How the ‘Jeans Revolution’ ended in Belarus

A personal memoir by ‘Labragirl’

I wasn’t beaten up. I was detained on the most civilian way back in 2006. We were 300 maximum. At 4 AM. They were very target oriented and I was a DJ (I was a SPEAKER without a voice: I lost my voice on a second day because we were staying in -20 in the tents and sleeping on a thin blankets on the ground, so in four days…). I was playing foreign songs about Freedom and I was 18. And they put a hood over my face so that I do not look around. But I saw. I heard. I felt throughout. All my friends were beaten up and screaming two things: “What are you doing, they are OUR kids” and “Police is with people”…But they didn’t hear it. They didn’t want to hear it. It was a feeling of being attacked by the dangerous dogs. Big black dogs with all of this military equipment. On that day we saw them for the first time. Eleven years after it will become a symbol of the modern Belarus. But not then. And it is scary to be first. I was placed with my face to ‘autozak’ – a special police bus for mass detention. I wasn’t beaten up, but they planned to detain me and place in a local prison to deport from the country. I was a citizen. The guy who grabbed me had a white-red-white flag on his shoulders. He was among us for days, like a wolf among the sheep…hunting for his victim. And this victim was I. He grabbed me from behind and pushed to the side. There was a small fire place that we tried to use for warming our hands and my coat got into it burning at the edge. I didn’t expect anyone from the side of the camp to attack me. THEY attacked us from the other side. From that side where all the journalists went. ALL journalists. Because they have announced the attack…They surrounded us by this detention buses and asked the journalists to leave the camp. When journalists started leaving us (alone) – they designated an area for those, completely excluding filming options, providing the only angle possible where the luckies weren’t beaten up, but peacefully guarded as detainees. Just 20 out of 300. We sat on the ground. A woman took a microphone from my hands and asked us to sit on the ground. Most of the guys did. The ones who were guarding us on the sides, in their circle of solidarity and bravery and the ones inside – too. All except that woman and me. I was starring at her, at ‘autozaks’, at the guys on the ground, at the journalists in the designated spot, at the fire, at the police. And then grabbed from behind. He was screaming to his people ‘make a hall! make a hall!’ and they stood aside letting us to pass through. I felt so V.I.P… My legs started shaking next to this bus and he asked me ‘Are you cold or scared?!’…I said I am cold. Lies. I was scared. He used electroshock and pushed me to the ground in the bus. Some people were there too. Standing, laying, screaming. I do not remember anything but the time. Such a long time of circling around the town and their remarks. ‘We are bringing you to the forest, motherfuckers. This is what you get for not letting us to sleep for all this days! We have our families back home’. Another picture that is flashing in front of my eyes is how the people were kept inside of the prison yard: hands over their heads, legs spread, facing the wall, in the long, endless line…not allowed to move…on this cold weather…hungry, hurt, bleeding, scared, betrayed by the Media, betrayed by police, betrayed by the government and opposition leaders. Just us and the wall. But I couldn’t stand. And I couldn’t stay. I started to call the doctor. “I need a doctor!!!”. And I was marked as a foreigner, so they called the ambulance to the prison. And they found my passport, but it was already too late for them. I had a fever and heart ache, so the doctor just decided to rescue me. God Bless the man. But I couldn’t even stay in the hospital. I still was shaking. I knew they will come for me and I had to run. I had to hide. I had to find someone “out there”. And I couldn’t go home. I could only go to safe place with Internet. I needed to get the access to the list of detainees. It was hundreds back then, I remember reading it at the spot, with the remains of my voice…at that little protest camp. And I reached the place, all wounded, shocked and wrecked. I reached that list and the names were pumping up hourly. New and new. And I knew some of them. But even more I didn’t know. Couldn’t remember. Never found or met again. For the past eleven years. Or I didn’t search. We all split at that night. Some were found after the release from prison (3 to 15 days after), some went to Poland or Lithuania or Netherlands or Ukraine… Some stayed and disappeared. Some stayed and reappeared. And I decided to write about it. I decided to write a human rights paper about it. For the CEU class on Rule of Law. I started writing and got back in that day. And my mental journey was like a walk along that camp again, meeting all of their eyes…a walk along that prison wall, counting all of their backs. And I screamed. I screamed as much as I wanted to…back in that moment before I was grabbed. I screamed and lost my voice again. Pushed a delete button a hundred times. Because there is no paper that can fix it for a single memory. A single day. A single life. It is still cold, scary and painful. It is STILL.

Note from DRM: For background to the event described below, see my article in Communist and Post-Communist Studies at http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0967067X06000274

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