In 2020, Belarus became a country with thousands of detained, beaten, tortured people. In its project ‘I Was Being Lucky’, Belsat TV tells the stories of 21 Belarusians who suffered police brutality.
Like hundreds of people who had been detained in the first post-election days, Vadzim (name changed) left Belarus. Right before our conversation, the young man seems to be nervous, he chain-smokes and deliberates whether he should talk to us openly or anonymously. His family as well as the life which he would like to return to are still in Belarus. At first, he answers briefly and fitfully: “We were beaten – and what of it?”, “I have nothing to say, others were hit harder”. He describes his harrowing experience as just ‘it was painful’; but what hurts the most was the living nightmare which Vadzim found himself in.
Vadzim was brutally detained with no reason when he was just standing and smoking near a shop. A police station, a basement, an assembly hall – the young man tells about the first hours of detention in detail. He remembers dozens and then hundreds of battered men kneeling on the concrete floor, and officers beating them at the slightest pretext or even without it. “I didn’t think about any particular things, I just wanted them not to hit me harder,” he says. But the real horror began in the morning when a prison truck arrived to carry the detainees away.
The men were literally thrown into paddy wagons with their heads first. Then the officers forced the detainees to lie above one another. According to Vadzim, he had luck as he was lying on top of several layers of people who could barely breath under the load of bodies. Feeling unbearable pain, the man next to him defecated. The guards were mercilessly beating the detainees all the way to the detention facility in Zhodzina. OMON riot police officers laughed and called their own actions ‘repair work’.
When they got tired, the riot policemen promised the stacked people: “You will never get to Zhodzina. We are going to execute each of you in the forest.”
Vadzim believed them. Pulping the detainees, they were so cruel that it was easy to take the threat seriously: against that background, execution was the only turn he could expect.
As the necessary documents were lost, Vadzim was not even tried. He was released a few days later along with other sentenced and non-sentenced people. The Belarusian Investigative Committee started to phone his parents; Vadzim said he would make a visit and have a talk about the so-called mass riot case if the committee summoned him. However, the young man left the country without awaiting a subpoena.
Get acquainted with our interviewees and read their stories here.