A letter from Alex Harris, detained in Russia for a peaceful protest

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Feature Story - 26 October, 2013
Alex Harris is one of the 'Arctic 30' detained in Russia for a peaceful protest against Arctic oil drilling. Originally from the UK, Alex has been living in Australia for the last three years and works in our Sydney office as a digital campaigner. She recently wrote to her boss, Communications Manager James Lorenz, explaining what life is like in solitary confinement in Murmansk.

Alexandra Harris

Alexandra Harris at the Murmansk District Court. © Dmitri Sharomov / Greenpeace

Thursday 10 October - Day 14

Dear James

I honestly believed I'd be out of prison by now. I'm slowly coming to terms with the prospect of spending two months here. But it's not knowing what will happen after that that I find really hard. I prayed for the first time in my life the other day. I prayed for freedom and courage.

I am definitely getting stronger. I try to keep myself 'busy' with little things like doing the laundry, sweeping the floor and doing exercises. I sound like Cinderella! I also write a lot. I listen to a lot of music as it helps to lift my spirits. My friend Camila [Speziale, 21 years old, Argentinean] is in the cell next door so we tap on the wall in beat with the music. We've just been tapping to 'everything's gonna be alright' in Bob Marley's no woman, no cry. I really hope it will be alright. As Ana Paula told me, 'you can't give up hope - it's the only thing we've got'.

I heard the Arctic sunrise mentioned on the radio the other day. It was in Russian so I couldn't understand it but it's great to know the world is talking about us. On a good day I get to see my lawyer and hear news of protests all over the world. You wouldn't believe the difference the news makes. It really makes me feel better and I thank every single person who has joined a protest or sent an email. If there's one good thing to come of this horrible situation it's just that - the world is talking about Arctic oil and I've played a role in that. That's why the 30 of us are here.

We're allowed to leave our cell and walk for one hour each day. We're locked in what can be described as an outdoor chicken pen. It's horrible. But yesterday I saw that someone had scratched 'Save the Arctic' into the wall. It made me laugh.

To get myself through the long days and nights I think of my family. I dream of the day I can run into their arms. I heard that my sister joined the protest in London and has been speaking on TV - that makes me so proud.

I also think of the other 29, who I now consider family, locked up here. I think back to the days when we were all together on the Arctic Sunrise, so proud and excited to be heading to the Arctic working on such an important campaign. Those days seem so long ago now. Even though I can't see them I know I'm not alone and that make me stronger.

When we were taken off the ship to be arrested we were escorted by the coast guard ship and then by a bus. It felt like a scene from the cold war. It was dark. The bus was old and smelt of metal - I could taste it in my mouth. We were driven through a series of derelict buildings. There were more guards than there were of us. I was scared. I told my friend Phil that I was worried that I wouldn't cope in a solitary cell not knowing what was going to happen. He told me I'd be fine. To always remember that there are a lot of people on the outside working very hard to release you. I have to constantly remind myself of that now.

Alex xxxxx