Solidarity without borders: a guide on supporting political prisoners from abroad
Every year it becomes more and more difficult to support political prisoners. The authorities use all means trying to destroy the solidarity of Belarusians and block opportunities to support those who are behind bars. But, the list of those who need to be reminded that they are not left alone with the repressive system is growing weekly. Now that thousands of Belarusians are scattered all over the world, Viasna has gathered possible ways to support and cheer up political prisoners from abroad.
Political prisoners can be supported with a real gift: a parcel with sweets and a pleasant knick-knack. You can send them to prisoners who are in pre-trial detention and whose sentence has not entered into force. You are allowed to put the same thing in the parcel as in a care package, just add a description of the content in any form. There is no need to coordinate parcels with the relatives of a political prisoner, but if you are in touch, then you can find out what that person loves.
The quantity and weight limits for parcels are not defined, except those imposed by the post office. But there is an exception for prisoners in the Brest pre-trial detention center-7 and for some prisoners of the Baranavičy pre-trial detention center-6. The administration of these detention centres adds the weight of parcels to the total weight of care packages. In Brest, these restrictions apply to almost all political prisoners, and in Baranavičy — only to some.
What am I allowed to put into a parcel?
For parcels, the same restrictions apply as for care packages, but there are some additional ones. For example, you cannot put perishable products in a parcel. There is a list of items that convicts can receive in parcels. It can be found in Internal regulations of correctional institutions. Some of the permitted items:
Some cells are cold, so it is worth sending warm clothes to the prisoner. Warm wool socks, for example, will be useful. To make the prisoners feel better, you can send socks with interesting and colorful patterns.
The situation is more difficult with makeup. But you can send fragrant soap, hand cream, and chapstick.
Parcels, for example, can not contain prunes, raisins, sunflower seeds, kazinaki, herbs, pomelo and grapefruits, Chinese cabbage, salt, books, magazines, crosswords, watercolors, reusable shaving machines, safety scissors, scarves, wet wipes, cotton buds, lighters, plastic dishes.
What are the restrictions for parcels from abroad?
The limit of one parcel from abroad is 31 kilograms, and the cost of it should be no more than 1,000 euros. We recommend sending small parcels worth up to 30-40 euros. At the post office, you will be asked to fill out a form and list what you are sending and how much it costs. Keep in mind that the parcel may travel for about 5-6 weeks.
How to pack your parcel?
You need to remove the factory packaging from all the things you have bought, cut off the labels, and put the food in transparent bags. The cooking instructions and the name of the product can be cut out and put in a bag. If possible, write a list of everything in the parcel on a piece of paper in Russian or Belarusian.
At the post office, you can choose a box of the size that suits you, or use your own. Do not forget to write all the data of the political prisoner, including the patronymic and the address of the place of imprisonment.
Usually, the parcel can be tracked by the barcode that is provided at the post office. So you will know that it was not lost and got to the prisoner.
Imagine the incredible gratitude and joy of the person who receives your parcel. This is a sign that they have not been forgotten, a sign of support and faith in a free Belarus.
In all places of detention of our political prisoners, letters remain the main way of communication. With the beginning of a full-scale invasion in Ukraine, correspondence with Belarusian prisoners is heavily blocked, but something reaches the addressees anyway. When you write to a colony, it is better to send registered letters. You can also send empty postcards; this way there are more chances that they will be given to the political prisoner, and they will be able to congratulate their loved ones on holidays.
Important note! Letters and postcards can be sent online via:
Blocking letters and postcards is one of the extended methods of pressure from employees of pre-trial detention centers, prisons, and colonies. However, let's remember that when the letters arrive, they may turn out to be almost the only happy event for the holidays. In addition, words of support can also be shared through relatives, whose letters reach the prisoners.
Support people in open-type correctional institutions
You can also order the delivery of food or a gift for political prisoners in open-type correctional institutions, but you have to choose the time together with them in advance. Prisoners can use phones in open-type correctional institutions, so you can directly congratulate them on the holidays on social media and messengers. You can also send them a regular package; there are no restrictions on their content in this case. But money transfers are not allowed.
Support for people in home confinement
It is also worth remembering about those condemned to home confinement, whose freedom is very limited, although they stay at home. You can follow them on social media and support them personally. For example, two ceramists sentenced to home confinement Katsiaryna Lesavik and Anastasia Malashuk organize master classes in clay modeling and sell their clay products. If you buy something from them, it will be a good support.
Support for families of political prisoners
You can help families of political prisoners with collecting items for care packages for prisoners, and you can also congratulate families themselves on holidays. Children of political prisoners who do not have the opportunity to see their parents especially need this. You can support them both personally and by collecting solidarity funds.
For example, it is possible to help political prisoners and their families with donations through BYSOL, as well as to help former prisoners who have served their sentences and have been released. In addition, we urge you to join the Christmas fundraiser for children whose parents were imprisoned for political reasons.
Political prisoners of Belarus are perhaps the most acute pain of our country, because thousands of human being have been tormented, tortured, imprisoned, and even killed for several years in a row. Therefore, we need to try to make the voices of those who struggle with daily ordeals behind bars heard.
Talk about the problems of political prisoners and the political situation in Belarus on social media; share this with your friends and acquaintances inside Belarus, because people do not have safe sources of truthful information because of the persecution for reading the news of independent media; explain to interlocutors from other countries our modern history of repression. And remember that the strength of Belarusians is in solidarity. Only together we can help those who are forced to celebrate all holidays in solitary confinement or with cellmates.