Frenchman Jolan Viaud shares thoughts about Belarus after release

Frenchman Jolan Viaud shares thoughts about Belarus after release

After two months in Belarusian detention center, Jolan Viaud lost five kilograms and learned six words in Russian. At the end of the week, he will go home, where his family and friends are waiting and a French TV channel wants to shoot a documentary about him.

More than three months ago, the 24-year-old Frenchman Jolan Viaud went on a trip to Europe. On September 13, he came to Belarus and stayed with a friend of Tatiana. On September 21, Jolan was detained leaving Belarus to Ukraine while passing customs control through the "red channel": a cartridge was found among his belongings, which, according to the foreigner, was presented to him by his Polish friend. The examination showed that the cartridge is genuine and could be used as ammunition.

So the Frenchman found himself behind bars. He was accused of two articles connected with illegal actions concerning firearms, ammunition and explosives and their illegal transfer across the border, however, the court acquitted him. Jolan has incomplete higher education in the field of information technologies and at the age of 18 he left France for London. On Facebook, he calls himself an adventurer.

SEE: Jolan's brother about the case

On his beard and health

The beard aroused suspicion among Belarusian border guards. Jolan had to shave it on the ninth day after his arrest: he did not want to aggravate the situation.

- They came to me and said: "You must shave it. We have such standards." There was a feeling that I was in a military camp. At first I did not intend to obey. But after I thought I did not want even bigger problems. If the judge read a report which reads that I refused to follow the rules, this could complicate the situation.

Jolan promises to have beard again. He feels well, but he plans to check his body.

"It's very easy to catch some disease in prison." This is common in such places. That's why I'll check myself. Just to be completely confident. Although I feel good. I'm happy that everything has been resolved.

First evening after prison

The French consul took Jolan from courtroom to a restaurant. After that they together went to Minsk, where the traveler was waited by friends - Tatiana and Maria.

- I spent the first evening at their house. I slept in a good warm bed. In prison we woke up at 6 am, I already got used to it, that's why I slept only five hours the first night. The eyes opened themselves. It was a pretty stressful period, so it's not so easy to switch.

During these three days, the Frenchman managed to get a visa and enjoy simple things, which seem special after two months in a jail.

- For example, I enjoyed good food. My friend's mom cooks very delicious. It cannot be different in Belarus: people here are very hospitable. Then I finally got access to the internet. I checked Facebook, Whatsapp, and other messengers. They are just overheated. A huge number of people wrote to me. I am not ready to answer everyone right now, but I promise I will, later. I will thank them all when I return to France. Now I do not feel strong enough. Too much pressure.

About prison

- 22-23 hours you spend in the cell. Only one hour for a "walk". According to the rules, it was supposed to last 2 hours, but nobody cared. Every Monday, you could take a shower. The cell had a sink and cold water. That was enough to wash.

Six other people were together with the Frenchman.

It was hard to communicate with cellmates, since few knew English. He tried to speak Russian, but the Frenchman's vocabulary was enough only to understand the basic things. There was practically no one to talk about something more important.

It's like a double prison. I was in a cell and could not share my thoughts with anyone. Then a young medic came to us, he knew English. We talked very much. He helped me greatly. I learned Russian alphabet, by the way.

To cope with stress, Jolan began to keep a diary. He described his day, wrote down his thoughts and everything that happened to him.

- I wrote a lot. It helped to feel mentally healthy. I also played chess. Many people in my cell were good rivals. I read books: they helped focus on something else.

SEE: Jolan Viaud in last statement: I am not disappointed in Belarus

Future plans

- I could not immediately get a normal translation and understand what was happening. I got it only after a while. Little by little, from the words of the cellmates, the investigator, and the lawyer (the first lawyer did a very bad job), I realized that I could go to jail for three years.

I, of course, I am shocked by the situation I got into. But I am grateful to this experience. It seems to me that it brought me more positive things than negative. Of course, during this time I experienced the greatest fear in my life. But if you look at the other side, a lot of good things happened. First, this situation showed me that people are basically good. That my family loves me. And friends, too. Many helped, and I really, really appreciate it. But more importantly, I saw how good Belarusians are. So many strangers helped me!

Previously, I always said: "I want to help people, etc.", but after these empty conversations I took no action. This experience has shown you should start doing something.

I do not know exactly what, but in the future I want to help Belarus improve.

Is Belarus that scary?

- Usually I do not buy any souvenirs. I take only memorable items with me. From Belarus, I might bring a book. And a dictionary of English, which a friend gave me. I will not take any more dangerous things. I will think twice.

French media are already waiting for Jolan at home. One TV channel wants to make a documentary about his first days at home, but he accepted this proposal without much enthusiasm. The guy is sure that another thing is important in this situation - not he, but those people who continue to stay in prison. Sometimes they can stay in prison for months or years for petty crime.

When I come to France, I will say that Belarus is a very safe country. Beautiful people live here. But, on the other hand, many of them are in prison, although they do not deserve it. I think the judicial system must find balance and not be so harsh.