Today the London based Federation of Poles in Great Britain CIO, which is the voice of the organized Polish community in Great Britain since 1947, has written to Mr Dominic Raab, the Foreign Secretary, asking to bring to his attention the plight of Polish community leaders from our sister organization, the Union of Poles in Belarus – (Związek Polaków na Białorusi - ZPB), who have been imprisoned in inhumane conditions in the last two months and charged with inciting national hatred as a result of celebrating Polish culture in that country.
On March 23rd 2021 in response to the organization of a festival commemorating the feast-day of a Polish saint, St. Casimir, ZPB Chairman, Ms Andzelika Borys was arrested and sentenced next day to 15 days’ detention for organizing an illegal gathering.
Despite international protests Ms Borys was not immediately released after her unjustified sentence. Along with 3 other local Polish community leaders, Irena Biernacka, Maria Tiszkowska, and the journalist Andrzej Poczobut, she has been accused under Section 3, article 130, of the Belarusian Criminal Code of “organizing an illegal mass event”, which carries a possible prison sentence of between 5 and 12 years. The prosecutor claimed that they had been inciting nationalist hatred and seeking to “rehabilitate Nazism” on the grounds that they had celebrated wartime patriotic Polish partisans fighting the Nazis on what was then Polish, and is now Belarusian, soil. The application of Article 130 implied that in holding this festival these leaders would be seeking to incite a riot, possibly even leading to the threat of violent deaths. It was reported by Belsat, the Warsaw based Belarusian TV news channel, that Borys and Poczobut had both been given an offer to have the charges dropped, provided they allowed themselves to be deported to Poland, but they refused.
Currently Andzelika Borys is being held in an overcrowded cell with 15 others in Zodzhin Prison and is being deprived of a proper place to sleep. We fear, judging by the current regime’s record after the election protests starting in August last year, that in subsequent police interrogations she and her colleagues could be beaten and tortured. However, she has let it be known that on no account would she admit to being guilty of such absurd charges.
East European commentators see these prisoners as hostages of ex-president Lukaszenka’s ideological conflict with Poland and the West.
Since 2005 the Lukashenka regime, in its aim to curtail the existence of all independent institutions in Belarus, had sought to harass the ZPB, the main Polish cultural organization in Belarus. It arranged to split the organization by creating a puppet ZPB, to whom it transferred the ZPB’s original registration details. Most of the 16 cultural centres that had been flourishing in the previous decade were taken over by the regime and closed.
The currently deregistered ZPB under the active chairmanship of Ms Andzelika Borys is still recognized by many Polish parishes and community organizations in Belarus as being their true representative umbrella organization.
In his letter to Mr Raab, Dr Włodzimierz Mier-Jedrzejowicz, President of the Federation of Poles, thanks him for his current justifiable condemnation of the Belarusian regime, especially following the hijacking of a civilian airliner , and for his call for the immediate release of the kidnapped Roman Protasevich and more than 1000 other current political prisoners held in Belarus, but he also asks Mr Raab not to overlook the plight of the community leaders of the indigenous Polish ethnic minority in Belarus, whose only real crime is their love and promotion of Polish culture. Dr Mier Jedrzejowicz says that the Federation members would be grateful if Mr Raab could also raise their plight during the G7 summit in Cornwall next week.
In thanking Mr Raab and the UK government for their contribution to defending democracy and human rights worldwide, and particularly in Eastern Europe, the Federation looks forward to the eventual release of all prisoners and full recognition of the rights of ethnic minorities in Belarus.
For further details please contact Federation of Poles in GB spokesman on 07786471833 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Address: 240 King Street, London W6 0RF