The story of Ekaterina Kabanchenko … I am from the city of Slonim.. The head of the police began to frighten that the OMON would come. The head of the local police came to me, Trukhan is his name. He immediately began to harass me …
E: My name is Ekaterina Kabanchenko. I am from the city of Slonim. I worked in a beauty salon, then left and started working for myself. 2020 was the first election in which I voted. I am 34 years old, and this was the first time I thought we could do something different. I went to rallies and participated in the chains of solidarity like many others.
Q: What happened in the city on election day?
E: On election day, my whole family voted. The country completely removed themselves from internet activity, we could only view the news from the TV. In the evening, they showed Yermoshina (head of the Central Election Commission of the Republic of Belarus), had said that Lukashenka won 80% of the votes. Hearing this, I physically began to shake with anger I then got up and said that something had to be done. My brother and I came together and drove to the city center.
They were just removing the members of the election commission. A man with a white-red-white flag tried to break through to them. He was immediately detained. Then a girl appeared, also with a flag. They began to detain her harshly and her boyfriend tried to keep her from getting hurt, he pushed the policeman away.
As a result, he was given two years of „chemistry” (forced labor). Men were simply forced out of the crowd. The head of the police began to try and intimidate and frighten the crowed by threatening; the riot police would come and disperse everyone by force. At first, no one wanted to disperse but eventually people were simply dispersed.
Q: Have you been arrested?
yes. On August 11, we again gathered in the square, myself, my brother and several other people. The men began to be arrested without cause. My brother and I were also arrested, allegedly as “witnesses to testify”. The head of the local police came to see me, Trukhan was his last name. He immediately began to harass me, but I would not allow it, I said that I was not interested.
That probably provoked him, as well as his subordinates. I was immediately told that I was a fallen woman, they sent me to have a breathalyzer, they decided that since I had something to say, it meant I was drunk. They found out that I had a child and began to threaten to take her away. they told me by that fact I should sit at home with the children, and not go to meetings. For an hour and a half, they searched for whether I had a criminal record or if I was registered.
Specifically: I was detained for 72 hours in the department to then be detained later, In the isolation ward. I was examined and searched, they completely undressed me under the cells. I had a breakdown then; I cried all night. It was the shame, because we were detained for nothing, and they had such a bestial attitude. They came to me several times and asked why I didn’t go to sleep. I answered that I could not take someone else’s place, because in my place should be Lydia Yermoshina.
Q: How long were you imprisoned?
E: I was kept in the isolation ward for two days. Then there was the trial. There were two policemen at the trial. I recognized one, then checked the documentation, it turned out that they were attending the trial under different names and surnames. Everything was completely falsified. I was lucky on that occasion, they let me go. They said that I should sit at home with the children.
Q: Why did you decide to leave the country? Did you continue to be persecuted?
E: Yes, but they started to put pressure on me through my child. I continued to go to meetings with my daughter. The police officers then tried to feed her wrong information against me, they approached her and said that her mother was engaged in unjust activities. I told my daughter that because of these people, my mother was not at home for several days.
Later they came to our house with a search document. They wrote the document between themselves for themselves; they did not show it to me and did not let me sign it. When they left, they separately asked why my child did not have a job.
I replied that when she went to school. Apparently, it was a hint of an attempted deprivation of parental rights. I didn’t sleep at night, I understood that they had taken an interest in us, and we would not be allowed to live in peace.
I understood that I had to leave urgently. In the morning I sent my daughter to the garden, and I myself returned and began to collect things. I tried to find out through my friend if I could cross the border without a visa. I tried to buy tickets for a bus from Brest to Terespol, but they didn’t sell it to me.
Q: Why didn’t they sell it to you?
E: Because there was no visa. They didn’t substantiate anything else.
Q: How did you leave?
E: I came to Brest to see a friend, made copies of all the documents, everything that I had, and we went to the station with her. I was just in a panic. The Lukashenka regime brought it to the point that it seemed that literally every policeman was looking at you and was about to take you away to jail, and your child would be taken away. I was insanely afraid of losing my daughter, I constantly pressed her to me so that she would not leave my side for a single step.
We boarded the bus to Terespol and I immediately warned the driver that we were visa-free, but we urgently needed to flee the country. He only replied that we would not pass the border for a long time and laughed. The driver was the first to pass the border on the Belarusian side. Then we went, I gave the documents. The Belarusian border guard looked through them, looked at me: „Where are you going?” I replied that I was going to Terespol.
He asked what the purpose of the visit was. Then I almost burst into tears right in front of him. I replied that my child and I just want to live. He did not understand, I repeated it again. The border guard silently looked at us, handed over the documents and we quickly ran back to the bus. On the Polish side, the driver explained to the border guards who I was and why I was going to Poland. I was taken to a separate room, questioned, asked if protection was needed. And from there we were taken to a camp in the city of Biala Podlaska. Already in April, my child and I received protection. They are still looking for us in Belarus. The police, tax, guardianship authorities are looking for us.
Q: Have you encountered any problems here, in Poland?
E: Here in Warsaw, there were problems with a kindergarten. When we moved to Warsaw in December, I asked the camp administration to help with the placement of children in the kindergarten. One of the camp workers simply gave me a list of the phone numbers of all the kindergartens and told me to call and look.
The Belarusians helped to write a letter of recommendation, all by themselves. The organization of the camp didn’t care about our problems. As for the rest, there are things for the season now, but there is nothing for the children for the winter. We were living light. Our children all need technology, even the simplest one.
They study remotely, but there is not even a laptop, nothing that can be used to study. Toasters or something so that when collect children from school you can make food. We don’t really need anything for ourselves. Children would be here to help. In general, like everyone else, there is a lack of work.