29 March 2023, Wednesday, 20:03
Sim Sim, Charter 97!

Tall Poppies

Tall Poppies
Iryna Khalip

The dictatorship goes fat, balloons, and bursts.

The other day I talked to a girl who had recently been released from the detention facility on Okrestina after a 15-day arrest. The girl was in the same cell with Anna Livyant, the daughter of the well-known teacher, physics and math tutor Evgenya Livyant.

I can give the answer to those who rhetorically asked why Anna and her husband returned to Belarus. The story now is a little clearer: they, as it turned out, did not run across the border from persecution wearing slippers. Anna and Nikita were going to work. And they came to Minsk, taking advantage of the Christmas vacations in Poland, to collect all the necessary documents, a lot of them are needed to get a residence permit. At the same time, they wanted to relax, meet their parents and celebrate the New Year together.

Even when Evgeny and Julia Livyant were detained, Anna and her husband were not detained at first. And since the parents were taken to different courts ("one Satan" in administrative cases is not tried together) Anna and Nikita also decided to separate, so that someone would be at court with each of the parents. They were arrested in the courts there. They saved money on leaving of the country.

Every morning when the women in the political cell (a two-person cell with 15 people in it) were taken out for a "raid" and held in the corridor, Anna listened attentively to the voices and noise in the facility in the hope to hear the name of one of her relatives. To make sure that everyone was alive and doing fine. And she was very afraid that the whole family would not be released. The worst thing, my interlocutor said, was when one came to meet you a couple of hours earlier when your arrest expired. That means you are not going to be released. At best, you're taken to another hearing; at worst, you go to the pre-trial detention center. That's what happened to Anna Livyant. She was taken away early, and everyone knew she wasn't going home.

On the eve of my interlocutor's release, a new neighbor appeared in her cell. She told that she had seen Anna in the detention facility next door. She was first taken to the detention facility as a criminal detainee and three days later was taken to the pre-trial detention center on Volodarskogo Street. The father went there later. He served another administrative arrest. And now the whole family is somewhere nearby, in the same building, but in different cells. Again they listen to the voices in the hope to hear a family member. If they're lucky, they'll hear.

The regime liked to grab people. Husband and wife Sergey Yaroshevich and Antonina Konovalova, Elena and Sergey Movshuka, Daria and Igor Losik, Julia and Igor Laptanovich; brothers Timur and Tamaz Pipia, Andrey and Sergey Klutchenya, Kim and Alexei Samusenko; sisters Victoria and Anastasia Mironceva; father and son Victor and Eduard Babariko, Vitaly and Daniel Kolesnikovs, Vitaly and Egor Prokopchuk, Igor and Oleg Bukasy; mother and son Tatiana and Dmitry Kanevsky, Svetlana and Igor Yermolovs; mother and daughter Inna and Valeria Glinsky; mother, father and son Lubov, Sergey and Pavel Rezanovich. I didn't google them. These are the family dramas that came to mind. In fact, there were many more relatives behind bars. So far, the Rezanovichs are the record-breakers. All family members are arrested and sentenced to exactly half a century of imprisonment. But there are four of the Livyants, along with their son-in-law. The regime's appetite is growing, its claws are clawing, and its stinking mouth is getting wider. But this is not even news. This is the natural development of any dictatorship. It gets fat, it bloats, then it bursts.

But I'm not talking about the regime now I'm talking about the Livyant family. Of course, everyone went to jail due to the head of the family. Whenever I read Yevgeny Livyant's comments or watched his speeches on his YouTube channels, I was reminded of the Australian expression "tall poppy". It's a way to describe people who stand out too much. And, of course, tall poppies are cut off. So Livyant is a typical tall poppy. Silent, he could quietly make much money (good tutors are always worth their weight in gold) and live a comfortable life. But he was not satisfied with quiet prosperity. He ran columns in newspapers, created a tutoring center and a private school, commented on all the stupid and harmful to society initiatives of the Ministry of Education and did not spare officials in his comments, as well as the entire public education system. And the students, having served their time at school with flag-raising and lessons in patriotism, went on to study for real with Livyant, who was smart, ironic, sharp-tongued, critical and free-thinking. And all the lessons of propaganda were safely erased from their heads. It is clear why the tall poppies should be cut off. Children should not absorb the free way of thinking along with the formulas. It would be better to hollow them out, with the whole family, with all the sprouts.

But I just can not get it: don't the children of officials need tutors their parents arrest? Don't they need good doctors, whom they force out of the country, or put in jail, too? Don't they need, after all, the private schools they destroyed? They don't even think about their own children. They only think about having time to get drunk, get rich, get out of office and wait in fear for someone to come after them. But one will come. The great terror hollows out everyone, not just the tall poppies.

Iryna Khalip, especially for Charter97.org