Artem is a member of the Belarusian anarchist movement. In 2021 he had to leave the country after repressions against anarchists intensified. Now he lives in Warsaw.
Artem, 31 years old
In Belarus I was engaged in social activities. I was a volunteer for the movement “Food instead of bombs” for six years. I was also in the library “Free Thought” and in the printing house “Listovka”. I can’t talk about other initiatives yet.
I left Belarus in August, when the raids on the anarchists began. They took my friends, and it was already clear that they would come for me. But I managed to leave. They came to me later, a few days after, when I was already in Georgia.
I had to leave Belarus urgently, without my things….. I felt sick immediately. I threw up, I couldn’t eat. And with the boys, who are now political prisoners, we discussed that we would not leave, let them put us in jail! But there is some instinct of self-preservation, if you know that they will definitely come for you and you have a chance to leave, you use it.
I ended up in Georgia. At first I thought, “This is a new country and culture, we need to learn more, play more, get to know each other…”. But after three months it turned into a routine.
I could not adapt to Georgian life. A different mentality, cultural habits – it did not suit me.
I had already been diagnosed with depression. The first time I turned to specialists in Belarus in November 2020, when the protests died down, then I ran out of money in Georgia and stopped working with a therapist. And eventually the antidepressants ran out and abstinence syndrome started.
Abstinence syndrome is when there’s always a fog in front of your eyes. Your thoughts are focused, you don’t realize what’s going on, you can just lie there and stare at the ceiling.
I stayed in Georgia for a year, then I left. I thought I had a lot of acquaintances in Poland, so I would move and things would be better.
I hoped I would meet friends I was active with and that would make it easier. But my friends are not feeling well either. And I don’t see them having the resources to support each other right now. The community that was there is no longer there. I didn’t realize it at the time, it seemed to me that everything would be the same. I came to Poland, met everyone…. I met them once and that was it. I only keep in touch with a few people.
And if you just stop communicating with people, your circle is narrowing month by month. And you remain alone.
In Warsaw, I went only to cultural events to feel some satisfaction. There is a lot of Belarusian culture here now, and you can do anything, if you had the strength.
Probably the best day was when I went to see Levon Wolski. There were a lot of Belarusians and cult figures like Pomidorov. I was happy.
However, what I had there (in Belarus) is no longer there. But I still live in those times. And I think that I will come back and everything will be as before, but in fact there is nothing. And that makes me feel stupor. Now life has become a memory. For example, every day I look at some old photos and think: “That’s how I lived!”. All the things I did, all the places I hitchhiked, all the adventures I had. And now you’re just sitting at home. And you’re not very old. When you start to get sick, you lose confidence in yourself. It seems impossible to do even simple things.
I know there are psychological help centers, but there is no desire to go there. I think about therapy, but what I didn’t go through there, what I didn’t sort out. Will it help me now to tell myself every time that I am a good person because I do basic things? It doesn’t work for me anymore. My body is falling apart, I’m constantly anxious. When I smoke weed I sleep normally, when I don’t, I have one thought after another.
I didn’t smoke dope in Belarus. Of course, it was taboo. I was an activist and I couldn’t afford to take that risk. You realize that if an anarchist activist is arrested with drugs, you will hurt the whole movement, not just yourself.
Asking for help is very difficult. I sometimes think, “This is bad for me,” but there is so much pain around now, where do I go for help? Not everyone has a resource, and because of that there are difficulties. I’ve had arguments with some friends. You also realize with your head that the person doesn’t have the resources, but you still get offended.
I don’t have any interests yet. Something’s broken in my head. I don’t know how it works, but I don’t get any pleasure. For example, I’ve become uninterested in music. I eat as much junk food as possible so that it has a strong flavor, so that the receptors are activated. To feel something. Because sometimes I don’t feel anything.
Even when I have conflicts with people close to me, my emotions only last a minute. It’s the same with the news, I don’t feel any disgust at the killing. There is a war going on, when I see the corpses of Russian soldiers, for example, I rejoice. All this is not normal, it seems to me. Even in depression, it’s hard to understand your emotions. Sometimes I feel an emotion, and I don’t know what that emotion is. I don’t know why it’s happening.
A girl came to visit me in Georgia, we were dating at the time. But after living with me for four months in such a state, this relationship ended. Because I couldn’t solve problems, I couldn’t react emotionally.
If I knew how things are in my head right now, I could probably fix it. But I just don’t understand how it’s possible that you suddenly lose the drive to live, to exist.
If it wasn’t for the dog – thank you very much – I wouldn’t leave the house. I wake up every morning and think, “I don’t want to go anywhere.” But I have a more important motivation here: responsibility for the animal.
I don’t have any plans yet. I want everything to be over in Belarus as soon as possible, then I will come back immediately. I have a grandmother there who has no other relatives. She has experienced almost everything in her life: the death of her daughter, and the death of her alcoholic husband, who made a domestic mess. She and I have always quarreled, just to death, and about politics too, but now we have found mutual understanding. And it’s especially hard for me to think about my grandmother right now. Because I have almost no friends left in Belarus, and those who are left don’t have the resources to visit her in the same psychological state.
My greatest fear is that we will never see my grandmother again. HShe is a person with whom we have found mutual understanding over so many years of life, she is my greatest treasure.
I think when I go back to Belarus, my biggest wish will be just to help her.
I hope my work will help me, maybe to move around a bit, to walk, to socialize, I don’t know, at least something. Although, if I could, I wouldn’t work. I don’t know how to work for five days in this condition. I have to apply for international protection now – I haven’t done that. I could get money, but even that is not motivating.
We contacted Artem a month and a half after the first conversation and asked about his condition:
– It only got worse. I was helped to find a psychiatrist, they wrote a prescription for antidepressants, now the question is to bring the medicine from Ukraine.
I hope they will allow me to start living a little.