Hello there!

My name is Sasha Skochilenko

And these are my drawings. Most of them were made in a detention center five, I live for a year and a half—since I was arrested for placing anti-war leaflets in a supermarket.

At the beginning of my detention color pencils were banned. From the temporary detention ward, were I was initially placed, I managed to smuggle only a yellow one—it looked like a simple Koh-i-Noor pencil. That's why my first drawing are done with a black gel pen with touches of yellow.

After a few months of imprisonment I got one more chance to draw with color pencils. I was sent to a psychiatric ward, with more lenient regulations, and my friends brought me a set of watercolor pencils. Three of them—navy blue, brown and black—I managed to bring back from the ward.

More time passed, and the pencil ban was lifted—but one still can keep only six colors in the cell.

Well, before you is my prison diary…

Imprisoned for peace

“I had an idea—what if I discreetly place my drawings calling for peace on supermarket shelves? There are many people out there, who don't know (or have they forgotten?) that human life is a miracle—beautiful and precious—and that violence is never a solution. Maybe we read different news, attend to different events, listen to different music—but we most certainly go to the same stores. The plain language of a price tag is something that everyone can understand.”
“The freedom of speech, freedom of expression, and peace, to my mind, are invaluable, and I'm not afraid to pay for them with some ten years in prison. Even ten years will be a small price for the chance to express my opinion peacefully and without arms.”
“Russia resembles a prison now, and we need to understand how to live with that.
The repressive state apparatus is not forever—but love is! I’m telling you, ‘Love is stronger than anything in the world!’ I’ve got to see for myself that it can pass through the bars, barbed wires, and impregnable concrete walls.”

Capture ♯ from The Book on Repressions

“They said disgusting things to me, mocked, humiliated, and bullied me. I heard obscene comments about my appearance, my way of living, my friends, and the place where I live; there were plenty of sexist and blatantly homophobic remarks (such as: when are you going to come to your senses, get a husband and children?). All of this, of course, wasn’t part of their job, but was just a consequence of the situation where five men, who are aggressive and not very well educated, get limitless power over a woman, whom they are holding by force. Maybe some animal instincts overpower people in this moment.”
“Of course they manhandled me and hinted they could rape me if they wanted to. And their сhief said he wouldn’t, because I'm not to his liking…”

“The detectives bargained with me for information, offering me house arrest instead of detention, but never delivered on their promise. So if you ever happen to be under investigation in Russia, don’t buy into their dirty tricks.”


“If all the political prisoners had the amount of support that I now have, we would probably live in another country. You are all wonderful! Only a truly wonderful person can write words of love and comfort to a complete stranger just like that. At times, when I’m down and feel that I just can’t bear all this anymore, a whole mountain of letters warms me like a bonfire.”
“I was a father of many children from Tarusa, I was twin musicians from St. Petersburg, I was the mother of a newborn baby, I was a religious Jewish woman studying Classical Hebrew, a poetess with cancer in happy remission, an Orthodox retiree, a night watchman, a person who brings packages to their Jehovah’s Witnesses friends imprisoned for their faith in a pre-trial detention center, a former gold mining worker and the owner of three cats, a person on the autism spectrum, a person with schizophrenia, a person with a disability, emigrants from France, England, Germany, Lithuania, Poland, Abkhazia, Israel, Canada, Finland, Georgia, Cyprus, Turkey, Belgium, the USA, the Netherlands...”

Detention center ♯ black-and-white

“Within the jail community it is widely believed that only those occupying lower bunks have the right to sit on their beds… A crowded cell houses eighteen people in an area of 35 square meters: in a cell like that, any small piece of usable surface will be fiercely contested, through no fault of the inmates. There is an unspoken rule in those cells that fresh inmates aren’t allowed to take a seat on someone else’s lower bunk, which makes their life a hard physical challenge, especially for elderly ladies.”

“The hot water bottle, which the women here use to keep themselves warm during the long winter evenings, to my utter delight, is called Alyosha.⃰ Some even name these bottles after their partners.”

Alyosha is a pet name for Alexei (as in Alyosha Karamazov).
“From the aisle, we hear a loud call: ‘Girls, breakfast!’ They open the feeder—a rectangular hatch in the cell door about the size of a notebook page—and we must quickly place two plates and two plastic buckets there: one for tea, the other for milk.”

“Several times a month, our cell undergoes a search. Sometimes they throw all our belongings on the floor, they look behind all the cabinets, under the mattresses, scrape dust from the cracks in the hardwood...”
Sometime after lunch, we are taken out for a walk in the yard. There’s a long green bench inside, its concrete walls are covered with endless writings: the inmates leave messages for each other, which the administration constantly paints over. Through a metal bars ceiling you can see the sky. I run circles around the yard, do exercises—if I’m not feeling too sick. Sometimes I sing. Then I just lie down and sunbathe on the bench.

