Star basketball player Elena Levchenko, who had served a 15-day term of arrest in a detention center on Okrestin Street for participating in an unauthorised event, talked to the Free Association of Athletes live. Levchenko shared how she had coped with the detention and what she thinks about her colleagues who keep silent on the situation in the country.
The basketball player thanked the Belarusians for their support and admitted that she did not expect to see so many messages after her release.
“I think I have thousands of new messages with words of support. People offer different things: come for a free manicure-pedicure, bring your mother, come to our estate, feel free to ask for any help. I am happy to know that there are people like this. And I want them to know: I will read every message and every comment and, if possible, will try to respond to everyone.
When I go to the city now, I feel support everywhere. People are looking at me in a bank, from nearby cars, in a pharmacy. With some of them we have a very nice conversation. This gives me confidence that I am not alone, I am supported by a huge number of people, and gives me the awareness: we are moving in a right direction.”
Elena Levchenko noted that now she feels fine.
“My friends and relatives are around me. Wherever I go, people support me. But I do not exclude the possibility that I may need the help of psychologists. I’m not ashamed of it. The hardest thing is to understand that there, in a cell, there are people with whom we spent time together. I am very worried about this. In a very short time, we became close with the girls we shared a cell together, our views united us very much.”
On detention conditions
Earlier, during a court hearing, Levchenko talked about the conditions of detention on Okrestin Street. During the live broadcast, she remembered a few more details.
“For thirteen days we slept without mattresses and bed linen, which were taken from us. Then, on 2 October, hot water disappeared in the cell and a toilet stopped flushing. Of course, I still do not understand why one needs to do this. Although many may object: how can you not understand?
Of course, I am an adequate person and I understand what is happening in the country. But all the same, the first reaction was – maybe we don’t know something, maybe something happened or we did something wrong? Then we understood that hot water didn’t dissappear or that it was some general cut-off, but something was not right in our cell.”
Prayers and meditation
Elena also said that meditation and prayers helped her live through the arrest.
“I understood that I was in prison, and not in a resort or a sanatorium. But even there, in the cell, I tried to find time for myself, for meditation. I believe in God, this is also important to me. And I will not say that I am so strong. When everyone went to bed, it was my time to pray and cry, after which I felt better. It was then that I found balance and tried to fall asleep, if it can be called sleeping.”
On silence of eminent colleagues
When asked what Levchenko thinks about her eminent colleagues keeping silence she replied: “In our time, it’s hard not to judge. We are all in this emotional state. After the elections, some athletes spoke out against violence. Yes, there was a time when this was the case. But we have passed the point of no return.
And now it may be better not to say anything. It looks like a person is just trying to check in. I believe that every person has a conscience. If these people, who are silent, sleep properly today, then what can I say. I’m sure everyone knows perfectly well what’s going on. And if they are silent, well, let’s move on.”
Plans for the future
“Now I live for today, enjoying my time with my loved ones. As for basketball, I have no plans to end my career, although some already call me a former basketball player. But I’m not going to hang my sneakers on a nail yet.”
At the end of the broadcast, Elena Levchenko addressed the Belarusians. “My dear Belarusians, we can be intimidated, we can be threatened, we can be beaten and imprisoned. But they will never be able to kill the spirit and strength of the Belarusian people. Know that there are many of us, we are all in this together and we support each other.”
On 30 September, Levchenko was arrested at the Minsk National Airport. She was sentenced to 15 days of arrest for her participation in the 2020 Belarusian protests against the rule of Alexander Lukashenko. She was re-arrested immediately after her release on the 15 October.