23 January 2021, Saturday, 21:07
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"The Fascists Had Gas Chambers, and We Have COVID Chambers"

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"The Fascists Had Gas Chambers, and We Have COVID Chambers"

The journalist and musicians of the Reha band spoke about the conditions in the temporary detention center.

People returning after serving time in prison suffer from coronavirus en masse. The prison administration does not take any precautions: in Baranavichy, they do not even accept masks in parcels for prisoners. Radio Svoboda talked with people who fell ill with COVID-19.

In Baranavichy, no masks are accepted in parcels.

Journalist Artsem Liava was released on Monday from Baranavichy temporary detention center after 15 days of arrest. He doesn't feel well.

In 15 days, he went through three isolation wards: Zhodzina, Akrestsina, and Baranavichy. They transported the prisoners in paddy wagons like "herring in a barrel," he says.

"They transported us from Zhodzina to Akrestsina in a paddy wagon with compartments. I was in a side cage for two people where three of us were shoved. There was stuffiness, confined space, nothing to breathe. In Zhodzina, there are twice as many people in the cell as bunks. In Baranavichy, there were 100 of us in a cell for 10 people.

Conditions in Baranavichy are terrible: an old Soviet-era building, iron bunks welded from crooked metal bars and plates, dampness. There was no hot water; the floor was concrete. They took me to the shower once in 15 days. It was a basement room with a window at ground level.

A person had to mask that he wore when he was taken away. In Minsk, by the way, masks were allowed in care packages. And, in Baranavichy, my mother also tried to send the masks - they did not accept them," says Artsem.

"Prison doctors should be punished for negligence"

A couple of days later, one of Artsem's nine cellmates fell ill, began to cough violently, and his sense of smell suddenly disappeared. The guys tried to prove to the doctor that everyone has a cold, but this person has specific symptoms of COVID-19. But the doctor did not respond to the complaints.

"The doctor measured the temperature and said that everyone here is coughing. It was forbidden to lie down during the day - the mattresses are rolled up, put upstairs - and you have to sit on the iron plank beds, even if you feel bad. The light is on all night - imagine how a seriously ill person feels.

In my opinion, prison doctors should be punished for negligence - they simply endanger the life and health of many of those arrested. No action was taken at all during the pandemic.

Our doctor is so indifferent and callous! We asked him to allow more boiled water, as people really felt bad - he did not allow it. By the way, the criminals were allowed to have boilers, but we didn't," says Artsem.

The most humane were the "balandery" - the people who carried food. When the "political prisoners" asked them to add more tea because people are sick, they always gave more, Artsem recalls.

He himself has been ill for four days. At first, there was a cough, weakness. On the last day in the isolation ward, I lost my sense of smell.

"Tar soap stinks terribly, but I don't smell it. Yesterday morning, I deliberately smelled Tar shampoo, and its smell is generally awful - also no effect. I can't smell the disinfectant.

Now I understand that this is a serious illness. It seems that I had already spent the night at home, but I suffered, almost did not sleep. My throat hurts, it's hard to breathe, and the cough kills," says Artsem Liava.

He has already signed up for a test and an appointment with a doctor at his clinic. When he told where he had returned from, the clinic reacted with understanding. The only condition was that he comes to the appointment, and not the doctor to his home.

All the musicians of the Reha band fell ill; one is in the hospital

"At first, all four musicians ended up in one cell on Akrestsina Street. Then, Kanstantsin Lisetski and Lenia Paulenka were sent to Zhodzina, and I spent all 15 days on Akrestsina Street. Lenia fell ill, Kanstantsin was hospitalized. I also don't feel well; I'm going to take a coronavirus test," said Andrus Takindang.

Kanstantsin Lisetski has been in the Mahileu Regional Hospital for 10 days with bilateral pneumonia and COVID-19. He suspects that he caught the virus in Zhodzina.

"There were 10 people in the cell, and many had all the symptoms of COVID: coughing, people lost sense of smell, and there was no medical assistance at all; at best, they could give the pills that were passed in the parcels. Nothing else," says Kanstantsin about Zhodzina prison.

After the hospital, you will have to stay till the end of the sentence

From Zhodzina, Kanstantsin Lisetski was transferred to Mahileu. And there, he found responsible doctors. When he felt that he had a fever, he called a paramedic; he measured his temperature and immediately called an ambulance.

"An hour later, the ambulance arrived; the temperature was 38.5. They listened and immediately said that I definitely had pneumonia. They took me to the regional hospital; now they are packed to capacity. 10 days ago, there were 37 people in my department, now there are 70.

They immediately prescribed antibiotics, a hormonal drug. They did an express test first, then a PCR test - the coronavirus was confirmed. Computed tomography was not done, only a roentgen, which also showed pneumonia.

Now, I feel more or less okay. But in prison, it was very bad; I was like a vegetable: if they had not called an ambulance, I don't know what would have happened. The fascists had gas chambers, and we have covid chambers, - sighs Kanstantsin Lisetski.

He says that the volunteers, as well as the local Belarusian Language Society, are very helpful - they bring care packages and books.

Until Monday, the musician will definitely be kept in the hospital. And then, most likely, he will have to stay for the second half of the term - another 7 days.