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.
Mikalai Yeutushenka, a leading specialist of JSC Dabranom, has already left Belarus Before this summer, the man was not interested in politics at all. On August 9, he was confident of Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya‘s victory and went to the Minsk Sea for a barbecue with his friends. Returning home closer to evening, he saw thousands of people and was fascinated by the friendly atmosphere. Nothing even resembled a protest. Suddenly, paddy wagons appeared and dozens of riot policemen jumped out.
Mikalai managed to raise his hands, but was kicked hard in response: “I was in slippers, they must have flown to another street.” The paddy wagon rode through the streets of the capital until 4 am. “They didn’t hit me in the paddy wagon,” Mikalai recalls. “They used gas twice.” The first time was when they detained a man who said he had a five-year-old child left on the street. And the second – when one of the detainees started shouting because he saw a friend being beaten in the street.”
Paddy wagon. Mikalai was near the place where Yauhen Zaichkin was brutally beaten. The riot policeman, who was waiting near the ambulance, later said that the detainee had severe alcohol and drug intoxication. Zaichkin would later say to TUT.by journalists that the security officers beat him so bad he lost consciousness.
“I still can’t get my head around what happened next,” Mikalai tells what he saw in Akrestsin Street. People had to run out of the paddy wagon through the corridor of riot police, who beat everyone with batons, legs, and even bare hands. After squatting for about an hour under the wall, when people were beaten incessantly, the detainees were finally taken to the cells. “Then I thought we would all be released tomorrow or the day after tomorrow. They would scare everyone and that’s it,” the man recalls. He thought so until he saw that there were thirty-seven people in the cell for six.
“The walls were so wet they were impossible to touch – they were wet from the sweat and breath of dozens of people,” says Mikalai. When asked for help, they heard threats. People were heard being beaten in the next cell when they demanded food and lawyers. The men huddled against the open window and saw more and more people being brought. “They [security officers. – belsat.eu], were like ants. Five, ten of them attacked people. Two guys ran, fell, were kicked and punched, but never got up. Then they were just covered with some white cloth.” Mikalai does not know what happened next, as the guards wouldn’t let him approach the window.
Here Mikalai symbolically drew his new path, which he chose after his release. “When we were leaving Zhodzina, I asked the guard about the shoes, or at least how to get home. And he said, “You will not need it.” Mikalai then thought that another paddy wagon with more riot policemen was parked behind the walls of Zhodzina prison and they were in for another round of torture. I came out of the remand prison, made three steps, I was given a phone and asked to tell the phone number of relatives.” I made two more steps, and I already had shoes on. Yandex Taxi took everyone home for free.” Mikalai said that this wave of solidarity convinced him that evil had no chance of winning.
Prior to his release, none of the three dozen male prisoners knew what was happening in the country. Many thought that they had been forgotten, that Belarus had come to terms with another term of Lukashenka and was living its life. Only when they stood for an hour and a half on the ribbed floor of the paddy wagon, waiting to be moved to Zhodzina, they heard shouts of support from people outside ‘Akrestsin’ jail. In response, riot police insulted and beat the prisoners in a paddy wagon.
“I saw Lukashenka with a machine gun when I was already out, and I thought: how can you use a machine gun against your people? Then I got an enemy in my life. I hated him with all my heart, “Mikalai says.
The man gave a number of interviews to foreign media. His goal was to tell as many people as possible about the torture in ‘Akrestsin’ jail. He now lives in Poland and is studying web design — an opportunity offered by ByChange volunteers. Mikalai is full of optimism and talks about help from various initiatives that support Belarusian refugees. He is not able to answer the question about returning to Belarus. He will return, but he doesn’t know when.
Get acquainted with our interviewees and read their stories here.