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.
At the time of publication, Kiryl‘s second child has already been born. A son. He also did not see the birth of his first child, because he worked abroad. Later he was forced to leave the country after the arrest and persecution. When he talks about the detention and conditions at Akrestsin Street jail, he is always looking on the bright side of things. He remembers how someone joked, how they supported each other. When it he talks about the family, the future of the country, you can see how Kiryl cannot hide anger.
Kiryl (it is not his real name) took to the streets after the official election results were announced. But he only watched the protests, watched security forces shoot at and disperse peaceful demonstrators. He was detained as he was leaving the store. The man tried to quickly obey the orders of the riot police, but it did not save him from beating. Everyone was beaten in the paddy wagon, he recalls: “Well, there was a column on Akrestsin Street. I was told to look down and taken through it, and everyone got seven or eight blows.” They were left on a concrete floor and ordered to stand for hours. Those who tried to argue or simply did not like the riot police and plainclothes men were thrown into neighbouring rooms and beaten with extreme cruelty. There were men and women. Kiryl believes that a detained girl was raped in one of the rooms. He didn’t see anything, because he was afraid to even move:
“I only heard a voice saying ‘get away from me, what are you doing!’ It was clear that she was not only beaten there.”
Kiryl was beaten less than others. He explains this by saying that he did not argue, did everything they said, and did not even look up at the riot police. Others were less fortunate. “There was nothing to breathe, everyone took off their shirts. And one guy has an engraved, embossed word of three letters on his back. And the lines of the letters “X” and “У” are so clearly visible,” Kiryl said smiling as he recalled it and explaining that the people in the cell were constantly trying to keep a good mood.
They did not beat him anymore, but the tortures continued. Forty-one men in a cell of several square metres. One of Kiryl’s cellmates had his leg broken by riot police who used a shield for this. People, suffocating, asked to call a doctor, but in response they had a bucket of water poured on them.
“If some of you, assholes, knocks again, I’ll pour two buckets of shit here.”
Unlike most of other characters, Kiryl described not the horrors of Akrestsin Street jail, but the future at large. When he returns to his family he will leave this ‘circus’, as he perceives his experience now, behind. In order not to suffocate, the men were able to open the window in the cell. Through it he saw volunteers standing outside and … his wife. At a rather late stage of her pregnancy, she came to the walls of Akrestsin Street jail.
“When I saw her, I immediately had a fountain of tears. What are you doing here, I thought. Go, stay at home!”
After the formal trial, Kiryl was taken to the Slutsk Medical and Occupational Health Centre. The men were forced to undress during the examination. “And the colonel – he looked and pulled a face when he saw our bodies. There were women, Majors … They said in horror, “Guys, what did they do with you?” Kiryl mentions the shower in the centre and the opportunity to change clothes that were already falling apart from sweat, as the best time of the imprisonment.
After his release, Kiryl was reminded of old cases related to his business, and without waiting for further developments, he left Belarus. Talking about his own plans, for the first time during our long conversation Kiryl showed anger:
“I could be worse! I saw a man’s leg torn off, a 22-year-old guy. What I have – business, money. I got beaten, I’m fine. Why the hell do I need that country? Why should I raise children there?”
The family agreed to reunite as soon as Kiryl settled in the new place. There are no plans to return to Belarus yet.
Get acquainted with our interviewees and read their stories here.