“In prison slang these yards are called two by fives, referring to the exact size of the concrete boxes with random paint stains over peeling walls. Now imagine 18 people in a yard two by five meters in size with a dirty meter-long bench at the center. The ‘walking’ amounts to slowly moving around in circles in the same direction, one after another. You can also linger in a corner, turning your face to the sun. That’s about it.”
“There’s plenty of cats here—all of them chubby and sleek, but almost feral. Once, I saw a cat catch a pigeon and carry it around for a long time. At night, you can hear the cats fighting and tumbling each other across the pavement. On the way to the investigation rooms, you can see them lying lazily at the entrance and yawning.”

Court ♯ brown-and-blue

“The experience of court hearings is perhaps one of the most traumatic for me. On the eve of the detention hearing, I always wrote my final statement and everything else I would like to say in court. Such hearings were held monthly, and every evening before I had to pack all my belongings. That was the heaviest part—to pack my things and imagine that I could be home tomorrow, while knowing for sure that I wouldn’t be.”
“I report my name and surname to the guards, sign for a huge meal ration, which mostly consists of food I cannot eat,⃰ and follow the guards to an avtozak, a prisoner van. Sometimes they lock me up in a narrow cell inside—it’s called a glass, and it barely fits one person. Its door closes, they hang a big padlock on it, and all that is left for the light and air to enter is a hole about as big as the bottom of a mug.”

⃰ Sasha has celiac disease—an intolerance to gluten, which many of processed foods contain.

“I am locked in a holding cell. It feels like a dungeon: a small room, rough dirty walls, two benches, a trash can, and a very dim light bulb. There are no windows. The benches are all covered with judges’ names followed by unflattering characteristics and the sentences they’ve handed down—prisoners call this a wall newspaper. There’s little light and even less air. Every two hours, a small window in the door opens, and we are offered some hot water from a boiler and given an opportunity go to the toilet.”
“Before I go to sleep, I always think about Sonya and those wonderful people who cheered me, and silently thank everyone who came today. I also recall the people that I saw from the van’s window—rushing somewhere, with their gaze turned inward. I guess they don’t know what a bliss it is—just to walk down the street wherever you want, just to be free. I didn’t know either—it’s impossible to fully comprehend the value of this treasure until it’s been taken away from you.”

Detention center ♯ in full color

“In the evening we fill half-liter bottles with water and ‘take a shower’ by the toilet bowl. It is an elaborate task. Try doing it at home. First, wash your crotch pouring water from the bottle, then try to wash your feet, then your armpits, then change clothes and wipe drops of water from the floor. All of that needs to be done in 6 to 8 minutes if you are in a cell for eighteen people. In a cell for six you can afford 10 to 15 minutes.”
“Inspection time comes around ten o’clock. When they open our cell, we must come out, hands behind our backs. Then an officer in uniform enters the cell with a huge, intimidating wooden maul, knocking on all the surfaces, and also looks into the cabinets.”

“After dinner, my cellmate watches Charmed and Supernatural, and I write letters. Sometimes we agree to watch some animated feature on the Disney channel. Usually I draw something while watching. At the end I always cry as the good triumphs.”

Court ♯ in full color

“They cuff me behind my back and then five policemen escort me down the corridors and up the staircases of the court. My lawyer says she’s seen murderers escorted by a single officer. But I’m much more dangerous—hence the five guards.”

“Cameras snap, people raise up their smartphones as if I’m some kind of a rock star walking down the red carpet. People clap and shout words of support. You can’t even imagine how much it matters for me that you come! The first time I saw a crowd in the hall, I was overwhelmed. It was the morning two days after my arrest, and I thought no one but my closest people would come so early. I felt miserable, but then I saw all of you, and I got better. And I feel better now, seeing your bright faces, feeling your warmth and support.”
“Almost like the Middle Ages, I’m caged during the trial, like I’m a feral beast or a witch about to be burned at the stake.”

“I’m escorted out of the courtroom. I stare at Sonya, I try to seize and absorb her image, the look in her eyes, ‘I love you’, she says, and ‘I love you,’ I answer back. This immeasurable tenderness and bliss last for exactly a second—as if all the eternity could be enough!—and I’m taken away handcuffed a grim dungeon of the holding cell.”


“Every day Sonya fights for my release: she gives statements and interviews, writes letters and complaints, brings me unwieldy parcels. She did not renounce me because of my criminal status or the fear of becoming a victim of the persecution herself—and all kinds of things can happen to people! I am so unbelievably lucky to be with her! I wonder if every heterosexual woman is so lucky to be with their legal spouse.”
“I close my eyes and picture myself at the beach somewhere… I lay around in the golden sand, and beside me wearing the most enticing swimsuit lies the hottest beauty in the whole world—Sonya. Just about this moment I hear the keys rattling—this means it's time to return to my cell…”


“It so happens that I represent everything that Putin’s regime is so intolerant to: creativity, pacifism, LGBT, mental health education, feminism, humanism, and love for everything bright, ambivalent, unusual. I was surviving and growing in opposition and in spite of everything that was forced upon us here. I lived in Putin’s Russia as if I lived at Woodstock. Sooner or later, what happened to me now must have happened.
But I believe that this is not the end, that I’ll manage, I’ll make it out of here, I’ll survive, regardless of how many years in prison I’ll get.”
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