26 April 2019, Friday, 15:46
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The Square’s There!

53

Where were you on that night, on December 19?

What did you feel? What did you think about?..

I, like many Belarusians on the eve of those elections, did not believe either in protests or in changes. The lack on the sole candidate, the mass visits of foreign organizations, the noticeable thaw during the electoral campaign made everyone feel relaxed and exhausted at the same time. On the day, on December 19 I was an observer at the voting station in the Savetski district. Andrei Sannikov was obviously winning there, but, having poured the early voting ballots, they put some 15-20% to Sannikov...

The votes count was finished. We came out of the voting station, and then amazing things started happening. Internet broke. I got it from some interrupted phone conversations that the Square’s there. So we flew to the city center. I could not believe my own eyes. The central avenue was crowded, there’s no room for breathing. These were the moments of euphoria, which ended soon with, probably, the most brutal dispersion in the whole contemporary history of Belarus.

I remember, when everything started, I saw my mom for a second, she was squeezed between the row of riot policemen and the Lenin monument. Then I heard pats, a new chain of “cosmonauts” appeared, and in a second there was no one in her place…

In our square, surrounded by the police, there were about 30 people. I had a megaphone. We started chanting “Police are with the people”. Suddenly, the police went on the offensive. Everyone started running, and so I did.

They had electric shockers, some of them had batons. I was hit in the head with something, and fell. I nearly broke my head but the hat saved me. Someone held me under the arms and dragged in the direction of the Red Catholic Church. There was no megaphone in my hands anymore. The Church was closed. The policemen surrounded us at the entrance. We started singing, but the riot policemen attacked. We ran again.

We managed to escape by some miracle. We ran to the McDonald’s at the Kastrychnitskaya metro station. We started dancing, sang “Three Turtles”. But they caught us. We ran in the Niamiha direction… It was senseless to continue this game any longer.

In several days, we held an action of solidarity with those detained in the detention center in the Akrestsin Street. We put candles. Lit a firework. It was the shooting crew of the Al-Jazeera, who accompanied me to the very doors of my house thus saving me from being arrested. Six policemen in plain clothes didn’t dare to arrest me in front of the camera. For the whole next week I was hiding, but they found me in the end. I switched on my phone to send just one text message, and ten minutes later there was a police car by the door.

It wasn’t dull in prison – there were close-minded people there after all.

Do you remember that day?

Franak Viachorka, Facebook