Mikalaj (Николай) Maminau (Маминов)

* 1980  

  • “They phoned me and knocked on the door of the flat. Frightened, I started to hide my computer, my hard drives. They were already trying to kick the door in, but they couldn’t break it – it was a security door. I called my wife to say they were trying to break into the flat, to call the police. Then I wrote to my neighbour on Telegram that they were trying to get into the flat, but he wasn’t at home at the time. Then I started deleting all the Telegram channels and Viber from my phone. Then I started speaking with the people behind the door. Through the peephole, I could see two odd-looking blokes in civvies. One of them looked like a KGB man, elegantly dressed, with a leather-bound notebook, the other wore army trousers, presumably an officer. Several other people stood behind them. They said that if I didn’t open the door, they’d get me out of the flat anyway. I called to my children and told them not to come home from the playground. I told the two blokes on the landing to keep their men back, and I opened the door. They entered, no introduction, and started attacking: ‘Who’s leading it? Where did you send the materials?’”

  • “We arrived at the Riga Shopping Centre. There was a traffic jam in Bangalore Square. I recorded everything on video. People were blocking the road, someone shouted to bring rubbish bins, park buses – they were building barricades out of everything they could find. It looked like scenes from a war. I’d never seen anything like it in Belarus, it was a full-blown civil war with all the consequences that entails, just without a leader.”

  • “I was rushed by a man in a black balaclava. He started mashing me up with tactical gloves and kicking me; he broke one of my ribs on the steps of our house, then gave me a blow to the solar plexus. I lost touch with reality. He wrapped the hem of my shirt around my head and started to choke me. Then he dragged me along in a crouch with my hands behind my back to a car beside the Riga Shopping Centre. He threw me on to the floor of the car. My wife Katsya was there already. She begged them to stop choking me, I had problems with my heart and couldn’t breathe. They left off after a few minutes. They took me and my wife to the Soviet District Militsiya Department. The young men in balaclavas beat me really hard, I guess they were from Almaz [Special Anti-Terrorism Unit – trans.]. We stood with our hands up in the street in front of the police station, then they took me into the basement, where I had never been before. A lot of people were there, including teenagers and girls. I was the most afraid for my children, who were at home by themselves.”

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    Litva, 09.04.2021

    (audio)
    duration: 02:09
    media recorded in project Stories of the 20th Century TV
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I continue to fight through my work. I want to give people the truth

Mikalaj (Николай) Maminau (Маминов), 2021
Mikalaj (Николай) Maminau (Маминов), 2021
photo: Post Bellum

Mikalai Maminau was born in Minsk the former Belarusian Soviet Socialist Republic on 19 June 1980. His mother (1954, Minsk – 2007, Minsk) was a graphic artist. His father (1941, Vologda, Russia – 2011, Minsk) was a scientist. Mikalai did not live with his parents but was raised by his grandmother Aliena Yakaulieuna Zhuk (1929, Balotchytsy – 2009, Minsk) and grandfather Mikalai Savich Malochka (1924, Kryvichy – 1990, Minsk). When he was 12, he took an interest in photography – he had a camera of his own. In 1997–2000 he studied photography at the Minsk State Technological College. In 2001–2005 he attended the Faculty of Screen Arts at the Belarusian State Academy of Arts. He received a presidential scholarship and was one of the top graduates in the whole of Belarus. He continued with postgraduate studies. He worked in the Belarusian television industry, lectured on cinematography at the Belarusian State Academy of Art and at the (formerly Belarusian) European Humanities University in Vinius. He held exhibitions of his photographs. He co-authored a documentary film about Belarus. On 9 August 2020 he cast his vote, sent a screenshot of his ballot to the Vote app, and left the polling station. That day he recorded a news report from the protest meeting at the Minsk Hero City Obelisk and continued to report on all of the following protest events until his arrest. He published all his materials on social networks. On 20 September he was taken from his flat and placed in administrative detention for 15 days in the Akrescina Detention Centre in Minsk and in Zhodzin. He was then imprisoned a second time, he was beaten when detained, and he spent 20 days of administrative detention in Akrescina and Zhodzin. Having been unjustly detained and punished, when he was released he contacted human rights organisations, and on 5 November 2020 he and his family left Belarus for Chernihiv in Ukraine. Since 3 January 2021 he has been employed as a cameraman in Vilnius, Lithuania.