365 days in captivity: activist and mother Palina Sharenda-Panasyuk kidnapped one year ago

On January 3, 2021, right after the New Year, law enforcers detained Palina Sharenda-Panasyuk. Now she is held in Homiel penal colony. Palina was sentenced to 2 years’ imprisonment under 3 articles of the Criminal Code, she was recognized as a political prisoner.

Palina Sharendo-Panasiuk. Picture provided by the editorial office

Palina’s husband Andrey Sharenda recalls the events of those days.

“I could not protect Polina then, as I was behind bars. I spent the New Year in a cold, dark and dirty cell. We could see how the events of January 3, 2021 unfolded in the so-called Palina trial, where it was video evidence. We see a whole crowd of law enforcers unloading from three cars: three riot policemen wearing helmets and masks and with a battering ram on their shoulders, six policemen, the guardianship service, two “witnesses” and plainclothes officers. And the whole army is against one defenseless woman and a four-year-old boy. We see the whole armada enter the staircase, trying to squeeze into the elevator, but it fails, and the riot police officers and half the policemen walk up the stairs. We see them coming to the door, one of the policemen knocks and demands to open the door. But after 5 seconds, we hear an order to break down the door. And the huge riot police ram into our wooden door, and it flies away for a meter and a half, to the closet. Palina is brutally detained in front of her son, her hands are tied with plastic flags behind her back, and they begin a search that looks more like a pogrom,” says Andrey Sharenda in his conversation with “Belsat.

Journalist Ales Lyauchuk says he was in touch with Palina until the last moment.

“They took away Andrey just before the New Year. Palina said a few words to these employees, she kept calling things by their proper names. It didn’t hurt them before, but after 2020 they became very resentful of everything. The cameraman and I came to Palina on January 2, she was at home with her youngest son Stakh, he showed us what a beautiful tree they had. Andrey did not want to dismantle it, saying they would do it together with Palina. She was calm, as always, recorded a piece for a program, we sat and talked. And on January 3, Palina only had time to write: they crashed the door, broke in” — recalls those events Ales Lyauchuk.

Despite the circumstances, Palina continues to fight, and those who know her are not surprised. For others, the woman has become a symbol of courage and defiance.

At the trial, Palina openly demonstrated that she did not recognize the institution, she did not get up when the judge came in, read a book during the trial and joined in the process when she wanted to. This irritated the judge terribly, but there was nothing he could do about it.

Palina Sharenda-Panasyuk (center) at a rally in support of presidential candidate Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya in Byaroza, Belarus. 2 August 2020. photo: 1reg.by

During her last word, Palina said: “I know you’re just a talking head. The chair you’re sitting on is truer than you are. So I want to say: all the sentences that were allegedly announced here, they are based not on the power of law, but on the power of lawlessness. All sentences are pre-signed, distributed among the prisoners. So legally, because of the rigged elections, the complete illegitimacy of your so-called courts and all your structures, all these sentences, including mine, which I know you have already issued in advance, and these debates are just a decoration, all these sentences have no legal force and are not legitimate. I do not recognize them! And I also ask the world community not to recognize all these sentences as legal.”

Palina Sharenda-Panasyuk at the trial. June 8, 2021. Photo: Belsat

Yauhen Brehan sentenced Palina to two years’ imprisonment under three articles of the Criminal Code: Article 368 of the Criminal Code (“Insulting the President”), Article 369 (“Insulting a public officer”), Article 364 (“Violence or threat of violence against an officer of the Interior”). Since August 2021, Palina has been kept in the women’s colony in Homiel, where she underwent all kinds of pressure. They kept her in solitary confinement for a long time, deprived her of meetings and parcels, which she could not have been deprived of by law, and her lawyer was not allowed to visit her.

But they were never able to break her. Palina continues to consider herself a prisoner of war.

Several criminal cases were also filed against Andrey Sharenda, but he managed to escape from Belarus. The family was deprived of rental housing.

“Polina is supposed to get out at the end of September this year, but my beloved and I believe it will happen sooner,” says Andrey Sharenda.