In this episode of The Debrief, we are in the newly opened Sybir Memorial Museum in the city of Białystok, which aims to highlight centuries of Russian and Soviet deportations to Siberia.
Opening to coincide with the anniversary of Stalin’s invasion of Poland on 17 September, 1939, the Sybir Memorial Museum is the largest and most important institution dealing with deportations to Russia and later the Soviet Union.
VIDEO: Entitled ‘Forgotten Force: Art and Memory’ the collages, sketches and paintings are a poignant artistic interpretation of an oral history project completed earlier this year by the Piłsudski Institute in which six Polish women recalled their wartime memories and their later lives as refugees.
Dressed in baggy clothes, his cap set at a rakish angle, the photograph depicts the grinning 15-year-old with his hands plunged deep in his pockets. To his side, his mother gently smiles to the camera whilst uniformed men mingle in the background. Behind, a flat-capped onlooker stares deeply at the mother and son, adding a haunting poignance to the scene.
The settlement near the city of Tomsk was established in 1896 by Poles from the areas of Grodno, Vilnius and Siedlce who decided to name their new village ‘Białystok’, hoping to emulate the prosperity experienced by its dynamically developing Polish namesake.
Entitled ‘Fajna Ferajna w Indiach’ (Brave Bunch in India) and based on a true story, the film which premieres at Kraków Film Festival today follows the fate of 1,000 children deported to Siberia in 1940 and their eventual rescue after a surprising intervention from India.
Chronicling the extraordinary story of the nearly 900 Polish orphans rescued from Siberia, the documentary tells of how they were taken to Japan, nursed back to health and ultimately safely returned to Poland via America, the Suez Canal or Russia between 1920-1922.
Forecasters warn that the Siberian weather system will arrive in Poland on the 18th January, causing a record drop in temperature, the likes of which have not been seen since the year 2000.
A Warsaw-based cyclist has just completed a 400-kilometre journey in four days through the wilds of Siberia despite temperatures as low as -60°C.
To mark the 80th anniversary of Soviet deportations of Poles from occupied territories, newly released testimonies make harrowing reading.