ENG
menu close-menu
expand_more

We continue the column ‘Freedom in Captivity, Solidarity without Borders’ together with the Anarchist Black Cross about imprisoned Belarusian anarchists. Today we are talking about Alexander Frantskevich, a ‘successful IT guy’ even before the protesters went through political imprisonment, a move to Ukraine, and deportation. In Belarus, in 2020, Alexander was arrested again and charged with 13 charges. In prison, the guy ‘closes his eyes and remembers the smell of the ocean’ and writes poems and short stories. In the text below, Sasha’s life and principles from his mates Evgeniya Dolgaya and Konstantin*.

*name changed

‘The Belarusian repressive machine has no limits or brakes. It is vindictive, cruel, and absolutely devoid of human understanding. It goes and collects on the way all those who displease it, bestowing such terms that were not dreamed of by those who really commit atrocities. The story of Alexander Frantskevich is an example of this. Having once been imprisoned and deported from Ukraine, without breaking down and continuing his activism, he made this machine smoke with the soot of hatred. This car remembered his courage and strength of spirit and did not forgive him…

The cops can’t believe in decentralisation, they, like sheep, always need a shepherd in the person of a major, general, or president, and they applied this model to Alexander Frantskevich, calling him an informal leader of the international anarchist movement. Not realising that the very notion of ‘anarchy’ is opposed to the notion of ‘leader’. All this resulted in a colossal sentence of 17 years in prison for Alexander. This is nothing but the revenge of the cops and the state for the strength and conviction of his ideals. But as Alexander Frantskevich wrote in his letter to his mother, ‘No matter how dark the night is, it is darkest before the dawn!’

Participant of the team ‘Not Today, Not Yesterday, Not Tomorrow’

‘History is turning the page, and in a new chapter. this dark period will find its deserved evaluation. Those who were forced to leave, those who are being tried and pressed in the colonies, those who fight the imperial madman at the front – they will determine the future of Belarus’

Alexander Frantskevich’s last word at the court hearing

Alexander Frantskevich, photo from Tatiana Frantskevich’s personal archive

Evgeniya Dolgaya, activist and founder of the media project ‘Politvyazanka’ about Alexander Frantskevich.

It’s hard for me to tell about Sasha personally; we didn’t know each other closely. I know only the most unpleasant things: who was detained and who was beaten. If something like that happened to Sasha or his friends, he would contact me. And I would pass the news to the editorial office.

I remember our first meeting with Sasha in Kyiv. I was on a work training course, and he was just living there. It was winter, it was snowing, and we met for tea. Sasha said that he might be deported from Ukraine. And so it happened – a few months later, he ended up in Belarus. When Sasha was detained, I immediately thought that he was unlikely to be released in the near future. 

He is a good man. A very calm, restrained person. He can analyse and protect his emotions. Can mobilise internally and understand when it’s better to be safe.

I am very surprised (in a good way) by his tender attitude towards his mother. You can see how much he loves her.

Sasha is a successful IT guy. Thanks to his good earnings, he has travelled a lot and seen a lot. I think Sasha is very much supported by these memories. Once, he wrote that in prison he could close his eyes, find himself by the ocean, and remember those smells and sounds. He also wrote a lot of poems and stories behind bars. I recently reproduced, through artificial intelligence, his voice reading a poem. Sasha’s mom said it was very similar.

It’s a shame that Sasha isn’t talked about enough. Maybe his friends have personal reasons; it’s not for me to judge.

Sasha! Perhaps you’ll read this material very soon. And then all the worst will be over.

Letters from Alexander Frantskevich to his mother, from the personal archive of Tatyana Frantskevich

Konstantin is a former participant of the anarchist movement in Belarus, a member of the organisation ‘Revolutionary Action’, and a friend of Alexander Frantskevich. 

I have known Sasha for many years; we met before the first ‘anarchists’ case’ in 2010. He was a software developer, so he was always interested in new information technologies and was aware of discoveries and advancements in the IT sphere and technological progress in general. He loved computer games with a good plot, complex strategies, travelling, and, of course, anarchy.

Sasha was interested in everything related to political struggle and human development, from history and economics to biology and programming. He had good analytical thinking and a lively mind; he could see cause-and-effect relationships; he was good at selecting arguments and evidence in his favour; because of this, you could argue with him for hours.

The moment to talk about political projects in Belarus has not come yet. Especially when it comes to people in detention. But Sasha, as a consistent anarchist who always advocated agitation and actionism, tried to actualize anarchism as a theory and practice. He believed that digitalization and the rapid development of the Internet would give society mechanisms for realising political will in projects.

For Sasha, anarchism is not a village where people exchange potatoes for firewood. He dreamed of a high-tech city where political issues could be solved with the help of a smartphone.

Online platforms and streaming would allow real-time monitoring of how society’s decisions are implemented. And open source code would allow us to be sure that there are no deliberate bugs in the software.

Sasha and I have always believed that peaceful protest is not productive; they will hold on to their throne with blue fingers to the last man. Sasha has always been a pragmatist, assessing the historical process realistically, not through the prism of fantasy. He understood perfectly well that only we ourselves, with our determination and direct action, can change the order of things.

Some journalists called the case of Sasha’s trial ‘the case of ten’ in order not to publicise the ideological affiliation of the participants. In fact, this is not correct. This case is a revenge of the GUBOPiK and the Belarusian regime as a whole on anarchists for the years of activity affiliated with the organisation ‘Revolutionary Action’. The activity was sometimes resonant and successful. In the period 2010-2020, the repressive machine could not do anything about it because of intellectual limitations. Besides, the anarchists in Belarus had a very high level of conspiracy after 2010. 

