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.
Milana is 21 years old. Until recently, she was indifferent to politics. But in the summer of 2020, it became topic No.1 – all friends of hers were discussing the upcoming presidential election and the pressing need for change. Looking back on those conversations, Milana laughs and says that she made attempts to change the subject at first, but in vain. Having cast her ballot in her native town of Zhodzina, the girl went to Hrodna, where she lived and worked at that moment.
Not every story we tell is about bruised bodies and horrible screams. On the one hand, Milana was definitely lucky. When the police department in Hrodna was full of detainees and the authorities even had to put them into a local prison, she was hospitalised with nervous exhaustion on the back of being detained for the first time. As soon as the girl was discharged, she immediately started to take part in protest rallies, solidarity chains, women’s marches and so on.
In the van, riot policemen were on either side of her. The girl recalls that she was sure for some reason that women would not be detained. She began to chock with shock and tried to take her friend who was sitting opposite by the hand.
“Don’t stick your neck out,” one of the officers told her.
She cannot explain where she found a nerve to rally almost every day. “The main thing was to take breaks and sit,” the girl says. However, at a certain moment, Milana started to be afraid of not only paddy wagons or uniformed police officers, but even ordinary vehicles. During the dispersal of one of demostrations she saw two riot policemen in an ambulance car.
On August 22, the girl had another unexpected encounter with police officers. Recovering from the dismay of the first protest week, Alyaksandr Lukashenka reshuffled the local officials in Hrodna and made a speech in Lenin Square. Just two hundred metres from that rostrum, Milana was escorted to a police car; the guard was holding her by the throat. She was threatened with rape and promised to be thrown into a cell, but in the end they let her go.
Milana says she was not going to leave Belarus to the last, but her elder sister and parents managed to talk her into the departure. At the age of 21, she has a dread of public transport in her native country and has no intention to return to Belarus in the foreseeable future. But still, like the rest of our interviewees, she ‘was lucky’.
Get acquainted with our interviewees and read their stories here.