10/02/2020, 16.41
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Irina’s prayers against repression in Minsk

by Vladimir Rozanskij

The 35-year-old young woman always carries a copy of the New Testament at protests. She was able to free herself and another woman after being detained by special police. She saw electoral fraud firsthand. Even police agents are afraid.

 

Minsk (AsiaNews) – Irina Palyukhovich, a resident of the Belarusian capital of Minsk, told the site tut.by, a Belarusian news web portal, that prayer brought about a small miracle during the police crackdown.

When street protests broke out on 10 August, followed by the violent repression by members of the Special Purpose Police Detachment (OMON), Irina decided to carry a copy of the New Testament with her when she went out into the streets.

On Sunday 13 September, she was detained by the OMON agents and pushed into the police van (avtozak).

An officer offered her to het her go home when he saw that she was praying, but Irina refused, asking that another, older woman be released, who was in fact released. Now Irina, who was freed later, is looking for this woman to meet her.

Irina Palyukhovich (picture 2), 35, works as an accountant. Even before this summer’s events, she thought that her country needed some changes.

Still, “I didn't get involved in politics. Before the elections, I thought it was possible to make reforms in a legitimate and peaceful way, and I registered as an independent observer at a polling station.”

She was allowed in only in the evening of 9 August, and saw many irregularities right away. The polling commission tried even to call the police to remove the observers, and organise the vote without external hindrance.

Add police violence to election fraud, and “My soul is heartbroken for those who have died, and for those who have suffered physically and psychologically,” said Irina. “You can't treat people like that. This is why I decided to go into the streets with the others.”

When she was forced into the police van, the situation was difficult, with the women sitting, huddled on the side benches and the men crowding the floor, at risk of suffocation.

When Irina took out her New Testament and started reading passages and praying, a policeman told her that “you go to church with this book, not here,” to which Irina replied "I go with this to church and here.”

When he asked her to get out of the van, the other women asked to be released as well; the policeman replied that if they had the same book, he would let them go.

Seeing that one woman was very tired and frightened, Irina tried to console her, and finally convinced the policemen to let her out.

Talking to police agents, the women saw how scared they were. Some of them made it clear that they were being compelled by their superiors, even with violent means and pressure on their families.

From the footage of subsequent protests, Irina recognised the woman she had freed, as she approached policemen making the sign of the cross on their foreheads and saying prayers.

Irina is Orthodox, but she noted that the Church that most supports people's expectations is the Catholic Church.

“It's not that I'm a great believer. I just took the New Testament to feel more confident. I believe that the Church is not just Church officials, I believe in God, and faith is my only defence, even in a police van.”

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