Day 1663 - Paul Whelan - IK-17 Mordovia Russia - July 18, 2023 - Mail surge

Paul has been a Russian hostage now for 1,663 days.  There has not been much change in his day to day routine other than that the prison continues to interfere with his communications.  He was able to call either our parents or the Embassy, who relayed it to our parents, and let us know that he just received 305 letters and cards postmarked December 2022.  They were given to him in batches, of 140, 80, and 85, all in the last 2 weeks.  It has been a huge boost to Paul's morale.

This mail surge is largely due to Brittney Griner encouraging people to write to Paul upon her own release. She has commented frequently about the importance of mail during her wrongful detention.  This call to write to Paul was amplified by other celebrities like Ana Navarro-Cárdenas and Sean Hannity.  We cannot adequately express the deep gratitude we have for Ms. Griner and the others using their platforms to encourage this direct support of Paul.  But also we're thankful for the hundreds of Americans, most of whom couldn't possibly know Paul, but who wrote to support him anyway.  And to the State Department staff at the US Embassy who ensure it gets to Mordovia.

A letter means you are not forgotten.  It means you can be reminded of what life outside of incarceration is like as the world continues to change.  It is something you can re-read.  It is something you can write an answer to, giving you mental work and something to fill the time and something to hope for, a response. 

What caused the delay?  That's unclear.  It took some time for the mail to get to Mordovia, although I think it was there by the US Embassy visit in March, if not January.  Then it is censored by the prison and translated for the FSB (apparently by a local school teacher as the prison lacks legally-required translators).  Then it can be held for no reason other than bloodymindedness by the prison administration until they want to give it to Paul.  Seven months is a long time but not a surprising amount for a one-way communication.

If any of you are able to include the address to write to Paul (letters and cards only, no packages) now or in the future, it has changed a bit since December:

American Citizen Services/PNW
Consular Section
5430 Moscow Place
Department of State
Washington, DC 20521-5430

Keeping a stream of mail to Paul has been hard.  There is no email facility at his camp like there is at other Russian labor colonies, and the illegal invasion of Ukraine has complicated sending regular mail from the US to Mordovia directly.  Compassion fatigue is a real thing after 4.5 years [June 28, 2023].  We use his GoFundMe funds to ensure he has money to buy paper and envelopes and stamps to reply.  This has been a huge boost and hopefully will help tide him through the long wait ahead to be released.  I'm imagining in my head the looks of surprise on 305 people who get a letter back from Paul from Mordovia later this year or early next.