Finally I got to Almaty. It was a long journey home - a train
from Petropavlovsk to Astana, then a plane from Astana to Almaty. I
want to tell you my impressions gained from my meeting with
The morning of the 8th of August... I fly over to Kokshetau.
From Kokshetau it takes me over 4 hours to get to Petropavlovsk.
Road works in progress, plenty of intersections, at times, our
speed is no more than 20 kilometres per hour. Finally, after over
four hours we get to Petropavlovsk. I run to the market right away
to buy some groceries. Knowing I would have little time while in
Petropavlovsk, I brought most of the supplies with me from Almaty.
The whole evening and half of the night was spent preparing -
marinating chicken, cooking aubergine caviar, slicing vegetables,
and so on. The common kitchen in the long-visit facilities may be
big but not big enough for 18 women at a time; there are queues for
the stove and to wash the dishes. So I decided to
prepare as much as possible before the visit. On the
9th, in the morning, I had finished preparing, I kneaded
the yeast dough and at 8 in the morning I started on my way to the
colony to register my visitor application.
Four hours pass from the moment I present the documents to the
moment when finally we, the relatives, are taken to the colony.
Four hours of waiting... About midday they started leading us in
threes through the passage. And again, one metal door after
another. After 40 minutes we find ourselves inside the colony,
surrounded by high fences, coils of barbed wire, dogs and soldiers
of their internal army.
One more hour passes whilst body search of all the relatives are
carried out as well as inspections of the groceries they have
brought. Finally, we are given room numbers. I expected to hear -
Kozlov, room number 2... But no... They say room 8. Room number 8
turned out to be big enough, about twice as big as room 2. We all -
wives, mothers, sisters - ran to the kitchen to quickly warm some
food, put the kettle on for tea... We waited for our loved ones.
The waiting was the most frustrating thing ... I had prepared
everything and still Volodya and the others hadn't arrived. So
after 2-3 trips to the corridor I went into the room. And - like a
traitor - my back started aching, I felt tugging in my stomach. I
thought of lying down for five minutes and then going once again to
see, finally see Volodya... But that's not what happened... I wake
up and there he is…standing in front of me, smiling. It turned out
I fell asleep!!! I was a little embarrassed. Volodya laughed a bit
about it, joked about the state of me, like before, when we were
free...; he called me potbelly. Actually throughout the entire
three days all he called me was potbelly.
My back hurt from time to time and because Volodya's back is
also giving him pain, we took turns to massage one another. How
little one needs to feel happy!!!
This time I decided I would feed and water Volodya almost 24
hours a day as I don't like his emaciated figure one bit. I
immediately informed him that we would be cooking together - roast
chicken, roast piroshki and belyashi, fry chops accompanied by
julienne and Bolognese and so on.
Volodya was the only man to help out in the kitchen. Other
women's loved ones spent all three days in the common room with the
TV on, while they were almost permanently stuck in the kitchen. He
made sure the chops were not burnt; he washed the dishes, while I
ran to the window to breathe some fresh air. The kitchen was hot
and stuffy and I often found myself needing some air. Many of the
women looked on with unadulterated envy. I tried to steer Volodya
towards the common room but he was unrelenting - "I came here to
spend this time, every minute of it, with my wife, to help her, not
to watch TV.".
Time is the most dreadful "enemy" during these visits. It flies
by and makes you feel that very soon they will be led away again...
Time acts in cruel ways. Like Volodya said - your sentence is
announced in years but you serve it in seconds; time stands still
for you, stopped dead…
Having prepared the food we ran to the room again to talk and
just sit together, embracing, thinking. I understood that we both
try to conceal the dread and the suffering from each other.
Two or three times I turned away for just a minute and quietly,
soundlessly cried to myself... Unfortunately, I didn't always
manage to hold back my tears.
We started talking about Volodya's remaining time in the colony.
The Ministry of the Interior broke the law, sending him into the
North Caucasus ( СКО
?). Now, given my circumstances and the fact that in the
Republic of Kazakhstan (PK?) there are no more
relatives who could visit Volodya, the picture looked really bleak.
It could be my last encounter with him. Volodya decided that he
would use any means possible in order to get a transfer to a colony
in the Almaty district. I tried to reassure him, saying I would
come visit him again, no matter what. A difficult conversation
Volodya: "I can't let you gamble - not with the child, not with
your own health".
I: "No, I am coming anyway. I will leave a week sooner, I
will get here slowly but surely."
Volodya: "It's dangerous in your condition, and will be even
more so three months from now."
I: "I will try to come anyway. Please do not go for
extreme protests or anything like that."
Volodya: "Can you imagine how I would feel, God forbid,
something happened to you both!? I won't be able to go on, knowing
that something happened because of me, that you were coming to see
me. I couldn't continue to exist if this happened... No..."
I - ….. (feeling I am about to start crying)
I decided to write to the Ministry too, applying for his
transfer to a colony in the Almaty district. Anyway,
representatives of the diplomatic corps and a member of the
European Parliament in the Republic of Kazakhstan, Aurelia Bush,
are convinced that the transfer is necessary "for humane reasons"
as they call it and they are sure that the state cannot deny such a
request. In their countries their authorities are understanding
about such things. They care about women and children.
