1 February, at 08.30 a.m. - the gate house of the penal facility ЕС 164/3. Inmates' relatives who came for an extended visit, are standing in front of the gate house. They have written an appropriate statement, have submitted it and now we all are waiting.
The controllers are informing the visitors that they have to wait outside until 11.00 a.m. I am cold but the locals are cheerfully chatting on the street, saying that it is warm today (-15 degrees). In the penal colony mainly local people are incarcerated, and so their relatives are 'freeze-proof'.
After 11.00 a.m, when we all are already freezing, they gather us in front of the next gate house, already on the territory of the penal facility. Out of 16 relatives, brothers numbered only two inmates, all the others are mothers, wives, sisters. I was the only one who had come for a first visit.
It was hard to carry the bags, we were trying to help one another, only three persons could enter at one time. One of "our" men, who came to visit, was not allowed to enter because he smelled of alcohol. No amount of persuasion, threats and bribery could change their decision in his favour. It was over. He was denied the visit. He was led out.
At the gate house we were given passes, our cell phones were taken away, and we moved on. Everywhere around us there is a 5-metre high fence, barbed wire, barking dogs. After an approximately 100 metre long walk, we were are again in front of the fence, we opened the gate, in some kind of a waiting room we signed a statement that we would bear liability for bringing in prohibited items.
We moved on. A barred gate and a fence. They are opening. We are moving forward. We walk approximately 50 metres, and then we find ourselves in a one-story building, where rooms, designed for long visits, are located. The controllers, to whom we leave our money, jewellery (if any), notebooks and other items, are from the internal forces. Then conveyor belt.
We are going forward - and there is a room for the inspection of food and personal inspection. There is a queue. People come in one by one. We put the all food products on the table, and they are thoroughly examined. After checking the food, there is a personal search.
It has to be noted that no one in the colony demanded that we strip naked, as it was in the detention facility in Aktau. And in the detention facility in Aktau, they did it with passion, extremely thoroughly, while the visit itself lasted 10-15 minutes and was held via a glass partition. We had to undress BEFORE and AFTER the visit. It seems to me that this was a special command made by the NSC, since the detention facility in Aktau (the police detention centre) was completely under the NSC's control.
They explained to us that if there are sufficient grounds to believe that the person present at the visit intends to transfer to a convict items, articles and substances, possession of which is not permitted in the penal colony, the worker of the prison informs this person that a visit would be allowed only if this person gives his/her consent of the full inspection of personal belongings and clothing. Should such prohibited items, products or substances be found concealed on theperson during the inspection, the person is then not allowed to visit an inmate.
After the check, we are announced the room numbers, and we finally pass into the next room, from which everyone is directed to the appropriate room. All the women gathered in the communal kitchen - a large room with 4 electric stoves, air extraction, tables and sinks. What immediately caught my eye were knives tied with a wire and attached to the walls. A bustle begins - we hastily warm up food.
In approximately 15 minutes, convicts come in... It's a rather strange feeling when you see 16 people in the same overalls, with bald heads, walking along with supervisors. The first impression was mixed- I wasn't sure if I should cry, or laugh with joy. This was the first visit of the whole year.
I can see a bald round head, ears a little protruding... It's strange, he has never had protruding ears. As Volodya immediately joked, "Just because of the round cheeks you couldn't see my ears before..." He's lost a lot of weight, some 10-15 kg. We were given 3 days that passed by like a flash. So much has happened both in his and my life - we were talking for hours, sometimes even forgetting to eat.
Some part of the way, Volodya was transported in a Stolypin car along with Sarbopeyev. They had long conversations about various topics, they also discussed what has actually happened in Zhanaozen. Sarbopeyev, by the way, told Volodya that he has never been A. Amirova's classmate; they attended different schools, and he was surprised to hear during the investigation and in court, that she was his classmate.
Volodya says, "We went from Taraz in an ice-cold Stolypin car, with no heating, no hot water, the toilet didn't work, the guards, although they were not wanton, they were also not favourably disposed towards the convicts. I put on all my clothes, my jacket, wrapped myself in a blanket, but it did not help with the cold. They wouldn't give us food, or boiling water. It was hard to bear. Two days later, closer to the night - we arrived. The convoy announced - Peter! In my mind I understood that I couldn't have arrived in Russia, in St. Petersburg... but, what is Peter!? Only later I learned that many call Petropavlovsk 'Peter'. I have previously visited the North Kazakhstan Province a few times and I have never heard this city being referred to in this way. Accompanied by an incessant barking of dogs, we were literally crammed into a cold prison truck, and we were moved.
One hour later, we arrived at our destination. There we were also met with barking dogs'. With our hands secured behind our back in handcuffs, in a bending position, our heads we could not raise. We were carrying our bags and packs in all possible ways - hanging on the neck, in our hands. We heard yelling: faster, faster! We were dragged on the pavement by two huge riot policeman; they tore off all our clothes and shoes. We were admitted... I was angry with this attitude. A little later, I saw two men who introduced themselves as the head of the institution and the deputy manager for prison regulations issues and I expressed to them my outrage over this dragging across the pavement."
