On November 25, Slutsk witnessed a unique
court trial. The trial where the authorities came out in their true colors,
and definitely not the bright and honorable ones. Believe it or not, 23
local deputies launched a war against a pensioner who “dared” to organize
a community cleaning up day at the local cemetery
The story started on October 1. No,
it rather started on the day of local elections with all the Belarusian
“peculiarities”, from the time when no democratic activists were allowed
in the election committees, from pre-election promises of all the candidates
(including the candidates from the government), falsifications and closing
the ways for alternative candidates to local Councils. Then we, supposedly,
chose the “servants of the people” for ourselves that were to make our
life better, according to their own election campaigns.
Slutsk, as any other town, has its cemetery. All around the world the
state of the cemetery is considered to show the attitude of the descendants
to the ancestors. Is it important to keep cemeteries ideally clean and
well-groomed? Would You want to lie after your death in dirt and wild
grass? And when the cemetery is old and gave the final rest to the prominent
persons, then it’s the indicator of the attitude towards people’s history.
At the Slutsk old cemetery, there are graves dated from the 17th century.
Some renowned Belarusians are also buried there, for example, AlgerdAbuhovich,
the famous writer and translator. However, despite all that, the cemetery
in Slutsk is in horrible condition. Unlike the authorities, local community
does care about its history, and for many years it has been trying to
make the cemetery an example and demonstration of the respect towards
the ancestors and history. A local activist and retiree, ZinaidaTimoshek
has had a three-year long bureaucratic struggled for maintaining the cemetery
in proper conditions: thousands of signatures were collected from various
institutions; after the trial, the court obliged the living and communal
services and ROVD to control the state of the cemetery; an appeal was
also sent to the regional Council of Deputies to allocate money for that
purpose. But things haven’t got forward an inch. The only thing that the
Council of Deputies could offer was to clean the cemetery at the community
cleaning up day.
When ZinaidaTimoshek understood that the authorities cared much more about
pompous celebration of the end of the harvest and useless indicators,
she decided to act and organize the volunteer cleaning up day at the cemetery.
To bring more attention to the problem of national history preservation,
she sent the invitations to 24 local deputies who would pay at least some
attention to the problem afterwards. However, the volunteer cleaning up
day was attended only by those who were not indifferent: local activists,
people from other cities and regions… “Servants of people” were not among
them... And nothing else but presence was expected from the deputies –
aware of poor local budget (no money was allocated for the cleaning up),
the participants of the community service day prepared for the deputies
even the cleaning equipment (shovels). To avoid confusion, the shovels
had special plate on them attached by the sticky tape. And that was exactly
the shovels that irritated the local authorities the most. Someone treated
them as crosses. As a result, the policemen that were present at the event
first tried to break the small wooden plates, then a tractor drove over
the shovels. It seems that the word “order” at the cemetery, as understood
by living and communal services and ROVD, means not the tidy graves but
clean hands of the local authorities... On that day the police didn’t
make a record on anyone, although Zinaida asked them to do so.
Deputies of local Council felt insulted for a month and ten days. Then,
after almost a month and a half, ZinaidaTimoshek was called to the police
where 23 records were made on her according to the article “Insult”. The
deputies were insulted by Zinaida’s “setting of crosses made of household
shovels and putting the plates with the names of the deputies on crosses”.
The trial was held on November 25. The
participants of the court trial were ZinaidaTimoshek (the accused), the
judge Svetlana Pastukhova; 10 victims: YuriyBondarenko (director of the
ZhES-3), Sergei Lavrik (military commissioner), DmitriyBondarev (head
of the Slutsk Canning Factory), Vladimir Gurkin (director of the trading
house), Inna Tsetsevskaya (the head of the regional post office), Natalia
Serid (director of the Slutsk Local History Museum), ValentinaRaiko (headmaster
of school No13), Sergei Tsygankov (deputy head of the Slutsk Department
of Ministry of Emergency Situations), DmitriyShkliarevskiy (head of the
department of public order of Slutsk ROVD), Makarov (military retiree);
pensioners from Slutsk and Vitebsk who came to support Zinaida. The appearance
and behavior of the trial participants deserve some attention, too. The
judge was quite clear in supporting the “offended” who looked like some
kind of “local princes”. It was surprising to see how the police authorities
show off making speeches. Almost all the men had faces broader than shoulders
and were big enough not to see what is under their well-fed bellies. One
of the “offended” (Bondarenko) barely ever stopped chewing a gum openly.
And the ladies… To see them, one don’t need to come to Slutsk, one may
just meet a head of a local Executive Committee or her assistant. And
don’t forget that they all are deputies of the Regional Council.
During the trial the judge kept interrupting the speech by ZinaidaTimoshek
as soon as she tried to say anything about the importance of keeping the
cemetery in decent state. The judge said it was “not relevant to the case”.
At the same time, the deputies could reason safely that the invitations
were unjustified and illegal (the connection to the shovels is unclear).
The trial lasted for almost nine hours.
During these nine hours the deputies mostly expressed their outrage not
about the ill-fated shovel offence but about the fact that they “didn’t
receive personal notifications”, that “each deputy should work solely
in their own district”, that “cemetery is not a prerogative of communal
services and ROVD”. For example, deputy Burkin claimed: “You care about
the cemetery? Organize people, don’t organize an action, don’t invite
the deputies”. Deputy Bondarenko said: “Do you think we are paid for that
(for being a deputy in the regional Council)? Not at all, it’s a community
service in addition to our main job. We are responsible to voters. If
they don’t want us, they will elect someone else. You have a f*ing bunch
of people who could be responsible”. The impression was that the deputies
were most indignant at the fact that they were invited to clean up the
cemetery, that for the first time someone tried to tell them – “We have
elected you. You are the “servants of the people”. And you are to behave
adequately”. But deputies are not used to that… They are used to a different
principle: “You have elected us and we don’t need you anymore!” During
the breaks the deputies had to listen to everything that Zinaida’s supporters
had to tell them. Many of them already regretted that they got involved
with the trial. In general, the people present were grateful to ZinaidaTimoshek
for her active position and brave actions.
The general impression of the trial reminds the one of vising any state
institution: it’s the feeling that these “princes” have privatized our
country. They live on our taxes but behave as if the organizations they
run are their private shady business. When I want, I answer the question,
when I don’t want, I don’t answer; I will register the organization if
I want, or will not register if I don’t want to. And it doesn’t matter
whether it is legal or illegal. The law for them is the order of the boss.
In any country of the world, these shovels would indeed be the cross for
these deputies. The cross on their political and public career. But here
they are likely to get a salary bonus, a promotion, and get reelected.
It sounds weird but our country has something to hope for solely because
there are people like Timoshek who are brave enough to bring the deputies
to the account at least in such a way.