How I became a political refugee

Short Story

Vladimir Ponimajushij
6 min readJul 28, 2021

My life is like a series at Netflix, but current is more real. Not at all comfortable, but very interesting)

Now I have applied for political asylum in France, and here’s how it all happened:

I’ll start from far away.

November 17, 2017, I decided to go to Minsk (Belarus), to congratulate my son on his 6th birthday.

I bought presents, arrived, congratulated, hung out with my son for a couple of days, then celebrated birthday of friend from Minsk… And after we were thinking to drive to Moscow — to celebrate my birthday — as I find out that I had a police search at home.

I’m calling a lawyer. Lawyer tell me that the FSB-Penza have made search at my place, because of the “Network” case (there are papers about this), they took the computer, phones, and what the hell is going on: people are being tortured with electricity, and it’s better for me to don’t come back.

A month passes, I again get in touch with a lawyer. Lawyer say that situation gotten worse, people are being arrested and tortured all over Russia, and that I can easily get into binding, even if I’m not guilty. I understand that I’ve been stuck in Belarus for a long time, and I decide to take my time to the maximum benefit: I went to blockchain meetups, studied at the blockchain school, took part in the blockchain projects…

So we launched services for the distribution of tokens in the Ethereum blockchain, and went to celebrate it in Hrodno (Belarus).

I rented a house for two days on my passport. My data went through a list, and on the second day a KGB officer and four riot policemen came to me.

They put me face on the floor, and let’s ask where my Ukrainian passport is, and when I arrived from Ukraine. And I never had a Ukrainian passport, and in Ukraine I was a long time ago. Even before the war…

It turned out that in 2015, Russia sent a paper to Belarus, in which Russia wrote that I was denied entry to Russia from Ukraine. And if I try to get to Russia from Ukraine, I must be stopped.

But the whole of 2015 I spent in Russia, and I did not go to Ukraine.

In 2016, Russia lifted the ban on entry, but in 2018, vigilant Belarusian KGB officers decided to check who it blocked entry to Russia there 2 years ago.

During the search KGB find 0.26 grams of drugs in my clothes, and for this I was sent to prison. There I was put on a “preventative account” as “extremism and other destructive activities”. Like, I am the leader of the anti-fascist group.

Secret police came to find out about my relations with anarchists and anti-fascists from Russia and Belarus. I told them everything that can be read on the Internet, and also about Physical Immortality, Artificial Intelligence and Spaceships. Secret police in shock, they don’t understand anything, but are afraid to show their ignorance. In general, this is a different story …

As a result: the court gave me 2 years of the general regime, and sent me to prisoners colony №15 in Mogilev.

My term began on 11 August 2018, and was supposed to end on 11 August 2020.

I was imprisoned for 1 year and 1 month, and an amnesty struck — in honor of the 75th years after liberation of Belarus from Nazi invaders.

I was cut off a year from my term by amnesty, and deported from Belarus. They closed the entrance to Belarus for me for 5 years.

September 14, 2019 I ended up in Russia.

My son is in Belarus, entry to me is closed …

The cops were not interested in me, “FSB-PENZA” returned to my father a computer and everything else that they took during the search.

I already thought that everything was fine, I was getting stronger, they would leave me alone …

I was engaged in what I love most: I talked with friends, visited blockchain meetings, hung out at events… But for some reason, I didn’t feel safe.

Friends from Germany wrote me and invited to visit them in Germany. I decided to go see old friends. I issued myself a French visa for three months. French visa — because it is faster than German, twice as much!

December 1, 2019, went to Germany. Helped there at the Youth Alternative Center: organised “social games” to make connections inside of community more stronger. Also i was given lectures about Digitalization, blockchain, smart contracts, web3.0, DAO… I read that the “Network” case was over, the guys were given insane terms. I thought that since the “Network” case had been closed, and after the search everything had been returned, it means that I am no longer interested in the offenders, and I can live on peacefully, engaging in positive and constructive activities.

The visa was coming near to the end, I bought a ticket Berlin-Moscow on February 27th…

And on February 17th I get a link to the fact that a new case was launched in Russia about the “extremist community”, and there is a huge list of people who are suspected of participating in “People’s Self-Defense”.

Here, in the public domain, this text

The post of February 17, at 12:49. There are almost 15,000 views at the moment.

I didn’t belong to “People’s Self-Defense”, but I was on these lists. There, my photo from the passport, my passport details, registration…
In general, everything that only cops have.
In addition, Egor Bassist was on the list — he is an excellent musician, we played together with him, and he is certainly not an extremist.

Also on the list was my tattoo artist and old friend Tanya Anti.

She is a wonderful and kind person who raises a magnificent daughter Lena. But on the list she is listed as a “dangerous left radical”.
All this looks like some kind of madness!

In general, I realized that they would never leave me again. I thought too much, I talked too much, I did too much …

In general, it is never forgotten…

My friends from Germany are also in shock. They say: “Do what you want, but don’t return current, and we will help you than we can.

I turned to human rights workers, then to workers with refugees, and they told me: “There is an agreement Dublin-3. And under this agreement you must apply for asylum in the country that issued the visa.

And I have a French visa…

Well, I’m not afraid of the change of places! I was going to France. It’s good that the world is not without good people. I was connected with people who support refugees in France, they advised me, told where to apply, what documents to submit…

February 27, on the last day of the visa, I applied for political asylum in France. The process has begun. Now I have to wait from 6 months to 2 years, and I can not leave the territory of France.

France turned out to be a very expensive country. Almost everything is 2–3 times more expensive than in Russia. But then I feel safe, and it costs a lot)

I don’t know when I can return to Russia, and whether I will return at all… Also, Kropotkin had been hanging out in exile for 40 years, he ended up returning to his homeland. Maybe something similar will happen to me?)

I already miss my relatives, friends, blockchain meetings, poetry readings, conferences on robotics, laboratories for the prevention of global risks… I generally love Moscow, this is my favorite city! And it’s so stupid that such a beautiful city has such terrible government!

Now, I’m engaged in carrying documents from one place to another: I received papers in the refugee assistance association, took them to the prefecture, they gave other pieces of paper there, carried them back to the refugee assistance association. There, again, new pieces of paper, again to the prefecture, again new pieces of paper that need to be carried back… What prevents them from sending documentation by e-mail is not clear, but what can you do so as not to be in prison on a fabricated case…