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Story of Dmitry Furmanov - Face of Protest #22

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Political prisoner Dmitry Furmanov was released from prison on October 21, having served his sentence and left the country

Source: Radio Liberty

Dmitry Furmanov is a Grodno resident, administrator of the "A Country to Live in" telegram chat, and member of Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya’s initiative group. He was detained on May 29, 2020, at the pre-election picket of Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya in Grodno.

Dmitry was collecting signatures as a member of the initiative group. When a scuffle broke out on Sovetskaya Square and a policeman was on the ground, Sergei Tsikhanouski and his comrades were detained. At that moment unknown people grabbed Furmanov from the table in front of his parents, hit him in the face and took him to the police. Dmitry’s relatives report that during the arrest he was beaten until he lost consciousness and his ear had to be stitched up.

Dmitry Furmanov received two years in a general regime prison for "organizing actions that grossly violate public order". He starved in custody several times in protest. Last summer, his mother and girlfriend starved with him under the walls of the detention center. Dmitry’s prison term was reduced after recalculation under the new legislation, where 1 day in the detention center counts as 1.5 days in a minimum-security penal colony.

"When I got out of the colony, I thought I was going home and that would be the end of my story, — Dmitry says. — I would live like I used to, before the events of May, when I was kidnapped. But no. I was told that everything was just beginning. That if I don’t leave that country now, I might not be able to do it again. I would be persecuted again, I might go to prison again. In addition I had an obligation to check in with the police for three days after my release. I had no choice but to go".

Dmitry says that his parents also insisted on his departure. Right after his release they quickly drove him away from the prison building. They explained that the situation was hopeless and he had to go. Four hours after his release, the former political prisoner said goodbye to his parents at the train station in Minsk.

"They took the bus that took them to Grodno, and I took the bus that took me abroad, — says Dmitry Furmanov. — I didn’t even make it to Grodno, didn’t stay at home. I only saw my parents in the car, while driving to Minsk. Now we talk to them on the phone, via video link. It’s better than being in fear and waiting all the time for someone to come for me. Maybe that wouldn’t happen. But the risk was unwarranted in my case. I had to choose between living in conditional freedom but not feeling free, or living in a free country".

Dmitry says that being in prison changed him. Only time will tell whether he will be able to return to his former state. So far, the situation in Belarus prevents him from loosening up completely.

"I've changed a lot, — admits the former political prisoner. — I think that these changes can be good for me. But some bad prison habits have also emerged. I continue to constantly watch what I say, every word. I think it’s a bad habit, I need to get rid of it. I am still afraid of doorbells or phone rings, unexpected sounds. It seems to me that now they will come for me and I will be in jail again. On the other hand, there are some good habits. I can now take care of myself domestically. And not only about myself, but also about those around me. I have made a habit of helping everyone. This is very good".

On October 30 Dmitry Furmanov flew to Lithuania from Ukraine and met his girlfriend Olga Karakina. They saw each other for the first time since May 29, 2020, when Dmitry was detained.