Text resize: A A
Change contrast

Cela #18

A new publication sheds new light on the horrible experiences of Belarusian women incarcerated following the 2020 protests.

September 11, 2023 - Katarzyna Taczyńska Wojciech Tworek - Books and Reviews

Cover of Cela #18. Illustration: ByProsvet

In August 2023, on the third anniversary of the mass demonstrations against the 2020 election fraud in Belarus, a remarkable book was published in Poland. Cela #18 (Cell #18) tells the story of the experiences of women persecuted by Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s regime. As stated in the introduction:

On August 9, 2020, presidential elections were held in Belarus. The incumbent president Alyaksandr Lukashenka, in office since 1994, was once again declared the winner. Thousands of Belarusian citizens considered these elections rigged and took to the streets in protest. The state responded with repression and numerous arrests. Prisons became overcrowded. For almost a week, 36 women were locked up in cell number 18, on 11 square metres with almost no food, water, medicine, clothing, hygiene products, or air. After their release, we managed to talk to eleven of them. This is their story.

The book provides a microhistory, narrating the protest from the perspectives of these eleven women. Through their accounts, we gain insight into the mechanisms of the Belarusian apparatus of repression that inflicts suffering on numerous people, both in Belarus and abroad. Many of them, often separated from their homes and families, continue to fight for their rights and the freedom of all Belarusian citizens.

Cela #18 emerged as part of a larger project entitled Август2020/August2020 (august2020.info), initiated in October 2020 by a group of journalists and volunteers supported by the Belarusian IT-community. Throughout the project and in collaboration with Belarusian and international human rights activists, these journalists and volunteers collected and published nearly 300 testimonies from victims of torture and persecutions following the rigged presidential elections of August 2020.

In 2021, on the first anniversary of the protests, the project team (whose members remain anonymous for safety reasons) decided to prepare a multi-format project Cell #18, based on the stories of women imprisoned in the cell 18 at the Akrestsina Detention Centre in Minsk. These stories were presented in various forms, including texts, illustrations, audio and video recordings, and a soundtrack. The Cell #18 project is entirely focused on women and their efforts for a free Belarus.

The original book was authored by Valery Panyushkin, a Russian journalist who had previously worked with Ekho Moskvy and TV Rain. He emigrated from Russia following its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022. The book, originally written in Russian, is also available in English, and a Belarusian translation is currently in progress. In Poland, the book was published by the byProsvet Foundation, which supports the independent Belarusian culture in exile, not only in Poland but also in Lithuania, Georgia and other countries with Belarusian diaspora communities. The foundation also offers support to individuals affected by repressions related to the production and distribution of samizdat.

You can learn more about the project, book and the stories they convey at a panel discussion to be held in Wrocław on October 5th, as part of the XI Festival of Belarusian Culture (Przejście Dialogu, Świdnicka 19, 5PM). The discussion will be conducted in Polish.

The publication is available in English here.

Katarzyna Taczyńska is assistant professor at the Institute of Slavic Studies of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw, and a researcher at University College Dublin in the project When Nationalism Fails. A Comparative Study of Holocaust Museums in ex collaborationist countries. Her research interests include contemporary culture in the context of memory in Eastern and Southern Europe, Holocaust studies, historiography, and literature and art created by Jewish women in the Balkans.

Wojciech Tworek is assistant professor in the Taube Department of Jewish Studies at the University of Wrocław. Currently he is completing a book-length study on the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic community in interwar Poland, and an anthology of Hasidic stories (with Marcin Wodziński). He translates from Hebrew, Yiddish and Russian.

Please support New Eastern Europe's crowdfunding campaign. Donate by clicking on the button below.


, ,


Terms of Use | Cookie policy | Copyryight 2024 Kolegium Europy Wschodniej im. Jana Nowaka-Jeziorańskiego 31-153 Kraków
Agencja digital: hauerpower studio krakow.
We use cookies to personalise content and ads, to provide social media features and to analyse our traffic. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. View more
Cookies settings
Privacy & Cookie policy
Privacy & Cookies policy
Cookie name Active
Poniższa Polityka Prywatności – klauzule informacyjne dotyczące przetwarzania danych osobowych w związku z korzystaniem z serwisu internetowego https://neweasterneurope.eu/ lub usług dostępnych za jego pośrednictwem Polityka Prywatności zawiera informacje wymagane przez przepisy Rozporządzenia Parlamentu Europejskiego i Rady 2016/679 w sprawie ochrony osób fizycznych w związku z przetwarzaniem danych osobowych i w sprawie swobodnego przepływu takich danych oraz uchylenia dyrektywy 95/46/WE (RODO). Całość do przeczytania pod tym linkiem
Save settings
Cookies settings