eyes in the Kovalenkos family (photo)
When I came to the house of the Kovalenkos I saw
three pairs of womenís eyes. Three generations united by the mutual grief.
The youngest, year and a half old Viktoriyaís eyes looked at me cheerfully
and happily. The oldest eyes, eyes of the mother, tired from constant
provocations, looked with suspicion... And the wifeís eyesÖ They were
The trial of political prisoner Sergei Kovalenko starts
tomorrow. Who is he? What is his family like and why the authorities take
away the son, husband, and father and deprive the entire family of means
of subsistence. Thatís what we will talk about.
Sergei Kovalenko was arrested for putting the flag on the municipal New
Year tree in Vitebsk. Later on, the court imposed a suspended sentence
where he had to obey to certain conditions: be at home at specific time,
get registered at law enforcement authorities. December 19th, he was arrested
for alleged violation of these conditions. But was that true? Elena, Sergei
Kovalenkoís wife, says:
Elena Kovalenko (wife): everything started after
November 24 when he refused to sign the papers about the toughening of
the sentence conditions. The criminal case was started on December 3.
As they said, he was taken to prison as we submitted complaints about
the surveillance conditions. Sergei had to make a complaint as the treatment
was too biased. For example, they could come several times per night,
didnít let our kids sleep. For some reason, going with our son to the
hockey match was also a violation. That day, November 12, was the day
of National Gathering. They decided to detain him preventively. But then
they claimed that our visit to the prosecutorís office on December 3,
Saturday, at 7 pm is a violation. But the most important thing was that
they constantly changed the time when he had to be at home. For example,
they made him be at home after not after 8.30 pm but after 7.30 pm. Eventually,
he had to be at home so early that he couldnít work. He is an entrepreneur
and he had to go to the remote part of the city. He had to feed the family
of four and thus worked a lot. And he needed to repair the house, bring
our son to the trainings. Although he asked several times to make his
home staying schedule more flexible they never wanted to compromise. Instead
they put more and more pressure. For example, when they found out that
he works in another part of the city they forced him to come home even
earlier. Vladimir Sosnovskiy (the surveillance officer) said that it takes
20 minutes to come home from the other part of the city. Perhaps, a private
car or a taxi could make it in 20 minutes but it takes 20 minutes just
to wait for a bus at the bus stop. They even recorded a violation when
he was one minute late! Thatís how it went. And they were always making
him show up at the police whether they indeed needed him here or not at
all. Whenever they called, he had to come. If not, they threatened to
come and get him in the handcuffs. In fact, he oppressed as he always
promoted the national idea: to make Belarus Belarusian.
Kovalenko is one of those who do something rather than reason. Both physically
and spiritually. Beside this famous story about the flag he was in litigation
with the Dioniscompany for the brand Bulbashfor two years. He claimed
that this vodka brand insults the Belarusian nation. But thatís true.
In Ukraine, for example, you could be hauled over the coals at best...
His mother, LidiyaKovalenko, is a Labor Veteran. However, today she still
had to work as a street cleaner as high pensions in Belarus exist only
in the state propaganda. Thatís what she says about her son:
He was born and has lived in this city Ė Vitebsk. He went to school,
didnít serve in the army. They he went to the polytechnic school and was
educated as an electrical engineer. He was interested in reading about
history, in recent Belarusian history, history of the language, Belarusian
culture. He did sports, went jogging. He took care of his health and taught
his children to be healthy, too. He signed up his son for the ice hockey
He was also interested in the apartment design, worked a lot on his projects.
He was nice and a very calm as a child and never a hooligan. He did well
at school being a mathematics major. He has always had a lot of friends.
He is fair, honest and noble. Probably, thatís why he has been taking
so close to heart what is happening to our culture and country. He has
told me: why are you sad? Look at this tender sun, at these nice people.
He was very calm when we was small. You know, he is just a very good person.
And I say that not because Iím his mother but because it is true.
The bastards keep him. There is no hope as there is not justice. They
have taken him illegally and now they are trying to crush him.
Mother and daughter
We met when I applied for the university. He walked me to my place.
Then we lost each other for a while. But two years later he recognized
me in the street, we started dating and eventually, got married.
I graduated from high school, was accepted to pedagogical university.
My major was teaching chemistry and biology. I got married to Sergei when
I was in my third year at university. In my forth year we got a son, I
took a break from school for a while. After I graduated I worked at a
school teaching chemistry to satisfy the two-year work requirement. Then
they started to put pressure on me because of my husbandís activities.
KGB people told me to influence my husband or I would lose my job. But
being a teacher is not the profession that you would strive for. And I
told them that. I should say I got disappointed in our education system.
Later on, I went to work in public housing survices.
When you see Sergei Kovalenkoís daughter you understand that children
are indeed the most precious part of our life. Itís hard to forget these
little hands, eyes, smile. Elena Kovalenko explained her daughterís behavior
as an attempt to see her father in every man...
Elena Kovalenko: Valik will turn seven at
the end of February. He is very smart. Sergei spent much time educating
him. When he was 3,5 he could already read syllables, at four he could
read the ABC book. Sergei taught him how to draw, taught him English.
He has been going to the ice hockey practice and doing music (playing
violin) for almost two years now. His violin teacher says that heís very
talented as he learnt in half a year everything that usually takes children
a year to learn. But honestly, itís hard for a seven-year-oldÖ He gets
tired. He likes ice hockey more. Music requires painstaking and tedious
work. Yet, he goes to practice ice hockey every day. Unfortunately, because
of Sergeiís situation he has to skip some practice sessions.
Viktoriya was born in the summer 2011. His brother and father had long
been waiting for that moment. She likes her father very much. They say,
and thatís true, that boys like their mothers more and girls like their
fathers more. He was always carrying her, and she looks like him. She
is easy going, smiles a lot and makes friends with everyone. Our son is
sociable, too. I believe they take after their father. Today, we donít
let our son to go anywhere by himself as we are afraid of provocation.
We would rather have him skip a practice session than let him go by himself.
Iím afraid that our authorities would not disdain using any means, even
children. I am afraid that the authorities will start using the family
to crush Sergeiís will.
Valentin and Viktoria
Today, one thing
is clear. Sergei Kovalenko is being judged for political reasons. Is that
indeed a terrible offence to congratulate on the New Yearís Eve those
who like national symbols? And is that an adequate punishment for such
a crime Ė to deprive these children eyesof hope?