Letters of Alexander Frantskevich, from the personal archive of Tatyana Frantskevich

But after 2020, the laws became so ‘irrelevant’ that since then, people have been imprisoned on principle for any reason. GUBOPiK took the opportunity to take revenge on those activists of the anarchist movement (including former ones) whom they knew and could reach.

Sasha was charged with more than 10 articles of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus. The term of 17 years of imprisonment, I think, is connected with the fact that the Main Directorate for Combating Organised Crime and Corruption of the MVD of the Republic of Belarus has a certain picture of the world with the leaders of the anarchist movement in its head. And in it, Sasha is one of them. The term is, of course, wild, given that there are no victims in the case. In Belarus, such terms are not always given, even for murders.

Recently, it became known that Sasha would be tried for violating the regime in the colony under the article, which has long been used by the Belarusian law enforcers to add years to a prisoner’s sentence. Taking into account that Sasha’s main term ends not soon, I think this is done for additional moral pressure in prison.

I and a few other comrades keep in touch with him. Sasha holds on; this has always been his hallmark. Even before his imprisonment, he met the hardships of the political struggle with dignity; he never got discouraged or fell into despair. 

Sasha is very worried about the fate of Ukraine in this war; he still has comrades there (he lived there for several years). Besides, Sasha understands that the result of this war will determine the future of Europe for the next two decades. 

In prison, Sasha reads a lot, does physical training, and writes poetry. He also often goes to the punitive isolation centre and cell-type premises. The attitude towards anarchists in prison is even more ‘special’ than towards ‘ordinary’ political prisoners.

Solidarity actions with Belarusian anarchist prisoners in Brussels and Paris, Source ‘Revolutionary Action’

Sometimes the staff of remand centres, prisons, and correctional colonies unashamedly declare that such pressure is ‘re-education’ in their distorted view. In my opinion, nothing can be done about it. Belarus is now at a stage where the lives of political prisoners are no longer of much value. 

Earlier, Lukashenko was pressured by the EU, which forced him to maintain at least a semblance of decency. With the outbreak of the war, Lukashenko can no longer bargain. Russia is unlikely to be happy with deals with the West.

There is a day of solidarity with anarchist prisoners, weeks of solidarity with Belarusian political prisoners – Sasha was supported in France, Germany, and Poland. He has a symbolic ‘godfather’, a Swedish politician, but whether and how he helps, I don’t know. So write Sasha a letter of support, send him some photos, and tell him what is happening in the world. By the way, Sasha loves Kyiv very much and will be glad to see photos from there.

I wish Sasha and other political prisoners the strength and will to endure this journey.

Poems by Alexander Frantskevich:

Poems by Alexander Frantskevich, drawings by Nastya Kusta, poems and drawings were transmitted via inter-camera communication on Volodarka, source Zhenya Dolgay

***

In the deep woods, a jäger wandered.

In the darkness of the pine trees,

He found an animal that had been crushed by a stalk,

The fox was lying in a black cloth.

And there was a question before the old jäger:

‘Shall I take the little fox to a quiet home?’

So that when he came back from his wanderings tired,

and warmed him before he went to bed.

But he saw it in the fox’s eyes.

A wild lynx’s longing for freedom,

and a longing to fight hard against oppression,

Strength of spirit, not for a domestic role.

So the jäger began to help the fox.

To learn the laws of the wilderness.

The fox began to gain strength.

And every year, he grew older.

So he became an experienced fox.

And having learned the ways of the forest,

Decided that friendship was not worth it.

The beast himself leads his own footsteps.

And ran away.

***

All day long, I wandered through the woods.

In the darkness of the pine trees.

It was a terribly cracked world.

For the jäger, whom no one waited for anywhere.

***

Old man, how are you doing?

They saw you on the boat coming.

You had a rough trip back.

While hungry sharks drown the raft,

And on the shore, fearful of worry,

The people keep the meek.

Old man, you were strong in spirit.

You sailed alone into the storm.

In a broken boat from the village.

Come, he’s waiting in your hut.

That’ll give the strongest rest,

The ancient drink that saves you from your longing.

Old man, while you were at sea,

Every life in the village has been taken away.

Where the sun rises more often than not above the earth.

But don’t be sad, old man, alone.

Your memory will remember the beginnings

of those who have left the coastal land forever.

There’s no more strength in you, old man,

To see the meaninglessness of life,

Though you’ve met a lot of people in your life.

Come home to your house.

And pour a glass of strong rum,

To see God at last.

***

The tangy smell of soot 

Squeezes my chest

In the dark, gloomy rumble

I can’t breathe.

Darkness and gloom in the crevice 

They have ruled for a long time.

Sprouting greenery

It feeds.

With green herbs

Could sew up the rift,

With a scythe of fire

They burned it all out with fire.

Fiery fireman

Smothered the sprouts

There is no room for confusion

In the kingdom of melancholy.

Fights the turmoil

Going to the fire,

Covered in soot

Stone power.

Don’t be sad before going to bed, little fox,

Quietly curled up in a ball.

Even if you have no strength,

If the leash is tight.

Fly away in your dreams

Into the quiet, cool white forest

Or to those beckoning seas,

Where wool shines in the rays.

Fly away, where there is no sadness,

And leave all the darkness before

To the kingdom of the blizzard wild distance,

Untouched by anyone before you.

Animals roam freely there,

Not afraid of deep dreams.

The paw prints were swept away by the blizzards,

No hunter wanders in the darkness.

Don’t be sad before going to bed, little fox,

Quietly curled up in a ball.

Even if you have no strength,

If the leash is tight.

Get acquainted with the case of Alexander Frantskevich and write him a letter

To support the work of the ABC and make a donation to support Alexander (specify Alexander Frantskevich in the note)

Read about the Anarchist Black Cross