After three arrests, 20-year-old Kirylas fled from Belarus to Lithuania: “I knew they would come to me again” | Life

Life in Belarus is likened to North Korea

Kirylas remembers his childhood in two ways – on the one hand, he considered himself a happy child, surrounded by a loving family, but at the same time, the boy did not have many friends and was withdrawn.

“At school I struggled with being overweight. I didn’t have many free time activities, hobbies”, says K. Matusevichius.

Personal album photo/Kirylas Matusevichius

Kirylas, who devotes a lot of time to music today, discovered it relatively late. As he himself says, he was about 15 years old at that time.

“Most people have been singing since childhood, but my situation is different. I started doing sports, I wanted to change because I felt that it would be better for me. While doing this, I started listening to music. I felt that it gave me more motivation and strength. After a while, I began to pay more attention to what is being sung – now words in music are extremely important to me.

Music can be beautiful, but if the words are unconscious, I am no longer interested in it, – says K. Matusevichius. – Later I decided to study it. However, the classes were held in a state institution, so I didn’t see much progress. He explained to me how to breathe correctly, and that was it. And I wanted to learn different singing techniques. Because of this, I quit after a year.

I decided to study on my own. I never took any lessons again, I didn’t deepen my knowledge in music school. I strive for everything on my own.”

As Kirill matured, politics became one of his areas of interest. Although earlier the boy was not particularly interested in this topic, over time, he began to pay more and more attention to what was happening in the country.

“I realized that politics includes everything that surrounds you. I gradually started to read more about it, K. Matusevichius remembers. – When Lukashenka said bad things during the 2020 elections, I couldn’t understand how the president could talk like that. This was the time when I began to pay more attention to politics.

Soon, protests began in our country, and I joined them. I read more and more about what was going on. I participated there not only for myself, but also because I wanted my friends and relatives to live in a better state.”

As the biggest problem in the country, Kirill singles out the fact that people do not have the right to choose. According to the guy, they can’t say what they want, and if you speak badly about the authorities, you can immediately go to prison.

“If you criticize the government, they can support you as a terrorist. For this, you can be imprisoned for a year. This applies not only to speech, but also to clothes, for example: your clothes cannot be red/white, because it will suggest that you are against Lukashenka. If you’re standing on the street and you look suspicious, officers may approach you and start checking your phone.

If they don’t like someone, they will ask you to go with them. Then you can only guess what will happen later – they will release you, arrest you or it will be even worse, – K. Matusevichius does not hide. – Our government is like zombies. It’s like we live in North Korea.”

He was arrested three times

When the protests started, Kiryl bravely joined them, but it did not end well for the boy. The first time he was arrested for three days was for having with him the historical flag of Belarus, which has the colors white, red, white.

“The officials said it was a fascist, terrorist flag. I was detained because you cannot have such a flag. They beat me brutally using sticks and other tools they had at hand,” says K. Matusevichius.

Personal album photo/Kirylas Matusevichius

After the first arrest, Kirylas was not afraid. After being released, the boy continued to participate in protests, where he was detained once again – this time for 15 days.

“I was arrested for the third time about a year later. It was summer, I spent the day meeting friends. There were many people in the city. Two lesbian girls were kissing and several guys started insulting them, acting aggressively just because they were kissing. They even said that they should get out of here because this place is not for them.

I tried to protect the girls. Soon more people joined in, several girls carrying an LGBT+ flag. I joined in holding her. The entire act was filmed by someone and a video of me holding the flag went viral on Instagram. The police started looking for all the people seen there, because it is considered to be propaganda,” says K. Matusevichius.

I was detained because you cannot have such a flag.

Thus, as Kirylas himself claims, he was arrested just because he was holding the LGBT+ flag. After this incident, he spent 30 days in prison.

“They didn’t punish the guys who abused the girls in any way. But I, trying to protect them, was wrong, – K. Matusevichius does not understand. – That month was one big suffering. They did not turn off the lights even at night, making it difficult to sleep. We tried to cover our eyes with clothes so that we could fall asleep.

Also, they woke us up twice a night. The official reason was that the officers needed to check that no one had escaped, but in reality it was another form of torture to prevent sleep. We also had no pillows, blankets – there were just empty beds.

