Katya K. is quite the trendy and elegant person. Perfect hair, perfectly manicured nails - those are never a waste of time or money. And in August 2020, Katya was especially done up - the way young women only get ready for their weddings. Because Katya got married in August. Her imprisonment in cell #18 happened right in the middle of her honeymoon.
On August 9, Katya and her husband went to vote at her husband’s local polling station, planning to return to the city center on foot, go for a walk - do you know how beautiful Minsk can be in August? On the way, they intended to stop by a café, have some ice cream, look at each other, not being able to get enough of each other, then keep walking, holding hands until late at night - God knows how much time newlyweds can spend walking and holding hands.
But the city center was blocked off. Not just walking, but just getting home turned out to be impossible. In the area of Nemiga street, the young couple remembered that a friend lived nearby. They called him, asking if they could spend the night at his place and hide from the ongoing raids. What a honeymoon! How can newlyweds, to whom every hour of the night counts, hide out in a friend’s apartment! But there was nothing else to do.
It was also impossible to walk to the friend's house along the surface streets, there were riot police checkpoints everywhere. A crowd being dispersed by the police was already running from the bridge towards Katya and her husband. And there were gunshots ringing out nearby. Katya and her husband wanted to hide and wait out the shooting in a bar called “The Law of the Sandwich”, but the security guard slammed and locked the door right in front of them.
They had to run through the yards. But a strange smell soon crept through the yards - Katya didn’t recognize the smell, and only when her eyes began to water, when her nose and throat began to itch did she understand: tear gas. It happens of course, that a bride might cry at her wedding, but usually not from tear gas. And from the yards the young couple had yet to pass through, the sounds of screams and thuds could be heard. What a honeymoon! Where on Earth would a bride not be admiring fireworks after her wedding, but instead plugging up her ears to stop her eardrums from bursting from the hail of stun grenades?
In one of the yards, Katya and her husband went down the stairs leading to a basement, but the door was locked. They just squatted down and tried to hide. They weren't hard to find. A detachment of riot police searching the yards looked into every nook and cranny. They were found by an officer wearing a gas mask that he was breathing heavily through, like Darth Vader. He found them and chased them into the police van. What a honeymoon!
In the prisoner transport vehicle, the riot police officer asked Katya:
- Who brought you here? Your husband? Divorce him, why do you, you idiot, need a husband, who leads you into bullet and grenade fire?
Usually, newlyweds are wished "harmony and love", "many years together", or just a simple congratulation, but Katya received congratulations with insults, and Katya's husband - with a police baton.
Her earrings and rings, including her wedding ring, were taken away. During the search, she was stripped naked and forced to do squats to make sure she hadn’t hidden anything in any part of her crotch. What a nice honeymoon!
Her perfect bridal manicure was broken in the police vans and in the crampedness of cell #18. Her perfect hairstyle was saturated with the stench of prison. But most of all, Katya suffered not from the crampedness, the stuffiness, the hunger, and not even her anger. She was tormented by one thought: where is he, her husband, what happened to him? The last time she saw him was in the police van when he was being beaten. For five days in prison, she heard the horrifying screams of the men being beaten through the wall and through the door, trying to recognize if it was his voice. Who is the person screaming in agony? Is it not her beloved, to whom she has tied her life?
When Katya was released from the Zhodino prison, her husband was there to greet her. And her dad. Even from prison, Katya's husband called his parents and told them where he was and when he was going to be released. Someone carried a phone into his cell and let him call them. In the punitive machine tormenting innocent brides, there was someone actually capable of human sympathy. That’s the person who will one day bring the entire state machine crashing down.
After the release of Katya's husband, the young couple tried to stay together. Together they went back to retrieve their confiscated belongings from the prison, together they recorded their injuries and together they wrote complaints. Is this what newlyweds should be doing on their honeymoon?
At night, Katya would wake up in her husband's arms, not from the bliss of love or sweet desire, but from nightmares. She dreamed that stun grenades were again exploding all around her, that riot policemen were again pulling her out of the basement stairwell, distorted by her dream into a deep canyon. She dreamed that she was again in prison, in a four-bed cell where 36 women were stuffed together like sardines in a can, and the agonizing screams of the men being beaten emanating from behind the door - her husband among them.
What a honeymoon! I wonder, is there anywhere in the world where “obstruction of love” is a felony that jailers and riot policemen could be held accountable for?