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Letter from Artur Konowalik-Prisoner in Poland

kin | 05.11.2009 23:31 | Repression | Social Struggles

"As long as there is a division between prisoners and the “normal people”, I will rebel against it"

November 5th, 2009
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Below, we’re publishing another letter from Artur Konowalik, a social prisoner in Rzeszow, Poland. Artur has already written two letters that have been published, where he wrote about prison life in Poland and about the units for dangerous prisoners, this time we can read about prisoners’ self-mutilations.

We encourage you to write to Artur. The fact that he receives a lot of letters means Artur’s treatment by prison screws and his conditions have improved. Artur hasn’t given up and here he describes a big bit of his life in a really moving way, his life which is one of almost 100,000 lives behind the prison bars in Poland.
Until all are free, we’re all imprisoned.
ABC Poznan

Artur Konowalik
Zakład Karny
Załęska 76
35-322 Rzeszów

Dear all,

First of all, I want to thank all the people who got involved in my case anyhow they could, by publishing my letters, translating it to other languages. Thanks to that I received several letters, also from abroad, which means that my letters reached people in a wide range of countries, I am also seeing one person that met me thanks to those letters.

All of this thanks to the good people, who got involved into all of that, thank you very very much. In the previous letter I wrote about the unit for dangerous prisoners, where I used to stay.

There’s not much I’d have to add to the previous letter. But I would like to write about different forms of protest that the people here use. I am one of the people who have protested in an extreme way, I mean the so-called swallowings. A lot of people have done that for different reasons. I will only describe my experiences. I am one of very many prisoners, who have had similar experiences in their life.

Due to long time that has passed since I did that, I can’t remember why I did the first swallowings, it was 10 years ago and there were always a lot of reasons to protest and I really can’t remember what I was fighting for at that time. First, I will try to explain what swallowings are. It is a kind of a self-mutilation, when you swallow different iron objects. Usually those are rods made of straightened hooks from the bunk or from the springs also from “beds”. That rod is usually from 13 to 18 centimeters long.

The person who swallows always chooses the longest rod possible, so that they wouldn’t excrete it, what is possible if the rod is too short. I swallowed two rods 16-cm-long, and that’s not easy. I told the screw about the swallowing, that was in prison in Przemysl. It’s a small prison and there was a lot of mess because of what I did. I went to see the doctor, he examined me a bit and then they brought me to x-ray examination, where they assured themselves that I wasn’t lying.

After the x-ray was done I signed an agreement to have an operation, which was supposed to take place in prison in Krakow. They brought me to the surgery unit to Krakow. There I met people from all over the county with different self-mutilations, most of them were swallowings. There were also more dangerous self-mutilations, e.g. a swallowed fishing anchor placed in a throat. Sometimes it’s placed somewhere where it’s hard to reach it by opening the chest.

There was a guy who pulled his eye out. There were people who injected different horrible stuff into themselves, usually it was spit which caused the body to rot. There were people who poured glass or pencil-lead into their eyes. There were some who had needles rammed near their hearts, those who swallowed razor blades.

People have done self-mutilations for different reasons, it’s been a form of protest against something, a form of rebellion, a form of struggle against something or someone. There were also people who simply went crazy because of different stuff and they did the self-mutilations, but there were few of them.

During my stay there, the people told me stories about infamous doctor D., who can do any operation, even though some people have died on his operating table, and his nickname was the Butcher. The operations took place every Wednesday so I knew I didn’t have much time to lay on the table. I saw the guys after operations and I was horrified with the ability of D. to sew the injury. An injury 12 or 15-cm-long caught with four stitches, aslant, really fucked up.

I guess that people after autopsy are sewn in a better way than the people sewn by Mr D. I was afraid of the operation but I had to go through it, I couldn’t live with iron in my stomach. Wednesday came and I got a pill before the operation, the one that would make me feel dull and fearful. D. was working like a machine since the morning. I was waiting for my turn, I went to the bathroom because I was told to shave my stomach. I was standing under the shower and I was delaying the operation.

I wasn’t surprised when I saw D. in gloves saying “hurry up, the next one is waiting”. He fucked with my head and I almost gave up. But then I got over the fear and I went there like a ram for the slaughter. I laid on the cold bed, where I was fastened to the equipment, D. was there, there was some anesthetist and few mean women, who talked to me as if I was a piece of meat to cut, not a human being.

They injected something into me, I looked at a huge lamp and then I was away. And then what, I was supposed to be asleep but in reality I was conscious, I was paralyzed, I couldn’t even move my finger. I heard them talking, the sound of equipment being put in the bowls. I felt immense pain in the spot where I was cut. I was conscious but I couldn’t do a thing. I can’t describe that. After everything had finished, I was moved to a room next-door, where I was “woken up” by D.

When I was conscious again and I could move again and talk I yelled at D. that I felt everything. They moved me to a cell where I was getting better. I unstuck the bandage because I wanted to see how it looked. I wasn’t surprised by the standard four stitches. After few days I was moved to the general unit, where I was supposed to wait for the transport to Przemysl.

