KITTY Green's "wild and crazy ride" in eastern Europe was sparked somewhat innocuously on a Melbourne train in 2010.
It was there that the independent Melbourne filmmaker saw a newspaper photo of Ukrainian social activists Femen — feminist protesters who strip to the waist while demonstrating over various causes.
"They were half-naked and they were holding these signs saying, 'Ukraine is not a brothel', and I just thought that was bizarre — a strange way to protest against sex tourism."
As things turned out, documenting their antics would result in the 27-year-old's arrest last month by the Belarus KGB.
The Femen members she had gone there to film had a dramatic story of their own, alleging they were abducted, beaten, stripped and doused in petrol as their captors threatened to burn them in a snow-covered forest.
Green first met Femen after travelling to Ukraine in 2010. She spent six weeks with the group, filming several demonstrations a week, before returning to Australia later that year.
"They're very fun to shoot — they scream, they hang on to the police car, they hold on to each other, and it's always really difficult for the police to disband them and force them into a car. They're released pretty quickly in Ukraine, usually after a few hours.
"I'm always waiting for them to get arrested, getting the good arrest shot. But in Belarus, instead of them getting arrested, [the authorities] arrested us."
She had returned to the Ukraine capital, Kyiv, last July to make a documentary about Femen. Several weeks ago, three of its members decided to visit Belarus to mark the first anniversary of President Alexander Lukashenko's brutal crackdown on opposition supporters after the 2010 election.
Green travelled to Belarus and arrived at the KGB headquarters in Minsk at 11am on December 19. Officially known as the State Security Agency of the Republic of Belarus, it is the only intelligence agency to keep the Russian name KGB following the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
"Femen arrived . . . in a taxi, stripped off their tops, pulled out their placards and started the protest. There were about six other media there. I was filming the protest . . . then I noticed a few journalists walked away. They left, and I thought, that's funny, the protest hasn't finished.
"Suddenly out of the building came this man. He started running, and I thought . . . he's going to arrest them, I can shoot it. But instead of running towards the protest he started running towards the journalists and started bundling them up, and me with them, and sort of dragging us off to the side.
"The girls managed to run off into the distance and I got dragged by the arm into this room, in the back of the KGB building . . . I was very shocked by the whole thing, I couldn't think properly."
She was held with two Belarusian journalists. "I asked to call the embassy and they took my phone and said, 'How are you going to call the embassy?' "
The KGB officers also took the group's cameras and memory cards, from which they deleted footage. They then drove Green and the two journalists to a building on the outskirts of Minsk.
Despite Green's repeated requests, it took six hours for a translator to arrive. He told her the KGB officers wanted her to sign a statement detailing what had happened. Because it was not written in English, she could not read it. Green said she asked for the statement in English but they refused. She eventually signed what they gave her and the officers returned her phone and let her speak to the Australian embassy in Moscow.
"They just said, 'Are you OK?' I said, 'I guess I'm OK,' and they said, 'Call me back if anything happens.' It didn't sound like [they] wanted to hear any of the details. I thought, 'Oh gosh, is this all I get?' I was a bit scared by that; they didn't really offer up any more . . . I sort of felt a bit on my own at that point."
Before her arrest, Green had booked a ticket for a 7pm train to Vilnius in neighbouring Lithuania. "All day I kept saying, 'I want to get my train to Lithuania.' I think they wanted me on that train, and if I'm out of their hair that's good for them. It wasn't that the Australian embassy intervened."
Just as she thought she would finally be able to leave, her experience became even more frightening. The translator offered to take her to the train station, but the KGB officers refused.
"They said I had to go with the men. I didn't want to go with the men. I thought, I don't know what their intentions are. I was petrified at that point."