Political prisoners

Ina Shyrokaya: “I learned”. The Belarusian female political prisoner’s monologue

Ina Shyrokaya is a fomer Belarusian female political prisoner. She shared what she learned in prison and what is not needed in life.
“I learned to sleep with a book in my hands without showing that I am sleeping. I learned to eat food that I wouldn’t even consider eating in other circumstances like not prepared borscht, prison bread, or kissel.  I learned to catch lice and bedbugs and not shudder with disgust. I learned not to comb my hair during the week – from one shower to another, because my hair was in a tight braid. I learned to manage without a watch because time inside the prison didn’t mean anything. I learned to boil water inside a cup or a basin in such a way that I wouldn’t be injured by electricity. Even if I were injured, it wouldn’t be severe.

I learned to wash the intimate area with the help of a cup for one minute, because there was a line to the toilet. I learned to cook the salad in the plastic bag and the fish paté from the “grave” (that’s how we called the boiled, not cleaned blue whiting, that dish that was given to us three times in a week). I learned to store food products in a large shared bucket, surrounding them with bottles filled with cold water. I learned to wring out my clothes by hand until all water drains from it. I learned senseless things that will never be needed in daily life. 

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