On the 10th of August I heard screaming in my sleep. It felt
like many people were screaming - rah-rah-rah. I woke up
immediately, Volodya was already up as he's used to waking early. I
asked what it was. I could clearly hear it as our windows gave onto
the square and the tiny vent window was open. Volodya said it was
their parade!!! And they parade like that five times a day. They
have to march to the beat, Red Square style, right in front of the
administration building. Each of the 8 units circle in a 'lap of
honour'. And if the management doesn't like something, the unit
repeats their march dozens of times and whenever they reach the
place where management stands they must chant "Sa-la-mat-syzba!!!"
I am taken aback. And this parade takes place five times a day! I
have read the Penal Enforcement Code of Kazakhstan and it says
nothing about parades or marches. They are not soldiers!!! On top
of that, if someone from the management doesn't like something
during the parade or one of the detainees has done one little
thing wrong, they punish the whole unit. They make them stand in
small cages for hours or come up with other types of
punishment. The notion of collective accountability in an
environment where each man fends for himself is completely
Volodya told me that they had so called 'Olympics' organised not
long ago. Volodya: "Like some kind of celebrations. We erected
decorations on the drill square, raised the flag, sung the national
anthem. People from outside came to see us - from the Sports
Department, from Penal Enforcement, karate kids, football
kids (!!!), local TV
(TB?). All the speakers sang praises to the President for
his commitment to developing sports culture; they all pointed
out it was his personal achievement, and that resulting from his
personal involvement, sport is developing in the country. And I was
thinking to myself, stuck here - what the hell are all you people
employed in that capacity doing if everything needs personal
involvement of the President? We stood there for one and a half
hours and went back to our units. But now I know exactly how
monkeys feel in the zoo when they are eyeballed from this side and
that. And I can guess what they must be thinking,
We spent the 10th of August sitting at a small table and making
chebureki, meat pastry ))) Volodya talked all the time - he ate
like at he used to at home, all felt like home, all reminded him of
home. Home was where you felt good. It was nice and sad at the same
time. I passed him all the photos and greetings that people sent me
from all over Kazakhstan, Dagestan, Poland, Russia and the USA. He
also read greetings from Freedom House.
I told Volodya that many people are not receiving replies from
him. He was surprised and saddened by this news and said that it
was his principle to reply immediately to everyone who wrote to
him. This it was possible to conclude that someone is deliberately
interfering with this process. Maybe this 'someone' wants people to
think he is not replying so that they cease to write him. In the
colony they know that people's support is very important and I
suppose someone has decided to regulate this process. Volodya asked
me to pass on his thanks to everyone who writes to him. He is
prepared to pass his letters to everyone who writes him through me
or through any city's (any sender's) post office.
It was strange that they checked on us on an almost hourly
basis. I remember that the last time there were fewer
We had a "'symptomatic scene' playing out outside our window.
The inmates were carrying out some repairs, they were welding
something to an iron gate. They welded on and on, it took them
forever... But an officer came who saw that they had done
this all wrong. In his speech he (the officer) formed phrases with
normal words and often added obscenities. I learnt many new words.
In the end, the inmates started to detach the element they had
spent half the day welding on... They had no gloves and no masks,
no tools - it was 'do it yourself with whatever you can get'. Again
from the Penal Code - employees and detainees should not use
abusive language... Why do we enact laws if the police, prosecutors
and judges are above the law?! Who do we do this for?
Our baby decided to cheer us up and gave Volodya so much joy -
he started acting boisterously, his movements really palpable. It
was curious, he moved beneath my hands but when Volodya pressed his
hand to my tummy, he froze immediately. He literally felt a
presence unknown to him... This was during the day; towards the
evening the baby got used to Volodya, kicking away happily under
Time went by imperceptibly. Morning of the 12th of August. High
spirits gone, you tense every minute, waiting for them to come and
take him away. Sadness overcomes us. The air is charged with
nervousness. Everyone was looking at their loved ones like it was
the last meeting. Some will have another visit, others will wait
for years and others will receive no further visitors. We sat
together, embracing in silence for a long time. We didn't even hear
when the words came: "Inmates, prepare to leave". And only when
among the silence of the corridor we heard "Kozlov Vladimir
Ivanovitch - leave!!!" we ran out in to the corridor. All the
inmates were gathered there already, waiting just for Volodya. And
he went... He went and waved for a long while. At times like this
you get to realise that it is not the physical pain that is the
worst, it is the pain in your heart. Moral suffering is a hundred
times more acute than physical torment. And someone there at the
top, on someone's whim is inflicting this pain... every minute of
it. I get to realise that my suffering, some of my inconvenience
out there in the free world is nothing compared to what Volodya is
feeling in there; what he is going through. A feeling of dread and
loneliness came over me. It became clear to me how much I had
missed him, our time together, how acutely I missed all this.
We, women, have it easier - we cry a little, we calm down. But I
saw the eyes of those who stayed behind in the colony... If only
men could cry..."