Over a thousand people ran through the streets of the Polish northeastern city of Białystok on Saturday to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the first mass Soviet deportations of Polish citizens to Siberia.
The 2nd Siberian Memorial Run comprised two rallies called respectively the Day Race and the Night Race. It was organised by the Sybir Memorial Museum in Białystok together with the city of Białystok and the Białystok Runs Foundation.
The day race route (2 km) connected two places related to the history that occurred 80 years ago, starting from the Branicki Palace in Bialystok. Wojciech Śleszyński, the director of the Sybir Memorial Museum recalled that this place was the regional “centre of political power at that time".
"Here, in the years 1939-41, the district committee of the communist party of Belarus was located and here political decisions were made on how to carry out the action,” he said.
The finish line by the Sybir Memorial Museum on Węglowa Street was also not chosen accidentally. Mr Śleszyński pointed out that next to the museum, which is located in one of the former military warehouses, there are railway tracks from where carriages transporting Polish citizens would depart to the east.
In the evening, the longer, 5 km race took place in the Pietrasze forest in Bialystok.
Wojciech Śleszyński stressed that since more and more people are involved in the run, the museum wants to “combine such activity with history in the most attractive way for them". On Sunday evening, 1,400 candles will be lit by the Siberian Memorial Museum as part of the Light of Remembrance campaign to commemorate 140,000 Poles deported to east Russia.
Although the Siberian Memorial Museum is to be officially opened on September 17, 2021, the facility is constantly conducting activities, including those in the fields of education, publicity and science.
The first mass deportation of Polish citizens to Siberia by the Soviets took place on the night of February 9-10, 1940, many residents of Białystok [then occupied by the Soviet Union] and the surrounding area were deported. The city authorities highlighted the fact that at that time, "every fifth" resident of the city and the surrounding area was transported "to inhumane land," and almost every family was affected by the Soviet persecution.