Evgeniya Chirikova on prisoner of conscience Evgeny Vitishko

posted 14 Sept 2014, 08:36 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 14 Sept 2014, 08:39 ]
11 September 2014

Source: HRO.org (info)
Eveniya Chirikova, environmentalist and civil society activist: “My visit to Zhenya Vitishko in the penal colony settlement No 2 of Tambov Oblast was very uplifting. Most likely because it is a very worthwhile thing- to visit a friend in a penal colony…”

Everyone gave me something to take to Zhenya. Almost everybody, once they found out I was visiting him, wanted me to pass him on something. This left me weighed down with a huge heavy bag and rucksack full of food, clothes and books.

In total, 23 people gave me things for Zhenya!

I want to take this opportunity to give a huge THANK YOU to all of these people! It is thanks to you that the gloomy task of collecting contributions to take to the camp was transformed into an uplifting act of solidarity.

This time I was travelling to Tambov alone. The trip on the train was a real experience. Surprising as it may be, travelling third class on the Almaty train with its three-minute stop at Tambov gave me the most wonderful memories. As usual, I and my fellow travellers got to sharing who was going where, and I told them that I was going to visit my comrade Zhenya Vitishko, who has been sentenced to three years imprisonment for allegedly writing the words “Sanya is a thief” on Governor Tkachev's fence; a fence illegally placed in a conservation area, and words that Zhenya did not even write.

My neighbours' were shocked at this: “Well, so this is what merits a prison sentence?!” “So Putin is putting us all in prison, like Stalin?!” “Once I get to Samara, I will tell all my friends about what can land you in prison, they won't believe it!” “I feel sorry for you young people, we old people have at least lived our lives, but what awaits you?”

Such heartfelt responses somehow reconciled me to this life in my home country, where devil knows what is happening…

In Tambov I met with the Zhenya's local lawyer Valentina Shaisipova. It should be said, that Zhenya has been amazingly lucky in the good people involved in his case.

It is rare that you have the good fortune to be helped by two super guardian angels. Valentina Shaisipova is a great, professional lawyer who at the same time is the most humane person. And then there is Andrei Kolmakov, the incredibly kind-hearted human rights defender from Tambov's Public Monitoring Committee.

Once inside the colony, it feels like time moves differently, at a much slower pace. I waited to meet Zhenya from 10am to 5pm, but it seemed more like a week.

Zhenya was his usual self, full of energy and optimism. He looked well: he was tanned, in great physical condition and was wearing clean and ironed clothes.

His mind was solely on protecting the environment. Zhenya told me about Rosneft’s plans to start drilling for oil in the Black Sea and we talked about ways to stop this madness.

Zhenya has a marvellous strength of spirit, it is impossible to pity him, because he is not self-pitying, nor beaten down. He is full of plans, ready to carry on protecting the environment. Prison has not broken him.

Tambov activists take the two-hour journey to Zhenya to ask his advice on how to protect their green spaces.

It is a huge pleasure to talk with Zhenya Vitishko. He is an amazing man.

You can still sign the petition for the release of Zhenya Vitishko: http://activatica.org/blogs/view/id/317/title/sbor-podpisey-za-osvobozhdenie-jekouznika-jekologa-evgeniya-vitishko

Free Zhenya Vitishko!"

Amnesty International considers Evgeny Vitishko a prisoner of conscience who has been imprisoned for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression. He should be immediately and unconditionally released. 

Translated by Holly Jones