I Was Being Lucky. Stanislau’s story: ‘120 people in cell of 5*5 metres’

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.

Stanislau (it is not his real name) speaks reluctantly. He uses short phrases, saying little about himself. He talks more about how people next to him were tortured and beaten. The man constantly emphasizes that his story is not the worst — others have suffered much worse. We think his story speaks for itself.

‘Stanislau’. Photo: Belsat

He did not take part in the protests, but was simply returning from work via the bridge across the Svislach River on the evening of August 11. He was met by riot police with questions: “What are you doing here? Are you going to build barricades? ” When Stanislau refused to unlock his phone, he was thrown into the car face down with the words “this is our customer, be cruel to him”. He was then beaten primarily on the liver and nape. Stanislau and hundreds of other detainees were then taken to Leninski district police department of Minsk. After a corridor of dozens of riot police beating up newcomers, people were placed along the wall, handcuffed and brought to their knees.

“I was severely beaten. Feeling dizzy, I fell on the asphalt and immediately heard someone shout: “If you fall once again, *itch, you will not stand up,” the man recalls.

About 40 people were thrown into the yard inside the police department. After a few hours, some got tired and sat on the ground. When the riot police or policemen noticed it, they immediately started beating the detainees. At night, police gave the detainees a large bottle of water for all. However, the riot police took the water away and shouted: “Let you all die of thirst!”

At about 8 am people were transported to ‘Akrestsin’ jail. Another two rows of riot policemen were waiting for the prisoners there. Under the cries of “Shame!” and beating they drove about one hundred and twenty people into a room of about 5 x 5 metres.

“There were bottles of urine in the corner of the crowded room instead of the toilet. There was barely enough room to stand. We hugged each other there to sleep while standing,” Stanislau recalls. There, without food, water, without the opportunity to even sit down, one hundred and twenty people stayed 12 hours. Some people were so beaten up that they could barely see. Stanislau recalls people with legs shot by rubber bullets. “No one responded to our calls, knocks on the door and requests to get medics. We asked for water and a doctor, we asked to let us use the toilet,” the man says sharply. The doctor came a few hours later. All this time there were held five-minute trials. People, regardless of the state and situation in which they were caught, were arrested for 10-15 days.

What overpacked cell looks like. Drawing by Stanislau. Photo: Belsat

Towards evening people heard new paddy wagons arrive and terrible screams of dozens of people. The prisoners thought new detainees were being brought in, but they were wrong. “We were kicked out outside, and we realised that it was our turn to scream like that. Those were screams of people who were released that night. “We were divided into groups of several dozen people and they randomly selected six people, who were taken to the wall and beaten or thrown back into the same cells. There was no principle – everyone was taken,” Stanislau says. His group was lucky – they were all released. Just before the release, almost all were beaten again with truncheons.

The next day Stanislau … went to work, where he apologised for his absence. His boss offered him a day off. “I was in such a state … Although I hadn’t slept for three days, I still didn’t want to. Only in the evening came the fatigue,” the man recalls. He did not seek help, did not ask for money for treatment.

“I was less beaten than others. Everything got healed by itself. I did not ask for help. I saw people: there was a difference in how they and I were beaten. I just have bruises and scratches,” Stas says.

Get acquainted with our interviewees and read their stories here.