Nobody seemed interested that when I was moved to the general unit I was after an operation and that I had to carry my stuff, blankets, mattresses and everything I had. It weighed a lot. Just think, that you have to carry all that stuff after the operation. It describes it all very well.

I got to Przemysl. At the beginning I was beaten up “a bit”. They couldn’t kick me, I was after an operation. But still, I was pissed off so much that just as I entered the cell, I straightened the hooks and the same day I was transported to Krakow. That was the reason why I did the second swallowing. The history repeated and I was waiting for the operation again. Wednesday came and angry D. was waiting for me in his kingdom.

Because of my bad experience I asked the anesthetist to sedate me properly, because they were making the doctor round at the moment. They were doing those rounds sometimes and they were asking about you health and so on and pretended they cared about the health of the meat. It was Wednesday and I wasn’t operated, I was moved to the general unit and I was moved back to Przemysl, where I found out that the date of the operation had been postponed because it endangered my life and that I would have the operation in three months. Great, with iron rods in my stomach for three months.

My stomach hurt me quite often because the rods didn’t place themselves nicely all the time, the stomach was pressing and it really hurt. Later, I found out that he operation was canceled at the last moment on purpose. I was the “rebellious, defiant” prisoner and they wanted to give me a lesson and teach me to stop doing the swallowings (fucking awesome lesson. No doubt).

I suffered for those three months and finally they took me to D. I was relieved and also terrified. Again I asked them to sedate me properly. The anesthetist surprisingly asked me “But you won’t do the swallowings anymore?”. It was all clear to me. I was sure that the fucked up sedation before didn’t happen by mistake, but it was done to “deter”. I answered I wouldn’t do the swallowings anymore but of course I didn’t know if it was my last swallowing. And then I was sedated properly.

It wasn’t too cool after the operation, something happened that my stomach got swollen. Everything was filled with pus and I was hurting as if my stomach was about to explode. After few days I told them about it and I was on the table straightaway, they didn’t sedate me, they put scissors into the already scabbed wound and they put a drain into it.

The pus was coming out and pieces of green surgical thread, that I was sewn with. The conclusion is easy, there was either some dirt in my stomach that got there during the operation or it was that thread, because it was getting out in small pieces. It all overwhelmed me and I decided I won’t do any more swallowings.

I wanted to write about my experience but there are a lot of people with experiences similar to mine. They aren’t treated as people but as objects, as meat that you put on the table, you play the surgeon and you cut it. I look at it from the point of view that all people should be treated as people, as equal people, without considering the fact whether they’re free or imprisoned.

I’ve seen many violations of human rights, e.g. in prison in Kielce. After the self-mutilations, a psychiatrist from Krakow, the infamous T., after a “5-minute-conversation” said that I was having a personality disorder and I was a fuck up because I was protesting and rebelling by risking my own health. He prescribed me some syrup, which for sure, would have made me a vegetable after a longer while, I drank it once. Don’t ask.

And after the diagnosis he gave me I ended up in Kielce, in a unit for “psychos”. Most of them were really sick, but there were also normal people, who ended up over there only because they protested and rebelled. I saw how those people were treated by the screws. They were humiliated, offended, kicked, very often the weak ones were attacked, the ones fucked up with drugs, who had no contact with the reality.

People got glasses with pills, sometimes many of them, colorful ones, after which they behaved like zombies. Those were laughed at and humiliated the most. They couldn’t protest, that’s why they were the victims. And the screws felt they were better? When I was checked in they found one illegal thing in my stuff, the manager of the two units came. She didn’t know me and she started to call me names, that I was a psycho, a moron etc.

I couldn’t stand it and I shouted at her that she had no right to call me names because she didn’t know me. I was swearing at her. When she saw that I rebelled, she ran away to another unit and the other took me to the gatehouse, several screws came and they kicked me, then they asked me if I knew why. Of course I knew. They said they make kittens out of tigers. Then they left me alone, they treated me normally, as for prison conditions.

I think that when they saw that I wouldn’t give up and I won’t let them push me around, they let it go. After 1,5 month I went to a commission, where they asked “why did they bring you here, you’re perfectly normal”, what meant that I wasn’t a psycho, so they brought me back to Przemysl, the screws who received me were quite surprised. I was only for 1,5 month in Kielce so I didn’t get to know to everything because it was too short.

In this and in the previous letters I somehow described the system that works here. It doesn’t place us - the prisoners in the same row with the so-called “normal people”. We have been always and always will be treated as the people outside of the social fringe,those that should feel worse than all the others. And as long as that division exists, I will rebel against it.

Some might not understand me, they can judge me, they can criticize me, but in reality many people wouldn’t stand so many years of fighting the system from behind the bars. I have one aim, to be active. I don’t want to lay on the bunk and think that I would do something but I’m too afraid. I’m doing something and I’m proud of that.

I would like to send my greetings to all who wrote to me and to thank them. I would like to receive letters, postcards, I’ll answer all of them.

Thank you for everything,

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