Blog written for Amnesty International by Belarusian youth activist Tatyana Tishkevich, who was sentenced to two years of 'restricted freedom' on 22 April 2008.
I was in my second year of studying equestrian sports in the University of Sport and I was also working with horses.
I was also taking part in - and organising - various activism work, such as demonstrations, performances, human rights seminars, distributing material, training of activists and collecting signatures.
I was detained many times, although not once was I beaten by the police.
Then, I was expelled from university. It was through the internet I learned that I, along with 13 other young activists, had been accused of committing a criminal offence.
It was for participating in a peaceful entrepreneurs' protest march which went along the road and stopped the traffic. Prime Minister Sidorsky had refused to meet with business representatives to discuss their demands; so people were just waiting outside the parliament building.
I and the 13 others received a summons forbidding us to leave the city. After that, we were all sentenced. The majority, including me, were sentenced to ‘restricted freedom’ for two years. That meant complete control and prohibition of practically everything for me.
At the time, I was working as a secretary at the Belarusian Society for the Preservation of Historical and Cultural Monuments.
I had to constantly register at the police stations. The police could arrive at my home at any time with a search warrant and they placed restrictions on all aspects of my life. I couldn’t carry on with my equestrian training. If I violated any terms of the punishment, I could be put in prison for a few years.
So I left. I went to Poland. I had to leave via Russia and Ukraine so that they wouldn’t detain me at the border.
It was a difficult choice. For a long time I suffered from depression, knowing I wouldn’t be seeing my family and friends anytime soon.
It was very difficult for me. One of the teachers from my academy in Wrocław asked me how things were in Belarus … to which I could say nothing. And I couldn’t hold back my tears.
Here, I really miss my family and friends.
In Belarus, they have brought another criminal case against me for not serving my punishment for exercising freedom of thought and expression.
Now I am studying in the Sports Academy, specialising in sports management. I am still training although not regularly, unfortunately.
Studying in another language takes up a lot of time. Plus, I don’t have the means to maintain a horse. Sometimes, I earn a bit of money as a riding teacher or riding master. Sometimes I go snowboarding.
In principle, life is full of variety. I am keeping myself busy. But somehow, sadly…