LETTERS FROM LUKASHENKA'S PRISONERS

Dzianis Boltuts

Football fan and anti-fascist
Detained on 25 September 2020

"I have nothing new, everything is good. I can't wait for the trial. I want it to be over."

Reader’s note: Dzianis Boltuts, an anti-fascist and fan of the MTZ-RIPO football club, was detained on 25 September 2020 as a suspect in a rioting case – public gatherings against the Lukashenka regime are oftentimes described as a “riot”. He was later charged under Art. 342 of the Criminal Code, “group actions that grossly violate public order”. At the start of 2021, Boltuts was also charged under Part 2 of Art. 293 of the Criminal Code (participation in riots) and under Art. 364 of the Criminal Code (violence or threat of violence against a police officer). A day after his birthday, Dzianis was sentenced to six years in a medium-security penal colony. His letters paint a picture of a loving family split up by the Belarusian state, as well as the logistical realities of prison life: from enquiries into his wife’s progress fixing their family car to the wellbeing of his mother-in-law and daughter, contrasted by their attempts to navigate the labyrinthine prison bureaucracy. Across each letter you see them attempting to get the relevant paperwork together to enable his family to send packages to him or even visit or call him. You see them working out how to get money on the account to enable him to buy the basics in the  prison store. Ultimately the letters show a family responding to the strangeness of their new reality with humour, warmth  and humanity – itself a quiet act of resistance against the actions of the Belarusian state.

Letter:

Hi, Babe!

Your letter of 23.03 was received on 06.04. I hope you received my letter of 23 long ago and understood all my feelings. I love you more than anything in the world!

In one of the parcels of support people sent coloured pencils :) Now I have one more thing to do to pass the time :) I draw and redraw; in short, you have an outstanding husband :) He is a sculptor, painter and poet, a jack of all trades :)

I have nothing new, everything is good. I can’t wait for the trial. I want it to be over. I’ve decided that I’ll stop communicating with everyone, although no, a couple of people will stay :) Give my best to everyone :)

My kisses and my love to the kid :)

Sweetheart, you are everything to me (heroine wife :)). I made the only right choice in life and I am grateful to fate for you. Even more I am thankful to you, since only you can put up with my quirks and my feisty nature. Love you, my joy!

06.04.21

This is us soon :)

Hi, my joy! :) I finally got to Babruysk [penal colony]. I arrived on the 20th, so far in quarantine. The next day, I got your letter of 05.10.2021. This puppy is really great, the prettiest I’ve ever seen:)

After the date I also thought forever :) I even started a nice letter to you, which I will send when I have my papers checked.

I’m glad my travels are over. I had a good trip :) By the way, the food in Homel [pre-trial detention centre] was pretty good. I look ok. Lost a little weight in my cheeks, and now I`ll get it back: the regime is coming soon, and they`ll give me some butter :) By the way, Babruysk has the most delicious black bread, just like at home :)

It’s good that everything is solved with the passwords. I will write about parcels from the unit when I find out exactly what is allowed and needed. Before it, I need documents urgently: a copy of the marriage certificate, a copy of my vocational school diploma, the papers concerning my back, and this is probably it for now, just send the papers by registered mail! Then I’ll probably need a passport, too. Just send everything asap to compose all the papers on close relatives [only close relatives can call, visit or send packages to prisoners. As a result, paperwork is needed to confirm the status of the relatives. It has been reported that while Dzianis’s sister was registered in good time, registration of his wife took a lot longer].

Great you’ve fixed the car, at least now I’ll worry less about it. If things change with the planned seizure of the car, I’ll come – and you will do a rocket for the husband :) And you’ll remove the bubble on the panel :) [prior to Dzianis’s arrest, heat from the sun caused bubbling in a panel of the car].

We’ll read books together at home now, too :)

Tell Miguera [this is a playful nickname Dzianis has given his mother-in-law inspired by one of the furies in Greek mythology] it’ll be all right. There’s nothing for her to get upset about. She’ll find herself a good man. I’ll probably be home soon, too :) We’ll be busy raising the little one :)

I’m glad you’re doing well. That’s the most important thing to me. I’m glad the kiddo holds the frame [is maintaining her focus and beliefs], too :)

Baby, everything will change for the better soon, I know it and I believe it. We’ll cherish and spare each other :) And love [each other] to distraction :) You don’t have to let me go anywhere :) I won’t let you rest from me, I’ll be your tail :) We are almost there, remember that. I love you more than anything in the world! To all mine and yours, say hello! Kiss the kid on the forehead :)

Do not forget to send all the copies urgently with the registered mail, and top up the account [each prisoner has a personal account that people, including family members, can transfer money into to allow prisoners to make purchases at the prison store]. Let my sister replenish the account for now, they may not let you do it without copies of the documents. We’ll deal with the parcels later.

Love my Babe :)