Reported by an Oblate in Belarus
Belarus is gripped by mass protests, triggered by an election widely believed to have been rigged in favour of the longtime leader Alexander Lukashenko.
During those terrible days, I was in the Grodno region together with my family. It was there I went for voting. On the election day evening, I went to Grodno city and all I saw was a massive crowd of protesters in the city center. In about a dozen or so minutes, the “OMON” appeared (Special Purpose Mobile Unit of the military). Soon they would form a “wall of shields”. People suddenly began to withdraw. I was caught totally unawares, and suddenly I found myself left alone in the square. And “the wall” was getting closer and closer… I walked away slowly and sat down on a nearby bench. Otherwise, they would have certainly knocked me out. They searched for those with a white-red-white flag (flag of independent Belarus). A drone flew overhead, so they knew who was escaping and where. I did not stay there too long. While returning home, I saw how the buses and special transport cars were jam-packed with innocent people trying to escape an imminent life threat.
However, people reorganized themselves again the next day and I could not resist taking part in the protests. This time the militia blocked the access to the city center. However, all the city residents began blew their car horns and flashed the signal lights, as a sign of protest and in support of protesters. Literally everyone… of course me too.
The next day, I drove to the city again with another companion. My intention was solely to be in solidarity with the mass rally of people who were back in the streets protesting peacefully against the disputed election. They drove around, sounding their horns everywhere. They shouted “Long Live Belarus!” It was an amazing atmosphere to witness.
At some point people started to diverge. I did not see anyone hostile immediately, but somehow I automatically nodded to my companion and we ran to the car. We sat inside the car and I locked it. Two buses with OMON has arrived. One of them stopped right beside our car. The OMON -men jumped out of bus and started running literally like dogs broken off a chain, just to catch someone. First, they did not notice us, but when they finally surrounded us (there were about 10 men of them), I realized that something had to be done. They beat the car with truncheons on all sides. They shouted, “Come out.” On my side, one of them tried to smash the car-window with his fist or elbow, and on the other side other they hit the window with a club… and as soon as the glass was broken, the militiaman grabbed my companion by his chest. In that split second, I started driving with a screech of tires. I turned back, and my companion has somehow managed to jump over to the back seat! How he did it, I do not know. With Angels’ help, we were saved. Otherwise, we would have shared the same fate of many who were tortured and beaten.
Now I am back in our mission station in Shumilino and I have already taken part in the protests here. When the hour comes, we need to be ready to take life risks, for the sake of our people. Let me also add that I engage in these peaceful protests with permission and blessing of the bishop. We, the small community of Oblates, organized additional prayers in our Oblate parishes. And we also support protesters by spiritual guidance, if they come to talk about this situation. For this moment, all oblates are safe and serve in our mission stations as usual.
I ask my Oblate brothers to pray for Belarus and for us Oblates living here in particular. Our people and country need your spiritual support very much. May we understand God’s Holy Will amidst this entire calamity!