Belarusian Student Imprisoned, Then Expelled and, Fearing for His Life, Forced to Leave His Home

Credit: Tut.By via AP

When everything was just getting started back in August of 2020, Maxim Zafranski was one of the first people to take action at the Belarusian State Economic University.

He attended multiple meetings with the university’s principal administrators in order to create a dialogue between students and those in power at the university, but his attempts to do so fell onto deaf ears. They refused to hear him out.

Rather than be complicit to the system, Maxim decided to spark a small grassroots movement within the university, one that he would quite quickly become the face of. He was a star pupil — with a near-perfect class attendance and good grades. He had everything to lose, but so did everyone else.

Other students highly respected him, especially because he was fearless to the threats made by the administration when they found out about the university “rebellion”.

The students listened to him — and the administration knew this. It wasn’t long before the administration, more specifically the vice-dead and vice-principal of the university, “turned him in”.

Maxim spent thirty-six hours in a cell… And then he was transported to a prison. He spent the following fifteen days imprisoned with fellow “political prisoners” like himself, in crowded conditions.

In the middle of the biggest pandemic of our lifetime.

During the day, everyone was forced to stand. No one was allowed to sit or lie down while the sun was still up — anyone who did would be severely punished. The guards treated Maxim and his fellow prisoners as lesser beings rather than fellow human beings.

Everyone was subjected to immense psychological pressure.

There would be no adequate rest in those prison cells. The prison’s lights would be left on throughout the night.

At the end of Maxim’s imprisonment, he was picked up by his sister, his girlfriend, and one of his good friends. They were made to wait for nearly six hours as his release from prison was delayed, without reason nor explanation.

Before he was finally released, Maxim was forced to sign a “deal” with the authorities — if he turned in any of his friends who have taken part in protests to the authorities, all of his charges will be dropped. If he failed, he would be sentenced to three years in prison.

He was told about various aspects of his private life, in surprising detail. And he was told all about what they know of his closest friends, too.

He signed the paper but of course, he did no such thing. He would not betray his friends, knowing what horrors they could suffer within those prison walls.

However, those exact horrors were what led him to lie low over the following days. Maxim would stop attending protests and would remain silent.

Despite his inactivity, Maxim was expelled from the university…and discovered that there were to be six criminal cases set up against him.

Fearful for his life, he decided to flee Belarus early the following morning. Now he has taken shelter in a foreign country, on his own — away from friends and loved ones.

Away from home.

— Maxim Zafranski.

Жыве Беларусь!

This story is a contribution of Mr Z. himself.

True stories of the horrors happening in Belarus — in 2020

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