Journalist and public figure Olga Romanova released an investigation film “It Was real heavy” (or "It was tough") on YouTube - stories of inmates from Okrestin Street ”about the inmates of Lukashenko’s prison. All of them were detained in August 2020 in Minsk during protests against the Belarusian dictator. Then in 4-bed cell No. 18 of the prison on Okrestin Street there were 36 (according to other sources 37) women.
“We had no water or food. And there was nothing to breathe...”, - Hannah, a prisoner of cell no. 18.
“Even there, on Okrestin Street, we decided that when we were free, we would tell about everything that we saw!”, - Nastya, a prisoner of cell No. 18.
“Now I’m not sure if I’ll ever return to Belarus…”, - Lena, a prisoner of cell no. 18.
For some, just one night in this cell, but for others a few days completely changed their lives.
What happened in cell no. 18 became a part of the country's history and the struggle against the Lukashenko regime.
This film was shot as part of the special project "Prison cell Nr. 18", which has already appeared on the network and the foreword to which was written by a wonderful British actor, writer and public figure Stephen Fry:
“Inhuman censorship, lack of publicity, arrests and suppression of dissenting voices in Belarus have caused alarm throughout the world; but the depth and significance of these repressions, their cruelty, are difficult to comprehend using abstract or purely statistical measures. The wonderful project "Camera Nr 18" allows us to understand the scope and scale of what is happening in Belarus through the experience of outstanding women: their stories open a wider panorama of the crisis that has gripped the country. The fortitude, dedication, courage and honor of the heroic citizens of Belarus inspire all of us, and I hope that thanks to them the world will pay close attention to the disgusting dictatorial regime of Lukashenko..."
The organizers of the project were able to speak with eleven women after their release. They all ended up in prison at the same time, met there and were very supportive of each other. The women from the "gas chamber" in Okrestin Street promised themselves and each other not to hide anything, to tell the truth to the world. And they told their stories, which became the basis of a multi-format project consisting of texts, illustrations, video, audio and music. , the authors of the project described how the suppression machine works in Belarus.
Here are just a few excerpts from Romanova's film:
“- I slept on the nightstand. And the other girl is in the nightstand.
- And I'm under the sink. Everyone had put their sneakers in there, and they were comfortable to sleep on.
I'm trying to understand what tall, beautiful, smart girls tell me. All the time I ask again: in what sense did you sleep on the nightstand? On an ordinary nightstand? Who slept in the nightstand? And, just put her head in the bedside table, and the rest did not fit? Why did she put it there?
- We were all saved by one girl, she was thrown to us one of the last. She had a red bag. It contained bread and pads. She saved many then. She was called that - an angel with a red bag.
- I had bread in my bag...
- Wait, was the bag red?
- So are you an angel?
I talk with young and very pretty girls who live in different countries of the world. I don’t speak only with those who stayed in Belarus, it’s dangerous with them. For them.
Therefore, only with those who left.
They have one thing in common: they all ended up in the same cell. 36 or 37 girls, no one knows for sure. The cell was for four, less than 10 square meters. They were not fed, they were not given water, they were not given anything at all. And it was hot. The girls say that they still had nothing - more than fifty men were stuffed into exactly the same cell. In addition, they were tortured, and the girls were simply poured with water if the guards did not like something. They heard screams.
Many then left. Not immediately, hope lived for a long time..."
From the editor:
The Ministry of Justice entered into the register of foreign NGOs the “Charitable Foundation for Aid to Convicts and Their Families,” better known by the name of its main project as “Sitting Russia”.
The name of this organization is mentioned in the film.