Later, she was convicted again for insulting the president. In total, Alena was sentenced to three years of home confinement.

After Alena already started to serve her sentence, she was arrested several times. On 11 January 2022, she was arrested and sentenced to 15 days of administrative imprisonment for violating the home confinement regime. After that, Alena was not released to serve the remaining period of her home confinement. Instead, she was transferred to a pre-trial detention centre and faced criminal charges under two articles of the Criminal Code: Art. 367 (Defamation of the President) and Art. 369-1 (Discrediting Belarus).

Letters from Lukashenka’s Prisoners

Following the illegitimate 9 August 2020 presidential election, protests erupted across Belarus, prompting an unprecedented crackdown from the authorities which continues unabated. One year since the election, hundreds of political prisoners remain in the country.

Letters from Lukashenka’s Prisoners, gives unjustly detained individuals a voice by collecting, translating, and publishing letters on our channels. This campaign is a collaborative project by Index on Censorship, Human Rights House Foundation and

Read more about Alena Hnauk and other Belarusian political prisoners here.

Translations are available in Russian and Belarusian here.

On 17 June the Pruzhany District Court sentenced Alena to 3.5 years in a general-security penal colony and a fine of 3,200 rubles (about 950 US dollars).

Due to the conditions of her detention, she went on a hunger strike until May 2022.

In the letter published below, Alena Hnauk reaches out to her family, including her three grandchildren to outline the day-to-day experiences of being in Belarus’s prisons. This includes the inability to walk around the prisons without an escort and the ever-decreasing amount of money that Alena can use to buy vital supplies at the colony’s store. She also highlights the disproportionate and cruel punishments directed at political prisoners, such as restricting access to longer family visits and the use of PKTs, or ‘closed regime’ detention to restrict interaction with other prisoners.

This letter is itself a testament to the vital importance of letter writing. Alena writes to request envelopes – what she labels as strategic material – as well as pens that do not run out too quickly and the importance of ink refills. The letter ends with a stark reminder of the importance of communicating with her family and the outside world: “So this [pen] refill will allow me to write to you and P.S., and game over! There’s only one left. Whether the rest will reach me, I do not know.”


Hello, my dears! Everyone! Hello, my sweet daughter, hello, Sashenka, as well as Danik, Nikita and Nastenka [Alena’s grandchildren]!

I really hope you got my last letter. This letter is a couple of days apart. My second last letter and yours were a couple of hours apart. My unit leader, Olga Viktorovna, brought it to me along with a letter from P.S.

I am writing right away, so as not to forget. If all goes well, and I stay under the current conditions of stay (about which I wrote to you in a previous letter), then please put not one, but at least five envelopes when you answer. The problem is that I have one envelope left, practically none. When I was in the unit [this refers to a standard cell in Belarusian prisons], I could shop in the store; now I am deprived of it. The amount I can spend in the store has been cut in half . It was 64 rubles, now it’s one ‘reference amount’ [this amount is a fixed amount set for prisons across Belarus. In 2023, the reference amount is 37 roubles. In 2022 when the letter was received, the amount was 32 roubles (approximately $12)]. I don’t know when I will have a chance to shop. Maybe at the end of next month. By New Year’s Eve (if nothing changes). In addition, I can’t go there by myself. They would always guide us. We have no right to walk around the camp by ourselves. Only with so-called “guides” from among the prisoners. Now, I have what’s called the PKT. That translates to “cell-type room” [PKT has been reported to mean a ‘closed regime’ where inmates spend all day and night in a cell either alone or with one or two cellmates. The detainee is usually allowed one hour per day to walk outside.]

There was no postage card in the envelope! Although it arrived (there was a mark on the envelope to that effect). I wrote an application to the regime department [this department is also referred to as a security department] to sort it out.

I already wrote you that I was deprived of a big parcel and a long visit [persons sentenced to deprivation of liberty are granted short visits lasting four hours and long visits lasting up to three days in a specially equipped room on the territory of the correctional institution. Alena was deprived of the longer visits, which is a common punishment for political prisoners]. So, my position is precarious and depends on the mood of my superiors. For example, if they notice my uniform jacket is not properly buttoned…

I am entitled to the same parcel you sent me. It is once every six months in the PKT. So since I am not deprived of it yet (which is not guaranteed), you can send it on December 12 or 13. If it doesn’t come back to you, then I have received it. Put in there a couple of envelopes (strategic material) and a pen. Make sure the pen will last a long time. Add a couple of good refills for it. Let it be cheap. Put a couple of small refills, too [here Alena is requesting both long and short refills for her pen]. I have a pen like that, no refills for it. Those pens you sent earlier stayed in the unit. I only got two. The refills run out very quickly. So this refill will allow me to write to you and P.S., and game over! There’s only one left. Whether the rest will reach me, I do not know.