The third birthday of a political prisoner behind bars. Interview with Natalia Pinchuk, the wife of Ales Bialiatski

On 25 September  Ales Bialiatski celebrates his 51st birthday, for the third time he will spend it in Bobruisk penal colony. The president of the Human Rights Centre Viasna, was sentenced to 4.5 years in prison for allegedly hiding in foreign accounts, considerable sums of money. Ales Bialiatski pleaded not guilty, and said that all the collected funds were used to help political prisoners. The international community has recognized Ales Bialiatski to be a prisoner of conscience. The wife of the political prisoner, Natalia Pinchuk gave an exclusive interview to

Natalia Pinchuk: I do not have new information from Ales. I receive letters from him. But he does not write what is actually happening with him. Instead, he writes that everything is business as usual. He continues to work in the sewing room, packs some materials. And besides, all the same. As for the birthday, this is already his third birthday behind bars. Last year he celebrated the jubilee – 50 years. Today he turns 51. As for the celebration, it is out of the question. But, I have sent him wishes. I hope the birthday card will come on time, and that it will go through censorship.

– In Warsaw, in the city center, on one of the bridges, unknown artist created a gallery of portraits of political prisoners from different countries, encouraging to write letters to them. Among others, there is a portrait of Ales Bialiatski. What kind of expressions of solidarity receives Ales Bialiatski?

Natalia Pinchuk: I think this is one of the most moving forms of showing solidarity – solidarity shown by the “ordinary people”, not the one expressed at the level of institutions or human rights organizations – though of course they also deserve a big thank you. Significant is the fact that people are aware of the situation in Belarus, they know what’s going on with Ales and thus express their support. And this  portrait itself is very moving. I think that when Ales finds out about it, he will be very happy.

– Ales Bialacki was nominated for Václav Havel Award for Human Rights. Is it possible that Ales will receive this award?

Natalia Pinchuk: I am happy because of the nomination, as  it’s another example of solidarity with Ales. The award ceremony will be held on 30 September. For now, I do not know the details. But it is important, that many people and organizations are interested in the situation in Belarus.

-International public opinion is shaken by the news of Mykola Autukhovich’s self-mutilation. What do you think, how much information about what is really happening in prisons reaches public opinion?

Natalia Pinchuk: It’s true that not much is getting out. However, such incidents and extreme behaviours, only prove how serious and intolerable situation is on the other side of the bars. This should be a signal for us that the solidarity with prisoners should be even greater.

– Today the organization of mass actions in Belarus is practically impossible, but what about expressions of solidarity among individual citizens? Does Ales receive many letters?

Natalia Pinchuk: Ales receives a lot of letters. He is not able to respond to all. Although, he tries as he can to write back to everyone. Moreover, Ales must work in prison. He works 6 days a week, therefore he  is not able to answer to so many letters as quickly as he would like. However, I can unequivocally confirm that all acts of solidarity are very important to Ales. They help him to survive in the situation in which he has found himself.


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