Жыве Беларусь!

The Divine Retribution

Summer 2013. It’s hot. Gypsy and I decided to go for an everyday walk, to change the green concrete of the cell walls for the gray concrete of the exercise yard for a while. Our cellmate K stays in the house.

It’s an everyday, painfully familiar route. The door swings open — we go right. Down the stairs. A tired shepherd-dog, three screws. One staircase, another one, and we find ourselves in the yards. Seven exercise yards of Mogilev prison. The same cells, but no furniture and ceiling. Instead of the ceiling there are two layers of wire mesh. A cop named Yura brings us to the seventh and locks the door. Our authorised hour starts.

As usual, we are happy to see the sun. In an hour of our walk it will manage to go a whole metre down the wall. We speak about trifles, Gypsy tells his rural drug dealer’s stories. Suddenly from the next yard we hear a loud rolling and genuine laughter:

‘Buahaha! Ahahaha!’

And again.

Out first thought is that they brought for a walk some large cell and cellies are having fun there. But we listen in and understand that the man is alone. Alone? Why would he laugh so loudly and naturally being by himself? Now we remember: they often bring for a walk Lyosha Guz at the same time as us.

Alexei Guz is a certain legend of Mogilev gaol. A former cadet of the Academy of Ministry of Interior, a professional sportsman. By hearsay, when he was transferred to the prison for the first time, he beat up the whole relief of local screws while being put in the cell. They never forgave him and abused him for a long time…

He got 25 years for kidnapping Zavadsky', complacency in the murder of an Azerbaijanian family of five people and many other things… He spent almost eleven years in solitary.

Is he really alone there in the yard? What is the reason of his rolling laughter? We continued listening in. Soon the laughter changed with singing:

Mist covers a sleeping city
Winds go through gateways and yards
But it’s not our first time, it’s our fate
To keep peace on these streets!

Yeah! Wish them good luck.
Yeah! It doesn’t matter that it’s a dirty pool.
Yeah! If tomorrow is better than yesterday,
‘We’ll make it’, policemen will answer…\

No, it didn’t feel like when school kids sing at music classes who just want to shout out the lyrics. The voice was hard, confident, the verses were sang expressively, with feeling, with some pathetic burst.

Gypsy and I exchanged glances and smiles. It was self-explanatory. In a few minutes, when ‘We’ll make it’ was over, we heard:

A smile will make a dull day brighter,
A smile will make a rainbow appear in the sky…
Communicate your smile,
And it will come back to you more than once!

He sang the whole thing. From the first to the last line. However many verses there were, it looked like he sang them all. Apparently, he had memorised it.

The sun went down the concrete texture by its regular metre. The time of the walk was over. The doors started clinging, Yura began to bring back home people from the first yards… Clapping of the doors, scuffle of feet. All possible sounds are explored long ago — soon it’s going to be our turn, the doors are clapping closer and closer. We go out. Only one screw is bringing us back. That’s good. I want to be certain that it was really Lyosha Guz in the next yard.

Walking along the door I open the peephole for a few seconds and see: right in the middle of the concrete ‘walking room’ stands a sturdy and tall bearded man throwing back his head and looking through the wire mesh at the sun. It’s surprising, it’s strictly prohibited to have a beard in prison.

I closed my eyes and thought: five people, twenty five year stretch, eleven years in solitary. There are no accidents, especially when it’s about human life.

Now I see what it looks like — the Divine Retribution.

March 2016

A Riot in the Prison Quarantine