They informed him of his rights and obligations. Volodya, being a law-abiding person, and knowing that he wasn't convicted in accordance with the law, but being already in prison, faced the choice: either to follow the path of complete denial, when the convicted person doesn't abide by any legal requirements of the administration, or to take the way of observing the prison regulations and the law. Since he is neither a thief, nor a gangster, or a thug, and keeping in mind that he was incarcerated on political grounds, and that even at liberty he has never broken the law, he made a decision for himself: I will comply with the Penal Code regulations.
He immediately reported that he still had nine days of unserved punishment of solitary confinement, and so he was immediately placed in solitary confinement. After the lock-up, he spent another 15 days in quarantine. Only after this, on 10 January, 2013 was he assigned to his unit by the commission. He is in the second unit with 46 convicts. Out of the entire unit, only 10 convicts are visited by relatives and receive mailed parcels and packages.
I tried to remember his smell. When he was still at liberty, when I was buying him aftershave, I reveled in the smell. But there, behind the fence, everything is different. No smell at all. Prisoners are not allowed to use products containing alcohol.
He said that life in the colony resembles life in the army. There are orderlies, they have nightstands, they have duties, they march on the square. There is a collegiate responsibility: one for all and all for one. They wake up at 6 a.m., they do exercises, then have breakfast, then carry out duties. And the whole day passes like that.
They have 2 hours of personal time; in his free time he goes through his letters that he has received and writes responses. By the way, Volodya asked me to thank everyone who wrote to him, and if the sender has left the return address, he will always send a response. As the saying goes, a friend in need is a friend indeed. Volodya says that some people have shown their true colors. Some, although so fascinated by the epistolary genre, and often publishing their own works, unfortunately, have not found a free moment to send a letter or even a telegram. Everything demonstrates a person's attitude. He doesn't condemn anyone... And those people who he doesn't know, but receives letters from - thank you so much. Rakhmet. There, behind the barbed fence, it is very much appreciated.
Volodya is the only one who receives such a large number of letters and telegrams. All letters and telegrams were being censored. On the second day of my stay there, prison workers came to us and asked Volodya to "name" all those who wrote to him - in front of each name of the sender he was supposed to specify the sender's status: sister, brother, wife etc. The prison workers were genuinely surprised when he said that these are his associates and colleagues. They answered: "We don't write like that. We write: a friend or an acquaintance. And they were asking about different persons: Tulemisova, Kakimova. Volodya answered that these are his colleagues and associates. Finally, they agreed that, if a person is not a relative, he should write: a friend. Now, Volodya has dozens of friends :))))
The controllers came 4 times a day to the room for visits, to check on all the convicts. We heard outside the door: "Gentlemen convicts, check time!" One and the same expression.
Vladimir says: "Convict Vladimir Kozlov, Article 170, section 2,
Article 164, section 2, Article 235, section 1, sentenced to 7.5
Controller: "Who came for a visit?'
Controller: "Are there any complaints, petitions?".
In the evening knives were unhooked and taken away, in the morning they were brought again. Behind the barred windows there is the same landscape: two rows of barbed wire, between which there is a one metre long corridor, then a 5-metre high fence, over the fence there is another fence, watch towers with submachine gunners... It is snowing. We can hear that someone is shovelling snow... The head of prison regulations issues asked me if I have any complaints, questions.
The building for visits consists of 16 rooms, a shared kitchen, toilets and a lounge room, which has a TV. We did not go into this room, as there was little time... There are cameras everywhere (except for the rooms for visits, I hope). It's clean everywhere, any everyone cleans and washes after themselves.
As I mentioned before, three days passed by like a flash. Monday morning, it's hard to say goodbye. It is unfair that innocent people have to serve sentences... I understand the logic of the authorities - a war is a war, all means are acceptable. But, it is the state that has declared war on its citizens. How can it be? How? Instead of law there are orders, personal revenge, contrived provocations, court sentences ... I really wanted it to be a bad dream ... I wished I could open my eyes - and for this nightmare to be over... But no, this is really happening, this is reality.
On 4 February, a great nervousness is in the air, everyone is aware that soon the clock will strike 10:00 a.m., and our loved ones will be led away... We are looking at the clock all the time, filling every second with conversation... We have lost our appetite, we don't feel thirsty or hungry... We talk, converse, and just sit close to each other... It's so hard... We can hear the noise outside the door, strays of the portable transmitter - they've come.... The convicts gathered and went into the corridor. They are being led away... All the relatives cry, quietly, almost without sound... Every cell of the body feels pain and despair... We can't help them... They're gone, and we stay... 30 minutes later they are leading us out - the same procedure as at the entrance, but in the opposite sequence: the examination, obtaining valuable things, the gate house etc. We went out, we're free. Everyone is silent... we have to get over the shock. During these three days you forget that they are convicts - we were next to each other as we used to be... a long time ago... and now they stay there, and we left. They stay behind those fences with their thoughts, concerns, prison regulations... for many years. Outside, the sun is shining - "frost and sun, a wonderful day...", but we don't enjoy it... At 12.00 p.m., we are already outside the penal colony... It's over. The next visit is scheduled in 3 months. It's a long time... I switch on my phone, and get messages from the lawyer that the bailiffs are going to confiscate our only housing... So, we are coming back to reality.