“It’s very hard, you know. Sometimes I feel I’m under arrest myself,” says Irina’s mother, Lucina, with whom we talk on the phone. We hear cars honking and bus stops being called out: Lucina is on the way to see her husband. She spends the first half of the day with him, doing chores and buying groceries, and in the evening she goes and sees her grandson and daughter, the latter of whom has been under house arrest for more than a month now. Irina’s father, Vladimir, spends the night at home: “He couldn’t stand being THERE the whole time.”
Khalip doesn’t have much news to report. On 30 March she was taken out for interrogation for the first time since she was put under house arrest. It lasted just two hours and she was not formally indicted with anything (a ritual in Belarus). The following charges, however, were brought last week against Andrei Sannikov: “organising mass disturbances that led to violence, cases of assault, property destruction and armed resistance to government authorities.” The investigation claims that the “guilt is fully proven by the evidence obtained during the course of the criminal investigation.” So, the date of the trial will soon be announced.
Otherwise, it’s business as usual at Khalip’s home: two state security men are in the flat round-the-clock. Irina is forbidden to answer the phone and the intercom, open the front door, see her friends, write letters and go for walks with her son.
On the positive side of things, visits from her lawyer are allowed (at the pre-trial detention centre defense lawyers have not been able to get access to their clients for months now), she can watch television, read newspapers and receive letters. “The KGB doesn’t care what Irina finds out,” says her mother. “The main thing is that she cannot say anything herself.”
Time flies for Irina, what with her son Danka, house cleaning and cooking. The state security men, according to Lucina, “are unobtrusive”. She does not know where in their apartment they sleep and what they eat: “We live in parallel worlds.”
Asked how Irina feels, Lucina says: “She will never show to my face that she is unwell. Even when she was pregnant and broke her leg, she didn’t tell me at once. That’s the way she is.”
Her son Danka, however, is asking more and more questions. Why doesn’t mom ever go outside? (“I’m unwell,” she explains.) Why doesn’t she answer the phone? (“I’m busy.”) Why doesn’t anyone visit us, even their other grandmother, Alla, when she comes to take Danka for a walk, she does not go upstairs. And when will dad come back from his business trip? “Call a doctor, maybe he will allow you to go outside,” Danka asks his mother. “Call the train driver, let him bring dad home quicker.”
Danka has some guesses about what is going on. “Grandma, you don’t visit us because you are afraid of the men?” he asked grandmother Anna once. He no longer tries to open the entrance door and does not ask his mother to pick up the phone. But he remembers dad more and more frequently and asks to be told the exact day when he will be back.