18 May 2024, Saturday, 20:14
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Kafka, You're A Loser

Kafka, You're A Loser
Iryna Khalip

Palina Sharenda-Panasiuk is in mortal danger.

“Your constitution is a lie from the first word to the last. It is a lie that your state expresses the will and interests of the people, that all power belongs to the people. It is a lie that the highest goal of your state is to raise the material and cultural standard of living of the people. The lie that you are pursuing a policy of peace and are fighting to strengthen the security of the people. Your electoral system is a disgraceful lie, all the people laugh at it, your coat of arms is a disgraceful lie, and so is your anthem.” These words could well have been written by Palina Sharenda-Panasiuk. But they belong to the Ukrainian writer and screenwriter Gely Snegirev, who renounced Soviet citizenship in 1977. Palina Sharenda-Panasiuk did the same — renounced her only citizenship — last week.

Gely Snegirev was a successful man: membership in the unions of filmmakers and writers, and at the same time in the CPSU, the position of editor-in-chief of Ukrkinokhronika — in general, complete well-being. And then he began to study the trials of the 1930s against the Ukrainian intelligentsia from old files (of course, in the Soviet press this was called the trials of nationalists) — and wrote the study “Cartridges for execution”. After that there was a search, seized manuscripts, exclusion from creative unions and from the party. And in July 1977, Snegirev renounced Soviet citizenship. After that, he lived less than a year and a half — the arrest, hunger strike, forced feeding in a prison hospital, paralysis, and painful death. That was the price of renouncing the citizenship of his country for Gely Snegirev.

Almost half a century later, already in another country, Palina Sharenda-Panasiuk, exhausted in endless punishment cells on the eve of the next trial, which will add a couple more years to her term, denounced Belarusian citizenship. She wrote that she did not want to have anything to do with the occupation regime, which destroys the independence of Belarus, participates in the war and kills political prisoners in prisons. She hardly heard about Gely Snegirev, but how does this desperate gesture of hers — the only form of protest available to a prisoner of the dictatorship — sound in unison with the same gesture of a Kievan from the seventies: “I no longer want to remain a citizen of the state that destroyed the elite of my Ukrainian people, the best part of the peasantry and intelligentsia, distorted and slandered our historical past, humiliated our present.” How similar are the words from Kyiv in the seventies and from the Zarechcha colony half a century later! And this is scary. Especially when you know the price that the author of those Kyiv words had to pay.

Immediately after the application for renunciation of citizenship, Palina Sharenda-Panasiuk was transferred to a psychiatric hospital — allegedly for a forensic psychiatric examination. True, Palina had already undergone an examination during the investigation. So one can only guess why she was sent there. Palina wrote in her statement that from now on she is not subject to any laws of the occupation authorities. The punishment cell did not break her, the cell-type premises did not break her, the threats did not break her, the new trials with the addition of a prison term did not break her either. Probably, unable to cope with the brave Palina, unable to intimidate, destroy, force her to obey, the regime decided to use the good old experience of those very predecessors from the seventies. Punitive psychiatry worked miracles that the KGB officers could not achieve with torture.

Gely Snegirev in the nineties was posthumously reinstated in the unions of writers and filmmakers. A memorial plaque now hangs on the Kyiv house where he lived. But I don't want a memorial plaque hanging in Brest in memory of Palina Sharenda-Panasiuk. I want a lively, healthy, cheerful Palina to walk around Brest, with no threats hanging over her. And now Palina's life is not just in danger — this is the very critical situation when the whole world has to shout, demand, seek to achieve.

Instead, I am surprised to read on the pages of Nasha Niva the comments of human rights activists from Viasna and Human Constanta, who seriously argue that, in accordance with some paragraph of some article of some law, Palina cannot renounce citizenship because she has unfulfilled obligations to the country in the form of an unserved prison sentence. Think about it: a representative of the same Human Constanta, where Nasta Loika, who is now in prison, used to work, and a lawyer of the same Viasna, from which all the leadership and a couple of volunteers were kidnapped and imprisoned, talk about the laws and paragraphs with Nasha Niva, two editors of which are also imprisoned.

Kafka, you're a loser.

Iryna Khalip, exclusively for Charter97.org

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