14 June 2021
Your Holiness, much-esteemed Pope Francis,
I would not dare writing to you if not for the extreme circumstances my dear Belarus and my family have found themselves in. I am turning to you to tell the story of a little boy, Francišak, and his dad.
We live in the Belarusian capital, Minsk. When my husband and I learned that we were expecting a child, the country was celebrating the 500th anniversary of the first Belarusian Bible published by Francis Skaryna. We decided to name our boy in his honour and in your honor — Francišak. He is now three years old. He has been growing up without his dad for more than a year.
This is how long his dad, Paval Sieviaryniec, has been imprisoned for. Paval is a sincere believer, a Christian, a writer. He is among those who revived the legendary party of 1920-30s, the Belarusian Christian Democracy. All his work, writings and family life are underpinned with Christian values. His biggest dream is Belarus believing in God. He has committed to this dream without sparing himself.
Since 1994, during the long dictatorship years in Belarus, Paval has spent nearly eight years in jails and in places of penal work following false accusations and unjust sentences. Last year, he was kept in solitary confinement — a small room without windows and personal belongings — for 70 days as an arbitrary punishment. Even the Bible was taken away from him! He did not have a blanket or mattress to sleep in. He used a bottle of water instead of a pillow. For the whole summer, he was deprived of walks and a shower. He could only walk and pray in this inhumane solitary confinement.
At the latest unjust trial, Paval chose to remain silent. He explained his decision by the example of Christ who silently faced unjust accusations. The secret court ignored that Paval’s actions were absolutely peaceful and in accordance with the rights provided by the Belarusian Constitution. It sentenced him to seven years of strict regime jail.
There are hundreds of people and stories like mine in Belarus today. Dads, mums with many children, sick people and even children remain in prisons. Their only crime was the desire to live in a free country. They are desperately craving for truth and justice. Each of them carries a cross for Belarus.
Paval is convinced that in today’s Belarus everything depends on the Church — whether it will raise its voice for the truth or will continue living in lies and fear, and turning a blind eye to the suffering of people.
Our long-awaited son, Francišak, is growing up without a father. This year, he has learned to speak and can pray Our Father. He also sings, his favorite song is I Am Not Afraid, My God Is with Me. From prison, Paval sends drawings and letters to Francišak. He asks him to listen to his mum and pray to God.
Only recently, after a year of Paval’s arrest, Francišak and I were allowed to visit him in a jail. We talked to Paval through the glass. We laughed and prayed together. Francišak begged his dad to go out with him to play, but Paval was not permitted to do it, although he was guilty of nothing.
Paul is a wonderful father and a beloved husband. I tell my son that his dad is a hero. Francišak and I love Paval and miss him. I am very afraid that he may never not return to us from the Belarusian jail.
We ask you to remember and pray for our family: for Paval and little Francišak, as well as for all the imprisoned and tortured Belarusians.
We ask you to pray for our country, Belarus. Many of us dream of living in a society rooted into Christian values and truth. They have done a lot to make it happen one day.
Remember us in prayer.
Long live Belarus! Long live with God!