“How would that make sense: people die for me, and I sit at home.”

The oldest detainee at the March of Wisdom.

Voices from Belarus
6 min readJan 5, 2021
Source: https://belsat.eu/news/nu-yak-geta-tak-za-myane-ginuts-lyudzi-a-ya-udoma-syadzhu-pagutaryli-z-najstarejshaj-zatrymanaj-na-marshy-mudrastsi/

On December 14, about a hundred elderly people were detained in Minsk. BELSAT spoke with Valeria Mikhailovna — perhaps the oldest person who spent about 6 hours in the police department.

“My name is Valeria Mikhailovna. I live in Minsk. In 4 months I will be 90 years old.

My daughter and I decided to go for a walk. She is 67 years old, her name is Ludmila. She said, “Let’s go to Independence Square [in the city centre].” We went. We’ve come and see no one. It turned out that all the protesters were standing behind the fir tree.

Out of nowhere, many riot police came running! I saw a few buses standing. We were enclosed by riot police from all sides. And they were not in one row, but in two or three. I have never seen such a “miracle”. My legs were shaking. I was thinking: “Where will they put us now?”

It was scary, of course. We were holding on as much as we could. The riot police stood very close to each other, crossing their hands. We wanted to escape but how could we manage it?

We asked: “Let us go home.”

But the senior offer came out and said: “We will only check your identity.”

And I said: “I have everything with me, here, take it. See, I’m disabled, Group II category. Here is my certificate”.

“No, we need to write everything down. So proceed quietly into the bus.” But no one went. They started squeezing us from four sides. As a result, they pushed us into the bus. It was already full, so we were standing for about an hour. The bus was driving so slow…

Source: https://belsat.eu/news/nu-yak-geta-tak-za-myane-ginuts-lyudzi-a-ya-udoma-syadzhu-pagutaryli-z-najstarejshaj-zatrymanaj-na-marshy-mudrastsi/

We asked the riot police:

“Where are we going?”

“We don’t know. Wherever. ”

All the windows were covered with dark paper. It was muggy. And those who sat nearby began to tear off this paper. The riot police started shouting at them: “What are you doing?” — but people did not listen to them.

We found ourselves in Serebryanka. I’ve never been in this neighborhood. We were taken to some metal bunkers, there were many doors. There were 80 of us, and we were divided into two groups of 40 people. It was cold. There was a radiator somewhere in the distance providing a little bit of heat, but the door could not be closed and so the heat was lost.

So we stood for about 6 hours. There was nowhere to sit. We could use the toilet only with an escort. The girls asked to smoke — they were not even allowed to leave the room. There was no water. We were hungry all day. Well, hungry, that’s fine. We survived.

Upon registration, they took all our possessions and stored them in separate bags. They did not ask me about the phone though and I did not bring it up either. The phone stayed with me. I was inspected a little. But there was a man whom they checked with so much rigour! His laces and belt were removed, and they found the flag. They said: “You’ll pay for it in full, dear”.

They took notes of all the confiscated possessions, and three of us were able to sit down on the table. The others just stood. Then at 8 pm they started calling us. I was photographed and asked how many times I was at the march. “This is the first time”, I said. And, in general, we did not go to the march, we just walked by. There was no march in fact, people were just gathering. But nobody took my comments into account.

They wrote a “confession” document and asked me to sign it. About 10 signatures were to be put. I asked:

“And what did you write in the document? What will I sign up for? You put me in jail. Why?”

“No problem, just sign.”

“I didn’t take the glasses. I don’t even know what to do.”

“We write that you came to the march.”

“I did not go to the march! I walked by.”

“No, you were at the march anyway. Please sign. I signed in all places except the last one.”

“What is this signature here for?”

“That you agreed with the protocol.”

“No, I did not agree.”

“Well, as you wish. You do not have to sign.”

“I won’t sign here.”

That’s all. I thought they’d put me in jail in my old age, and I would be imprisoned for nothing… My daughter and I walked arm in arm and ended up in a bunker in the police department. Some would say that is a prison.

And then they began to release us from this bunker, three people at a time. We started to leave the police department and think about how to get home from there. I’ve never been in that area, we could get lost, and it was rather late. My daughter said, “Now I’ll get the phone and call [taxi].” I realized — and it turned out that her phone was still there! They said they would give it back, but they did not say when.

My phone stayed with me. So I thought I would call and get some transportation. But we went out of the police station, and there were a lot of volunteers standing, and also my relatives. God, I didn’t expect that! I stood there with my mouth open.

My granddaughter Natasha ran to me, crying. My other granddaughter Dasha was also there. They were glad we were free. Volunteers gave us some hot tea and pie. We ate, drank, and we thanked them a lot. And the cars roared!

I got there the first time and hopefully the last. I’ve never been to jail and didn’t even think I could get there being retired. It would seem, I would just sit at home and that’d be it. Well, but how would that make sense: people die for me and I sit at home? So I got up, and I went to that war. We are all fighting for a new life, cause for the last 26 years everything remained still. Lukashenka rides through fields, meadows and watches his cattle under the tail. Now, however, he seems to have switched to medicine. He goes to hospitals, talks to everyone, sits next to the patients.

I would like to see a new Belarus without Lukashenko.I just wish he would not be left here to work, because he would ruin everything. Now there will be an election — but no one will vote for him, I think. Without Lukashenka, life will be completely different. Everything will change. He only promotes his own [people]. Now his only hopes are those people he’d placed up in the ministries, and the army.

I have a smartphone. I read everything about politics in Telegram. I watch YouTube. I read Tut.by.They always write: “Send a comment.” I still don’t know how to do it. I would have sent a comment, but then I’d be imprisoned again.”



Voices from Belarus

Stories of people hoping for a democratic Belarus. Created, translated and moderated by a collective of independent authors.