About 20 people were crammed into the small cell, so we didn’t have much room. We were not allowed to have, for example, books, we could not receive parcels from relatives. It killed morale because we had absolutely nothing to do. We just talked to each other every day.”

After three arrests, Kirill felt great fear. He had heard stories of people who had been detained for a month in prison for unknown reasons and had to spend much longer, so the boy was afraid that the same thing might happen to him.

“People had to spend 100 days in prison, half a year – as much as the officials wanted. There was nothing you could do about it. All that was left was to hope that they would let you go,” says K. Matusevichius.

Trying to settle in Lithuania

Shortly after he was released, Kirylas decided that he had done all he could for the country and, feeling threatened for his safety, decided to flee to Lithuania.

“I knew that sooner or later they would come to me again. The other residents surrendered and there were no further protests. What could I do alone? Every year the regime only got stronger, they controlled everything, officers were everywhere. Eventually, they started watching old videos of the protests and looking for the people who participated in them.

I didn’t see any opportunities to make music, find a job, live in my country. That’s why I decided to leave Belarus”, recalls K. Matusevichius.

Personal album photo/Kirylas Matusevichius

Personal album photo/Kirylas Matusevichius

Kirylas left home alone – his family and friends remained in Belarus. However, the boy’s father sometimes worked in Lithuania, so this was one of the reasons why Kirylas chose this country for escape.

“At first, my dad helped me settle in Lithuania, but now I’m trying to live alone. At least I’m free, I don’t feel in danger anymore. I was constantly tense in Belarus. After three arrests, I had nightmares in which I was imprisoned for many years.

I developed almost paranoia, when I was afraid of every police car, every officer I met. It really affected my mental health,” says K. Matusevichius frankly.

I was constantly tense in Belarus.

Kiryl, who came to Lithuania a little more than a year ago, was relieved that he could finally feel safe, but he had to start his life from scratch in a new country, which, according to the guy, was quite difficult.

“I still don’t have many friends here. At first it was easy to find a job, but now I’m having trouble. I try to look for a place where I can work, I participate in interviews, but when it comes to processing documents, everything stops. The employers did not like my humanitarian visa, they wanted a Lithuanian identity card.

Now I already have the necessary documents, but I’m still having trouble finding a job. And I need to live somehow – I have to get money from somewhere”, says K. Matusevichius and adds that, when the weather is good, he earns money by playing on the street.

It is hoped that Belarus will one day become free

Today, Kiryl is happy that he can finally feel safe. However, the boy misses his relatives and friends left in Belarus.

“I don’t regret anything I’ve done. Although when you think about it, it’s sad because we were so close to change… We could have changed everything. I think the European Union could have contributed more by imposing more sanctions, putting pressure on Lukashenka.

We needed the way Russia is treated now. But European politicians were not in the mood to do it. Maybe it’s our own fault – we should have had more patience, not stop protesting,” K. Matusevichius thinks.

Personal album photo/Kirylas Matusevichius

Personal album photo/Kirylas Matusevichius

Kirylas is still in close contact with his family in his hometown and says that his relatives are also planning to move to Lithuania soon.

“I can’t wait for that to happen – that knowledge motivates me to try,” says K. Matusevichius.

When asked about his biggest dream at the moment, Kirylas ponders. The guy admits that he has many wishes, but the main one is for his native Belarus to become a free, democratic country that would be equal to other European Union states.

“I care about all countries – both those where there are conflicts and those where people are experiencing other difficulties. I wish the world didn’t have such disagreements, chaos, wars, hunger and everyone would be happy. I know that it is probably impossible, but if people were united, it would be easier for everyone, says K. Matusevichius. – My biggest dream is to be a performer.

I want people to listen to my music and feel better. It was the same for me – music helped me get out of a depressed mood, get rid of bad thoughts. It makes me happy. Of course, I also want to contribute to making the world a better place.”

Speaking about the future, Kirylas hopes that he will soon be able to return to his native country. As he says, that’s where his heart belongs.

“I can be in different parts of the world, but the most beautiful city for me will always be Minsk, where I grew up.” There I found friends, fell in love for the first time. Even the word “Belarus” means a lot to my heart,” says K. Matusevichius.

The article is in Lithuanian

Tags: arrests #20yearold Kirylas fled Belarus Lithuania knew Life

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