Yury Bandazhevsky, a doctor of medicine and a professor, was one of the first political prisoners in Belarus. The scientist was arrested in 1999. Two years later he was found guilty of accepting bribes from students and sentenced to eight years in prison. However, Belarus and the international community did not believe the judges and considered him a prisoner of conscience. In reality, Bandazhevsky was convicted for criticizing the actions of the Belarusian authorities after the Chernobyl disaster. After his release under an amnesty on 5 August 2005, the scientist left Belarus and is currently working in Ukraine. Yury Bandazhevsky gave an interview to Palitviazni.info and told us about his work and book.
Yury Bandazhevsky: I work – this is the most important. I work for the benefit especially of those people who have suffered as a result of the nuclear disaster in Chernobyl. For me it is the most important thing. And on what post, and in what form – it’s not essential. The main thing is that I continue work that I have started many years ago when I arrived in Gomel as a young man, I was then thirty three years old. I came to create and organize the Gomel Medical Institute, which is now the University.
– Unfortunately you cannnot work in Belarus, which to some extent is detrimental for the state itself.
Yury Bandazhevsky: Of course it is sad, but what can be done? First of all, I think that I should continue my work no matter what.
– Do you follow the latest news from the country? Are you interested in the issue of political prisoners?
Yury Bandazhevsky: Of course, I try to keep abreast of events in Belarus.
– If we compare the situation in Belarus from the few years before, and which you experienced personally, to what is happening now in Belarus, do you think that the prisons are different that they were?
Yury Bandazhevsky: It’s hard to say. But I am convinced that the situation has not improved. But I cannot say any more detail. Many representatives of my generation got different convictions and passed through various, so to speak, stories. But of course if you read the letters from the prison, for example Autukhovich’s who in fact is in a lot of pain there, it becomes clear that the situation is very difficult. Such people simply should be helped.
– This year in the series “Library of Freedom” was published the book “Prison and health”. You write in it how a prisoner can survive in extreme conditions of Belarusian prison. It is based on your own experience. Is this a true textbook for political prisoners written in jail?
Yury Bandazhevsky: Well, it’s sort of my own personal prison diary, I wrote this back in 2003 when I was deprived of liberty. Journalists of “Radio Svaboda” offered to print these manuscripts. In this way, the book was released.
– Can you tell something more about the book?
Yury Bandazhevsky: I described in it everything that is useful to a man in harsh prison conditions. I researched and described exactly what may be helpful. I managed somehow to structure my data. And as a result it is still valid and works to the benefit of many people who find themselves in such conditions.