Write a letter!
This is perhaps the simplest but, at the same time, very effectual way to help the prisoners. Letters from the outside give them a gulp of freedom, connect them with the external world and provide with massive moral support. For the prison staff, they constitute a reminder that everything that goes on within the penal facility can become publicly known. The letters show that the inmates are not forgotten, that people are concerned with their fate and are working for their release.
If you know that you’re not alone in this hard-set, if you know that the people are with you and they would always lend the shoulder, then you can perform truly heroic deeds.
Former Kremlin’s hostage Hennadii Afanasiev on the importance of supporting those in Russian captivity and their families
There are three ways to write a letter to a political prisoner:
1) Through an electronic prison letter system called FSIN-pismo. But not all prisons are connected to the system. Check if the prison of your addressee is on the list: https://fsin-pismo.ru/client/app/letter/create; if it’s not, you need to use another method.
2) Through RosUznik.This is a Russian prisoner support group which will print out your letter and send it through regular mail. Check if your addressee is on the site http://rosuznik.org, if not – send your letter to the email email@example.com.
3) By a paper letter.
In all cases, the message you are conveying should be politically neutral.
A certain challenge is that the Russia’s penitentiary system delivers to its prisoners only the messages written in Russian. De jure the prison staff has to translate the correspondence in foreign languages, but this is not always the case. Thus you can either try writing in Russian or use RosUznik, and its activists will make the translation.
If you’re going to use traditional mail, you’ll find the necessary information in the table above (see NAMES AND ADDRESSES OF THE PRISONERS. Note that there are sometimes slight differences in the English transliteration of the same names from Ukrainian and Russian. Here the transliteration from Russian is applied out of necessity.)
You can use Google Translate to write something simple, send a postcard, or check out our instructions for writing Christmas cards in Russian for political prisoners. Any sign of attention works wonders for them!
Here is just one example of a template for greetings in Russian:
Дорогой [here you put the given name of the prisoner, which goes in the middle of the respective record in the Name column above],
Желаю Вам здоровья, мужества и терпения. Надеюсь на Ваше скорое освобождение!
= Dear [name],
I wish you good health, courage, and patience. Hope you will soon be released!
Of course, you can ask someone who speaks Russian to translate what you have written.
On the envelope, write in Latin letters the address (do not forget a zip code) + full name of the prisoner + year of his birth. For instance:
Primov Yuriy Vladimirovich (born 1976), penal colony # 5, 3 Yasnaya Str., township of Yasny, Sovetsky District, Mari El Republic, 425408, Russia.
It would be helpful if you put inside a sheet of blank paper and a new envelope because some prisoners want to write in response or simply make their own notes but face a shortage of paper in jails.
RosUznik delivers letters only to the several Ukrainian prisoners.
Go to the link http://rosuznik.org/write-letter, where you will see a form you should fill. You can easily use Google Translation to get all questions on that page in English.
To send you words of solidarity via RosUznik is faster than by traditional mail, as their office is based in Russia. You can ask them to print and send a certain photo (for instance, your selfie with a poster in support of your addressees) along with your letter. If a prisoner replies you, they can send a scan to your email. However, if you want to address anyone beyond the RusUznik list, please use traditional mail.
…Thank you for the letter. Receiving letters cheers you up and gets you morally distracted from melancholy, sadness, and pain… All the best and, God willing, see you one day.
From the response of Ferat Sayfullaev, a Crimean Muslim activist and father of three, who was unlawfully sentenced to five years in Russian jail
You can also send a letter to the 24 Ukrainian Navy sailors Russia took captive after attacking three Ukrainian ships in the Azov Sea on 25 November. Instructions are here.