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Belarus in Focus 2011

15 Nov

Tereza Supova, Lidove noviny (Czech Republic)


486

Letters to belarusian prisoners

Not just me but also Darya snuffled, but she was explaining to me that belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko, because of savings, decided to postpone the start of the heating season. And so I was also complaining, although I didn´t know how embarrassingly, of my hotel.

"I hope there is not cold in prison," Darya reacted. "What prison?" I asked. "The prison where is my husband now. They put him in jail for ten days," she said. Alexander Atroshchankau was together with other opposition activists detained just few days before demonstration, which was supposed to be held in Minsk. Just preemptively. The pretext for arrests were mostly "destruction of public property" or "hooliganism". I was chatting with Darya about her job and at the end of the meeting she said: "But if I didn´t believe that the future will be better, I would not do it."

Four years passed and Darya´s husband Alexander is back in prison, but this time he is serving draconian penalty - for participating in a demonstration after the presidential elections last December, he was given four years in maximum security prison. But Darya didn´t look resignedly. "I´m really proud of him. I am proud that even when they threatened him with fifteen years and they tortured him, he passed through all this with dignity. Everything he did, he did right," she said.       

However she admits that she manages to survive mainly due to the hope that her husband could be released sooner. "I hope to meet him as soon as possible and he will be free at that time. I don´t think he will be there for whole four years. I hope that something will change, because Lukashenko is really in a very difficult situation," she added. And sets her hopes on European Union. Just few days ago EU expanded it´s list of belarusian officials, who cannot travel to European Union. According to Darya there was number of programs in TV, where the belarusian government has complained how horrible is that EU has banned them to travel. But in the end this list probably doesn´t mean any advance.

Darya´s colleague, Andrey Dmitriev (former presidential candidate Uladzimir Nyaklyaev campaign chief of staff, sentenced to two years probation), who came to Prague with her, said that "there are still repressions in the country, continuing persecutions of activists and independent media". Press conference at the headquarters of the Civic Belarus organization was also attended by other former presidential candidate Ales Mikhalevich, who recently received political asylum in Czech Republic (by the way, Minsk is now asking for his extradition for prosecution in Belarus, I hope no one here will do something like this. And I also hope that Ales will soon be able to meet his family and children, who are still in Belarus).

Ales, among other things, described terrible conditions in which prisoners are often held in Belarus. "Medical assistance was minimal. It was clear to us that we could die here. When I asked the doctor, whom we called Mengele, if I can take my pills, he replied: Do you think you´re in a nursing-home?," described Mikhalevich. Those are the things that European Union and the whole international community should try to change. According to lawyer Elena Tonkacheva should for example UN begin to investigate cases of torture of belarusian prisoners, focus on work of courts etc.    

Darya Korsak thinks that another thing that could help are targeted economic sanctions from European Union, not against the whole nation, but "reach into wallets" of the most powerful representatives of the regime. But these sanctions has, unfortunately, no sufficient support within the twenty-seven. And other thing is problem with visas to European Union - Belarusians has to pay for access to almost all EU countries 60 euros, what is not small amount of money. 

But there were not just negative things what Darya says. She unbends little bit, when she talks about how her husband in jail receives number of letters and postcards full of solidarity. “They are quite important,” she explains. Prison management didn´t venture to hurt him, when they see that he is well-known and he gets so much mail from foreign countries. Even Czech high school students wrote to him, their English teacher influenced them to do so. According to Darya he was really pleased. So Mrs. Teacher somewhere in Czech Republic, good job!

So if you would like and have a minute (and remember even in this modern era full of internet, how to write letters by hand) and couple of coins to buy mark, you can write to one of prisoners too. I do not guarantee anything, but the above case shows that your greetings will be received by that person in belarusian prison and he will be definitely very pleased. And maybe it will help so it is worth doing.

Ludove Noviny

 



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