr colony is situated in a wood 330 kilometers from Minsk and 20 kilometers from Mazyr in the direction of Naroulia, a former Chernobyl evacuation zone. An impassible marshland is situated nearby. An industrial giant, Mazyr oil refinery, is situated just a mile away from the colony. Two huge torches are burning day and night high in the clouds over it. Though the colony is situated in the forest, the air cannot be called clean.
The colony is enclosed by a wooden fence. A vast empty yard lies behind it. There is no usual hustle and bustle there like in Minsk penal institutions. Persons who have already served their sentences are kept in the colony. Some of them a serving the fifth term for robbery, murder or participation in organized crime groups.
But it was a pleasant surprise to see neatness in the room for long meetings, a tidy yard outside. There was a wonderful cat in a leather collar. He amused us by his tricks during our walks.
- How does Andrei look like?
- He is skinny like a 12-year-old guy. He is pale. The food in the canteen of the colony has taken toll on him. It is forbidden for prisoners to cook hot meals themselves, there are no exceptions, it is considered to be the hardest violation of the regime.
Besides, Andrei has a serious cold now. I have brought a packet with medicines, but we were told that he cannot use it before doctor’s visit and a check. When we left the colony on December 4, it hadn’t been checked by a doctor still.
Andrei’s party is big, and the number of prisoners impressed me. It is 200 persons strong. It is a combined party of prisoners consisting of two brigades. All of them live on the same storey. All use the same personnel facilities.
- Was Andrei sent to work?
- Right after being assigned to a brigade, Andrei was sent to do work destructive to one’s health, to clean copper, which means to remove insulation from copper cables. It is done with the help of chemicals. The work is unhealthy, so they work only two times a week. As far as I know, copper negatively and specifically affects cardiac muscle and the central nervous system. Andrei was freed from this work because of his health condition.
- What does he do in his free time?
- He has found partners to play chess among his prison mates. But they are rather weak players, they haven’t had training. Andrei says he wins all the time.
- Does he receive newspapers you have subscribed for him?
- Yes, he receives the newspapers. Somebody has sent a DVD for Andrei, and they are being checked by censors at the moment. They haven’t been given for him still.
- And do you receive letters from Andrei regularly?
- Since 18 October till 15 November I received no letters from my husband. Though, as I have been told by Andrei, he had been writing regularly. On 15 November I was given 4 letters at once. And then letters were received by me in order. However during the meeting I found out that some of the letters that by Andrei before 15 November, are missing, for instance a letter where my husband was writing that there is a hazardous industry in the colony.
- Money hasn’t been given to Andrei for a long time. He could not buy food in a kiosk because of that. Besides, when Andrei arrived to the colony, food he had was seized from him. It was given him back in a month. What about the money?
- He has received all money we had sent on account. And he has visited the kiosk for the first time. He has bought tea, cookies, and preserves. In accordance with the Code of penal procedure, persons sentenced to maximum security sentence, is allowed to buy food for 4 basic units a month.
Andrei has expressed a guess that his arrival was a very annoying, unpleasant and unexpected event for the administration of the corrective facility. They do not want to find themselves in the center of political struggle and inter-agency intrigues.
- What is the administration’s attitude towards Andrei?
- At the moment the situation is more or less normal. I greet the sensible and balanced decision of the colony’s administration who hasn’t allowed the situation to become critical. And certainly I am fully aware of the fact that this couldn’t be possible without interference of the public.
- Andrei stands firm, doesn’t he?
- Certainly, he set up his comb because me and my son where there. But it is a harsh zone, malicious criminals are sent there for reformation. They are persons able to become leaders of disobedience campaigns in other colonies.
The situation is so depressing that everyone could be brought to gloomy thoughts. It is not clear what Andrei should do in a company of 200 repeated offenders. And the main question is, for what? And for how long would it last? I am devastated at the thought that I’ll have the next meeting with my husband only in summer.