2022 Grateful 36: Olga Misik

Olga Misik is a Russian activist. She came to the world’s attention, when in 2019, she recited from the 1993 Russian constitution at a protest.

I read four sections. An article talking about the right to peacefully protest, an article saying that everyone can take part in elections, has the right to freedom of speech and that the people’s will and power are the most important thing for the country.

She was detained but later released. Undeterred, she was protesting again in 2020.

Misik and two other young defendants, Ivan Vorobyevsky and Igor Basharimov, are charged with vandalizing government buildings. In a gesture of support for those they consider political prisoners, they hung banners on a railing outside a Moscow district court on August 8, 2020, and then splattered red paint on a security booth outside the Prosecutor-General’s Office building. Prosecutors claim they caused 3,500 rubles ($47) in damages.

This time, she ended up in court and made a speech that is worth reading:

“People often ask, are you afraid? Those who do not live in Russia ask this most, because they do not understand the reality of Russia. They don’t know door knocking in the middle of the night, arresting and jailing without cause. They don’t realize the feeling of desperation we feel with breast milk. And this feeling of despair has taught us to live in hopelessness, but at the same time it weakens fear. Fear is meaningless when you have no control over your future. I’ve never been so scared. I felt despair, hopelessness, helplessness, disorientation, anxiety, frustration, burnout, but never fear. I wasn’t afraid when gunmen broke into our apartment and threatened me with jail time. They wanted to scare me, but I wasn’t scared. I laughed and joked knowing the moment I stopped laughing, I would be lost. “
“Driving in a black van, I thought this sunrise would be the last I’d see for a long time. I was thinking of my father whom I saw cry for the first time in my life. To the mom who whispered in my ear: don’t confess to anything. I was sad and full of pain, but I had no fear. However, for the past nine months (in prison) I was constantly worried. I haven’t really gotten any sleep since the first night. Every night I’d wake up to different noises and imagine footsteps in the hallway. I was having a panic attack at the sound of cars going by the window.. Someone said that it is impossible to fear when one knows they are right. But Russia is teaching us to be afraid. It’s a country that is trying to kill you every day and if you’re not part of the system you’re probably dead by now. Of course I went to the protest. I have no regrets and I’m proud of my actions. I really didn’t have a choice though. I had to do what I could, so there’s no point in regretting anything. And if given the opportunity again, I would do it again. If I was on the face of execution, I would do it again. I would do it again and again until some change started. They say doing the same things over and over and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity. Apparently hope is an expression of insanity. But not doing what you believe in just because someone around you thinks it doesn’t make sense is only taught hopelessness. And it’s better to be crazy in the eyes of the world than to be a hopeless being in your own eyes. … But you, who imprison me and reject all arguments of defense and accept all false evidence of prosecutors, know very well what crime you are committing. But you can’t ban the youth. You can’t deny freedom. You can’t suppress the truth. This lawsuit will affect your lives far more than mine. I have chosen where I stand. It is now up to you to choose the path you will take in life. If you judge me , you judge yourself.. “
“A fascist government never appears to be fascist from within. Looks just like the occasional illogical censorship and some repression that doesn’t apply to you. But I’m not the only one in this process. Today, you do not decide my destiny, you decide your own. You can’t keep lying to yourself. You know what this is about. You know where good is and where evil is, freedom and fascism, love and hate, and if you choose not to join the right side, it will be a colossal lie from you. Those who chose evil have pre-paid tickets to The Hague. Victory is not promised tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, a year or ten years from now. But one day we will win, because love and youth will always win. I can’t promise I’ll live up to it, but I hope you will. “
“The last nine months have been difficult, and I asked myself if anything could have gone differently. But that’s what I was talking to myself because nothing could have been different. From the moment I took up the constitution, my destiny was carved in stone and I accept it with pride. I made the right decision and for such in a totalitarian state always pays a high price. I always knew I would end up in prison. I knew what I did wasn’t stupid or accident or accident and it wasn’t a crime. I always knew this would happen and I was always prepared. Nothing will surprise me. “
“The Nazi regime has fallen one day, just like the fascist regime in Russia will fall. Dont know when, but one day it will happen. The last words of Sophie Scholl (German student and anti-opposition fighter executed by the Nazis in 1943) before her execution were: “The sun is still shining. “ Indeed, the sun is still shining. I don’t see him from behind the prison walls, but I always know he’s there. And if now, in these dark times, we can turn to the light, perhaps victory is not that far away. “
On 11 May 2021, Misiki was sentenced to 26 months of “restricted liberty”. She had to stay home and be in her house between 10 pm and 6 am. She’s now 20. And she was studying journalism. I hope she’s still doing that.
She began taking a stand at 16. I’ve read her speech a few times and I’m in awe. Given what’s happening right now, I can only pray and hope that she’s right – that victory is not that far away.
Hat tip to SS for putting her on my radar. I’m grateful.
PS. Olga, I lifted this photo from your Instagram. I hope you don’t mind.

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