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Protest poems

On October 21, one of Belarus' foremost poets, Dmitry Strotsev (b. 1963) disappeared without a trace. The day after, his name appeared on a list of interns at the infamous Akrestsina Detention Centre in Minsk, a place that at times has functioned as a torture centre during these last months of protest. On that same day Strotsev was sentenced to seventeen days imprisonment, of which he spent thirteen at the Zhodzina Prison outside of Minsk before he was released a few days before his stipulated time. On his release it was revealed that at his arrest he had been abducted by unknown persons who had put a sack over his head and thrown him into a minibus and driven him to the KGB headquarters.

Approximately 30 000 arrests have been made since the protests began. Journalists and domestic and international organisations describe a situation where the state again and again is guilty of excesses and the torture of civilians.

Strotsev was sentenced—via Skype!—for participating in an illegal demonstration. This might be the reason for his arrest. Or perhaps he was detained at random—such things happen continuously. When he asked a representative of the judicial system, this person is said to have shrugged his shoulders despondently: “Don’t look for logic where there is none.” Strotsev’s own attitude to his arrest can perhaps be summed up in the following comment: “Who is Strotsev? Well, one of the 17 000 detainees.”

Despite the arbitrariness that characterises a large part of the Belarusian state’s use of violence it is hard not to suspect that there was another reason behind the imprisonment of Dmitry Strotsev. Since last summer he has depicted the protest in a series of “protest poems” known under the name of The Fallen Belarus, a poetic chronicle, still unfinished, that is comprised of a string of condensed illustrations of the simultaneously painful yet hopeful developments in the country.

A few of Strotsev’s poems are presented below, among which the latest have been created during or after his internment. The poem “Bread” is dedicated to Sergey Maslovsky, former chief of police who has taken a stand for the protest movement and who shared a prison cell with Strotsev. From Akrestsina Centre Malovsky was transported straight to hospital.

Credits Poems: Dmitry Strotsev Translation: Valzhyna Mort Introduction: Nils Håkansson Translation of introduction: Christina Cullhed November 29 2020

Belarusian Meditation


time works for us

country’s common rhythm

breathe in
breathe out

breathe in breathe out

do not speak to the dragon
in the language of violence

in his language

only a psychiatrist

not to kill

only long life

on the farm
on a pig farm

where the dragon feels
at home

to speak to people
to officials
to military
to doctors

to people

to speak to each other
to search for a common language

a new language

with trust and hope
with love

to breathe full chest
one chest

whole country

breathe in breathe out

breathe in
breathe out

time works for us



In memory of Alexandr Tarajkovsky*

not Maidan
without shields or helmets

without fear

live targets
in the shooting range
of A.L.


*a man shot dead in one of the first nights of the protest

not revolutionaries
my wife and I
are nonpartisan and unarmed

a dragon made his home inside our home
armor-clad and flesh-eating

he prefers our children
already slaughtered
and skinned like
dogs for dinner.

we are sick and tired of hiding our children
we’ve used up all our secret corners

tell us what to do
you, peacelovers
you, dragonophiles


it is quite amazing
to bring a friend to the square

in the morning the boss wardog cries

let there be a genocide of my people
first the soldiers would shoot into the sky
then they would shoot to kill

amazing to walk hand in hand through the avenue
as for the last time
then in the square suddenly to start breathing

our neighbors have the keys
the dog has water and biscuits for 24 hours

to walk through a yard
where light-heatedly the shadow falls

to walk out into the street
where holy dailyness wanders

maybe these two out of everybody
move into our madness
for an execution

to escape
nothing is too late yet
nausea panic attack
of course you can always turn

eyes and eyes and eyes
boss, all is lost we will win
boss, all is lost we will win

who and when turns
primal animal fear
into freedom and happiness

who are these “twenty people”
that irritate the dictator
why do they overwhelm his vision

evacuation of lukashenko from the palace
has begun as we speak

lukashenko is leaving his palace
as we speak

no, the dragon returns
with a machine-gun in his claw

boss, all is lost we will win

we are sick and tired
we will win


how we
we are holding on

in the country of dual power

when three hundred thousand Belarusians
it’s the power of the people

we disperse
to go home

it’s the power
of the president of OMON


Cry Heart Cry

by the university
without license plates

out of the buses
hoodlums spilled
without faces

listen now
we won’t
take off the masks
won’t explain ourselves

we won’t dick around with you
professors of sour cabbage soup

we came here for the children

we will detain and break students
in university lecture halls
and in the hallways

this is our chance
to touch
with our flesh sweat blood
your higher education

cry heart cry


This is How We Win

is comprised
of barely distinguishable
homeopathic gestures

this is how a hundred thousand
gather on marches in minsk

droplets of yards
streams of streets

into a human ocean


Poems in the “Glass”*

on the walls
of a police van

with fingers


the nail-scratched

on the walls
of gas cameras
in Auschwitz

*A glass is a slang word for a detention room, one meter by one meter in size, without a possiblity to seat. It’s like being held inside a drinking glass.



To Sergej Maslovsky

I saw
a pillow made out of bread

in the torture room
in Okrestina

what else to say
about monsters
who kill flesh


come to the tortured

on the concrete bed

with their heads lying
on the bread of communion


bees think
Tolstoy says
that all they do is gather honey

in practice
they are pollinating a garden

Belarusians think
Christ says
that all they do is gather a country

in practice
they are healing the world


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