Winter letter marathon for Ukrainian political prisoners of the Kremlin – 2022
Most of us will spend the cozy winter holidays with our family and good food. But there are at least 127 Ukrainian political prisoners of the Kremlin who will spend them inside damp prison walls, with prison grub, thousands of kilometers away from their family, despite having committed no crime, forgotten by the world…
Or are they not forgotten? We can show them that we remember and that the world is watching the Putin regime’s crimes closely. That’s why as part of the #LetMyPeopleGo campaign and to share the warmth of the winter holidays, the Center for Civil Liberties together with Euromaidan Press is launching the traditional 2022 Winter letter marathon for Ukrainian political prisoners of the Kremlin.
Words have the power to conquer distances and warm the hearts of people in captivity, including at least 127 Ukrainian citizens behind bars in Russia and the occupied Crimea, and about 300 held in the makeshift basement prisoners of Russian-occupied Donbas. They include very different people – businessman Valentyn Vyhivskyi, human rights activist Server Mustafaev, citizen journalist Seyran Saliev, teacher Natalia Shylo, doctor Nataliya Statsenko, musician Valeriy Matiushenko, pensioner Vitaliy Atamanchuk, and many others.
To avoid your letter being blocked by the prison censors, follow these simple rules:
- write in Russian;
- stay politically neutral;
- indicate the year of birth, full name, patronymic, and surname of the addressee on the envelope (if you do not know who you want to write to, we will pass your letter to the person who wrote the least);
See the full instructions at letmypeoplego.org.ua. There you will also find the current addresses of political prisoners.
Write a letter to a prisoner in need! Our solidarity is stronger than Russian prison bars.
If you want to write to a person in occupied Donbas or occupied Crimea, please send the letter to the Center of Civil Liberties: 01024 Kyiv, Baseina 9-G, of.25. Even if we don’t find a way to get them into occupied Donbas, we’ll give them to the relatives of the prisoners. If you are in doubt about who to write to, also send your letter to the Center for Civil Liberties – it will be passed over to the prisoners who receive the fewest letters.
Invite your friends to join in! Make a photo of your letter or take a selfie with a postcard and post it on social media with the hashtags #LetMyPeopleGo #PrisonersVoice. You can also invite them to the Facebook event.
The marathon will continue until the end of January.
NAMES AND ADDRESSES OF THE PRISONERS
You can open this table in a separate tab as well.
There are three ways of writing to the prisoners:
(1) by traditional mail;
(2) via the Russian online service RosUznik (not for all the Kremlin’s hostages);
(3) through FSIN-pismo, a system for sending prisoners electronic messages in the Russian prison system (also not for all the hostages).
In all cases, the message you are conveying should be politically neutral.
A certain challenge is that 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:
Abiltarov Rustem Seyranovich, born 1979, 35700, IK-1, Kochubeevskoye village, Stavropolsky Krai, 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 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.
FSIN-pismo (FSIN-letter) is a service of delivering electronic letters to Russian prisons. But not all prisons are connected to it. You will need to check whether your addressee is in the list, which requires a knowledge of Russian. If he’s not there, you’ll need to use another method.
…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
Read advice on writing to political prisoners from people who have been corresponding with them for over five years:
Words of freedom: why you should send a letter to a political prisoner of the Kremlin
Putin’s Hostages, documentary about Ukrainian political prisoners of the Kremlin, available online
August 12, 2021