When at night they open the cell for the first time, the cell where you will stay for winter, spring, and summer, you immediately feel very stale air with little oxygen. The light is not turned off at night. It is slightly dimmed. We call it “the moon”. You are in shock: it is impossible to turn around, and four rows of bunks are in front of you. Eight beds. And the guys are in cells in the basement, where there are 18 people. They have not regular bunks but triple bunk beds…
Water flows down the walls, and it is important to put the pillow and the mattress correctly. Otherwise you will wake up in a puddle of water. And there are 5 types of mold on these wet walls.
A man with a COVID face mask and with shoulder marks “brings information” during the check: “WE DON’T BURN YOUR LETTERS. No one needs you. You don’t have letters because of this reason.” And you understand the nature of the smell of burnt paper you feel during a walk. You understand what these pieces of ash are swirling and falling on you from the top.
Ideally, a walk lasts for an hour. The courtyard is a pit surrounded by concrete walls, 4-5 meters high.
After three months, it is very painful to look at daylight when you are taken outside or to another building, “to the offices” (meetings with lawyers, interrogations, conversations without the presence of a lawyer are held there). The longer you do your time the longer your eyes adapt to the light during a walk. After six months you feel like your eyes start to hurt a few hours after waking up. During a walk you just physically can’t open your eyes for about 5-10 minutes. Especially if the day is sunny. You train yourself to look at the sky.
After six months, big pimples appear on your back. No matter how you take care of yourself and no matter how expensive the cream is which was sent to you. Shower is on Mondays. But we wash ourselves every evening in turn. We do it using a bottle over the toilet. It takes at least two and a half hours for eight people. We teach some people to keep the place clean and share underwear with them.
You mustn’t get sick. You persuade your body to be patient, not to disintegrate. Because the only thing that will really help you is medicines from your relatives. Otherwise, there are two options: “It’s age” or “It’s stress.” Once the heating was turned off. It was both damp and cold in the cell. Oh, yes, it is forbidden to dry clothes on the radiator: it “spoils the appearance of the cell.”
First time you squeal when you see a mouse in the cell. Then you are just surprised when it runs across your body: “It’s rather impudent today”.
Some people say that it is morally easier to be in prison for those who have done nothing wrong because they have no sense of guilt. But there is a sense of a universal error, a sense of resentment and injustice, and a deadly uncertainty. And it is unknown which of these feelings is stronger.
People shouldn’t heroize those who did time and who are doing time. Comparing suffering is definitely wrong. And people don’t need to romanticize it as if it is a “vacation” or “rest from work” and pretend that everything is okay and you can also live a normal life there. Every hour, day, month, year is lost time of life. It is the suffering of people, those who are doing time and those who are waiting for them every minute of their life, which has lost and continues to lose meaning.
No goal is worth the lost years of life. Especially the lives of those people, most of whom have become hostages of existing conditions and time. If we count the victims together with those who are “doing time” outside with their relatives, we will calculate quite a figure.