Financial assistance to the Ovchinnikov family who left because of political persecution to settle in a new place

  • Story

Hello, dear friends, my name is Anna.
I started helping political prisoners back in 2020. I am a volunteer by nature — even before I had a child, I picked up stray cats, cleaned them up and found them new families. I strongly feel other people's pain, physical and moral, I feel sorry for those who suffer. Translations, parcels, telegrams and letters were the main things I did.

By 2024, my husband and I knew the rules of transfers to various pre-trial detention centers and colonies almost by heart. Those who were released told us about the great importance of even symbolic parcels and letters. An article about my correspondence with political prisoners was once published on Belsat (I appeared there under the name Maria). I sent a lot of letters — I have about a thousand replies from political prisoners. We are still friends with some former political prisoners.

On January 23, 2024, I was raided by law enforcers together with other volunteers who supported political prisoners across the country. A criminal case was opened against me under Article 361-4 (Article 361-4 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus — promotion of extremist activity), because the case involved sending parcels to people who were included in the list of “extremists”. The law did not prohibit sending packages and writing letters to prisons, so I did it in my own name and did not expect to be detained for that reason. But I was accused of helping “enemies of the state”.

They arrested our refrigerator, TV, took our bank cards and blocked our accounts, confiscated my laptop and phone, took my passport and did not return it. On the day I was detained, the apartment was searched, one of the police officers came to my husband late at night to talk to him as he was putting my son to bed, and the next day there was a second search.

I spent three days in Okrestina, where unbearable conditions were created: we were kept without shoes, without outer clothing, while it was very cold in the cell. We warmed ourselves with a bottle of warm water and hugs. There in the cell I met Olga Tokarchuk's mother, and she gave me her socks. She said that it was a gift from Olga (I had once sent Olga a parcel). At that time these socks were a salvation for me. We were led through the corridors without shoes. There were from 9 to 11 people in a five-bed cell; we were given a meter of toilet paper per day, and we shared it as best we could. We hid bread in secluded corners for those who were brought in late. After trips to the police station, we were kept in “glasses” of 4 people, almost a whole night without shoes. On such days we did not have lunch or dinner because we were brought in late.
The lawyers refused to defend me, motivating their refusal by a heavy article. I was released on my own recognizance, the criminal case was not closed, and they noted that my passport would be returned when the central office of the Investigative Committee made a decision regarding me.

Before my detention, we had no intention of leaving the country. In November 2023, the whole family moved to a new apartment and did not even have time to settle in. But after I got out of prison, I looked at my son and realized that I would only be able to see him in 7 years if I was arrested again. It was unbearable!

We started preparing for the move a week after I got back. Morally, the move was very hard for us: we lost everything we had. Because my passport is still with the Investigative Committee, I had to cross the border illegally and apply for international protection right at the border. For now, we have been temporarily hosted by our friends.

However, we have no financial cushion, no job, no permanent rent, nothing. We are in great confusion and we are very much hoping for your support, dear Belarusians! We know that many of you have traveled such a path to freedom and you will be sympathetic to our request!

How much is needed?


We need financial help for basic things for the period until my husband can get a job. We have a very rough idea of local living expenses to calculate the amount of the collection. But we would be grateful for every euro!
 — rent for three months (about €600 per month = €1800)
 — communication, utilities, internet (€500)
 — children's shoes and clothes, putting our son in kindergarten and his places to study at home (€500)
 — food, various household and household items (€800)

The collection is over. Сollected:
€ 3 646
The collection is over. Сollected: € 3 646