Helping the daughter of political prisoner Elena Gnauk to start life anew with her three children in exile

  • Story

Good afternoon.
My name is Alexandra.

I am the daughter of political prisoner activist Elena Gnauk. My mother, despite her age, was subjected to severe repression and political persecution, and was sentenced to 4.5 years in a penal colony. The last time I saw her on the outside was in January 2022 — on that day she was detained and never released again.

In 2020, our family's life was divided into “before” and “after.” Each detention of my mom, multiple trials, searches, and jail time, was stressful and a huge worry for me and my children. But the way my mom held on and is holding on at the age of 67, despite all the torture and persecution in prison, is an example to me of tremendous resilience, strength of indomitable character and vitality.

I did everything possible to help my mother: I kept in touch with lawyers, went to the courts, came to the searches, collected parcels, gave information to the media. I tried very hard to make her fate easier! But now it was my turn.

On January 23, 2024, in the morning I woke up to a knock on the door. It was a shock to me when I realized that they had come to search my house. They confiscated some of my mom's letters, her diary, and took my phone, and took me to the KGB for a six-hour interrogation. I was still naively hoping they would let me go home. Instead, I was taken to the Investigative Committee and charged under Article 361-4 (Article 361-4 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus. Facilitating extremist activity). With this charge, I was facing a criminal sentence of 2 to 5 years in prison. I could not believe that this was happening to me.

I was imprisoned for three days in a temporary detention center, where conditions are created for the detention of “politicians” to break and suppress a person. All this time I was thinking about my mom. Once in solitary confinement, I said to myself: “You won't break me.” This gave me the strength to endure everything that was happening.

I came out of the IVS with the realization that I had been very careless in my country, despite all that we had gone through with my mother. I realized that at any moment my children could be left without a mother. I took the decision to leave hard, I cried a lot of tears, but I decided to leave Belarus with my children. I left everything that was dear to me: my parents' house, property, friends and relatives. But it was important for me to save myself and my children. With a minimum amount of money and things in April 2024 we left Belarus. The move itself I remember badly from excitement and fear, but everything turned out well and we are safe now.

Now my children and I are starting a new life in Poland. I bring up my children alone and now I have a huge responsibility to put them on their feet. Each of the three is a separate person, with their own peculiarities and needs. The fact that they have lost their friends, familiar places and things to do is a huge stress for everyone. I realize that even after legalizing and finding a job, I will not immediately be able to normalize our lives alone.

I have been helping for so long, and now I have to ask for help myself. Now we are in a shelter for Belarusians and we are in great need of financial support. We need to rent a place to live, with the possibility of paying for several months in advance. We need to buy things and basic necessities, as we don't even have basic things — not much we could bring in our backpacks. While we are here adapting, legalizing — without friends and work, I don't understand what and how I will feed my children. So I am looking for help from anyone who can understand and share my situation and condition!

I will be very grateful to everyone for any contribution, help and support for my family!
With respect and gratitude, Alexandra Semenyuk.

How much is needed?


€3000 — rent (for about 6 months)
€1000 — food, vitamins and medicines (for about 6 months)
€800 — things for children: clothes, shoes for the season, school supplies
€200 — essentials for settling in at the new place

€ 5 025 in 5 000