Russia holds Ukrainian hostages thousands of kilometers from their families
One of the most brutal aspects of Russia’s persecution of Ukrainian civic activist Oleksandr (Sasha) Kolchenko, filmmaker Oleg Sentsov and many others is that they are imprisoned literally thousands of kilometres away from their families. Sentsov’s young son and daughter, and his elderly mother, have not seen Oleg for two and a half years. Sasha Kolchenko’s mother, Larisa, was able to see him during the ‘trial’ in Rostov, but the cost of travelling 2.5 thousand kilometres to the Chelyabinsk oblast where her son is imprisoned is prohibitive.
This is one of the immediate tasks that Ukrainian poet and writer Serhiy Zhadan has set himself. In his “Zhadan and Dogs’ rock music tour around Ukraine he will be collecting money “to give Sasha a visit from his mother’. If people don’t want to come to the concerts, he says, they can simply drop by and make their donation.
The tour is about much more, however, as Zhadan explains in a text entitled “Those imprisoned for us”.
The war has not just changed Ukraine, but also brought many new situations that cannot be ignored. One is the number of political prisoners – Ukrainians arrested and imprisoned by the aggressor state.
While some are still mentioned in the media, Zhadan writes, others are virtually forgotten. And when we talk about political prisoners, it’s often in an abstract patriotic spirit, about how they’re heroes, and how the enemy must be defeated, etc.
“They are indeed heroes, and are essentially imprisoned for us. They are held, like hostages, answering before the aggressor for our resistance, for our unwillingness to give in and capitulate.”
They are, however, also real, living people and each has a family in need of help and support. Rather than glorification, Zhadan suggests, the prisoners need constant attention, our support and our solidarity.
“They are still imprisoned, for their convictions, for their country, for us and it would be good if we didn’t forget that”.
Help for people who have been sentenced on grotesque charges to 10 or 20 years cannot be once off. It must be a matter of conscience that our work for their release cannot stop until all have returned to Ukraine.
“We believe that rock and roll is a wonderful way to speak openly about things that are serious and fundamental, like, say: freedom, dignity and solidarity”.
During all concerts in November and December, they will not just be collecting money for Sasha Kolchenko’s mother, but also asking people to send postcards to Sasha, and other political prisoners, and reminding them that the problem has not gone away.
It has, in fact, got worse, with new arrests mainly, but not only, in Russian-occupied Crimea.
Sasha Kolchenko and Oleg Sentsov are serving 10 and 20-year sentences respectively, for their opposition to Russia’s invasion of Crimea. Their release has been repeatedly demanded by all international bodies and democratic governments. Details about the case, but also suggests for birthday greetings and letters generally to Sasha and Oleg can be found here.
PLEASE press the hyperlinks below for brief information about the prisoners held in Russia and Russian-occupied Crimea and how to write to them.
The list can in fact be extended since it was last updated a week ago, with new FSB arrests in Crimea.
Even just a sentence or two will be an important message to the men – and to Russia - that they are not forgotten. It is also extremely important to ensure that politicians and the media in other countries are aware of what Russia is doing, and of its Ukrainian victims.