I Was Being Lucky. Uladzimir’s story: ‘Everyone wanted to hit us, they seemed to enjoy it’

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.

Uladzimir Ustsinau. Photo: Belsat

Minsker Uladzimir Ustsinau began to actively express his civil position in 2006. Last August he was on the streets of the capital to help volunteer medics deliver medications. Uladzimir’s car, in which there were two more volunteers, was stopped by the OMON, everyone was pulled out and beaten.

All the three men were thrown into a carrier, and after several stops and transfers Uladzimir and two other volunteers got on the bus. The floor was no longer visible, it was all covered with people. As soon as the door to the bus opened, the man realized: “It’s started.” With shouts: “On your knees, you bastards!” they were beaten on the legs. The police took their things away and forbade them to move and raise their heads. Otherwise – a blow with a truncheon.

On Akrestsin Street they got off a bus through a living corridor of two dozen policemen. After three hours of kneeling in the courtyard they again had to run through the living corridor to the remand prison building, where they were waiting for trial in the yard together with 129 other prisoners. The next day Uladzimir was thrown into a cell for five people where 65 people were kept. Later, the man was placed in a 7-bed cell, where there were ‘only’ 30 people.

In the new cell the windows overlooked the courtyard. Uladzimir heard and saw what was happening there. Relentless screams, and people were standing near the wall all the time. One night Uladzimir noticed two people lying under a lantern, and one of them remained completely motionless.

The worst was when Uladzimir heard a voice similar to the voice of his own son. The man knew that his son was also going outside and could be detained. With pain and horror Uladzimir remembers the moment when he heard the sounds of beating and screams that seemed to be his son’s.

People in the cell could talk, eat and sleep along the shouts of those beaten in the street. Prisoners were tortured outside, and life in the cells continued.

Drawing by Uladzimir. Photo: Belsat

Uladzimir was tried twice by courts of different districts, with two different places of detention in the protocols. One court arrested him for 15 days and the other for 5. A man noticed a white bracelet on the wrist of one of the judges.

Before his release, Alyaksandr Barsukou, the then Deputy Interior Minister, visited Uladzimir’s cell. Most of his cellmates received him as some lifesaver who would release them. They even gave him an ovation.

Get acquainted with our interviewees and read their stories here.