I have already had the permission to see Ildar since the 30th of December, but i went to have a short visit with him first time on the 13th of January. This type of short visits in prison is nothing like hugs and kisses and all other fluffy stuff. You can only talk to each with a thick glass separating the two of you.
It is not as hard as I thought though to get there. You just come to the investigatory isolation ward by 9 o’clock and hand in the permission from the judge together with the application. Then you wait till 11 o’clock until someone from the management of the investigatory isolation ward shows up. He collects the passports from the visitors and takes everyone to the fifth floor. And there, one can see around 15 little cells with a piece of glass separating the two sides.
The visit lasts 2 hours and it is enough to talk about a lot of things — the way of life in prison as well as some personal things. Apart from me, there were other nine visitors. Mostly those were women, some of them together with children. A little boy showed me his drawing, “That’s what I got for dad. This is me, that’s my mom, that’s my dad. And this is our house…”
Finally, I saw Ildar. I got very mixed feelings from this sort of visit. On the one hand, here he is, your loved one, whom you have not seen for already 5 weeks. He is safe and sound, without any bruises on his face. First couple of seconds we just looked at each other with silly smiles on our faces. On the other hand, it is really tough. I really wanted to hug and kiss him. Nevertheless, talking to him with a piece of glass between us, is still better than nothing.
I asked him a lot about the way he lived there. It turned out, that convicts are often bothered by really simple matters, which are not that easy to solve, once you get stuck in an investigatory isolation ward. For example, your sock got a hole in it. Normally, you would just take a needle and a piece of thread and just mend the hole. Whereas in the investigatory isolation ward you have neither of the two. Needle is still possible to get, but getting a piece of thread is really impossible.
Or if you run out of toilet paper, you have to wait for someone to buy it for you in the Federal Service for Execution of Punishment shop. It is also not possible to transfer it from outside. Normally each prisoner is supposed to get toilet paper, though in the isolation ward #4 it ‘just does not happen’
Or in case you need to write an document with an appeal and then make three or five copies. There is no printer, so one makes these copies by hand.
The ways prisoners entertain themselves are also quite peculiar. Oleg Navalniy was catching pigeons, whereas Ildar and other convicts from his cell were catching mice. Regular, small grey mice that run under the beds at nights there
In order to trap a mouse one needs an empty milk box. One makes a hole in it and then put some bait. When a mouse gets in, one closes the hole with a hand. Afterwards the new ‘pet’ is put in a plastic box where ice-cream used to be.
They managed to catch two mice this way. The fellow convicts of Ildar decided to organize a trial for these mice. They ‘sentenced’ the mice for four years of prison in an ice-cream box. In the end it was decided to let the mice go — throw them out of the window on the third floor. However, the ‘convicts’ managed to escape by biting through the plastic ‘prison’.
Another serious matter is smoking. In Ildar’s cell there are eleven people; five of them smoke. They smoke right on their beds. The others, who don’t smoke, are not very happy with that, so to say.
There are only 8 beds for 11 people (cell #803). They sleep in shifts. Though, as Ildar says, it’s even better, since it is possible to ask someone for a blanket, because otherwise it is too cold. It has been really cold in the cell since the 1st of January. So the thermal underwear that I had bought thanks to the advice of Alexey Polihovich (sentenced for the protests on Bolotnaya square) was a real savior. Though, Ildar says that it only helps together with a second blanket, otherwise it is still too cold. Nevertheless, the worst part is yet to come — he will have to be transferred to another jail in a train without any heating.
Food is the second priority after the sleep. The amount of food they receive is not that big. They are not starving, but a little bit bigger portions would be better. Ildar says that some of the prisoners turn the served food down. Hence, those who don’t turn it down get a chance to share their portions. It is even possible to warm the food up. To do that they put a plate with food in a bigger vessel with boiling water.
I was trying to figure out how to help Ildar with the food. First, he denied the hot meals that I had ordered via the Federal Service for Execution of Punishment website, then buckwheat with meat from aluminium cans. And I really don’t want to send him instant mashed potatoes and noodles.
Ildar frowns, “When I look at the prices that are listed in the Federal Service for Execution of Punishment shop, I get really frustrated, because I realize how these ‘mobsters’ make a fortune on us. I’d rather have this mere 100 grams of soup, then buy food in that shop.” Besides, as Ildar says, all the food that convicts get from relatives is collected in one place and then shared among all the convicts. So that in the end Ildar himself does not get that much.
In the end, we decided that together with the relatives of other convicts we will buy food in normal supermarkets and then hand it over to the guys, since in any case it is shared among all of them in the cell. He was very thankful for the garlic that Olga Romanova had sent to him. He said that it really had helped him to avoid getting sick. All the other guys in the cell caught a cold, whereas he did not.
There is no shower in the cell. They get a chance to wash themselves only once a week. Though there is a sink, so it is at least possible to rinse oneself with water and do a little bit of laundry.
I asked also how he spent his free time there; whether or not he kept on filing complaints. Ildar confessed that he had stopped. He got some sort of hint, that if he had kept on doing that, the guards would have ‘paid back’ his fellow convicts for that. Though he says that sooner or later he will have to make a decision, “Whether I should live as a coward or die.” Though he did not give any details, because our conversation was recorded. Ildar planned to send an open letter where he would state that under no circumstances he would ever commit suicide. He thinks that this way he will be able to protect himself from various ‘accidents’ that do take place in the isolation ward #4.
Not taking this rather frightening message into account, he seemed to be optimistic and was planning to read more books. “I have a lot to learn — politics, economics… When I am out of here, we will start changing the country for the better”, says Ildar. Even before he was arrested, he had wanted to become a lawyer and help people.
During the night of 14th of January it turned out that Ildar had been taken from the cell. I was told that he was just transferred to a different cell in the same isolation ward.
Update. 15th of January:
As it turned out, Ildar was relocated to a special cell in the same ward (more attention from the management and a bit better living conditions). In the meanwhile here is the application for the permission to get married that we had prepared for Civil Registry Office.