Summary of the exhibition - Polish researchers of Siberia. From exile to the heights of science

Yakuts like Poles ... - this is how the story about Poles in Siberia began at the meeting with Paulina Kopestyńska, a painter of the Yakutian origin and the author of the pictures on the exhibition "From the deportation to the heights of science. Polish explorers of Siberia", which Białystok citizens and tourists could see from 19 May to 18 June 2018 at the Kościuszko Square.

Paulina Kopestyńska from the earliest age was interested in the traces of Polish exiles in Yakutia, where the memory of Polish researchers - exiles like Wacław Sieroszewski, Edward Piekarski or Sergiusz Jastrzębski is alive. The result of these interests became a series of 15 portraits with busts of Bronisław Piłsudski, Aleksander Czekanowski, Jan Czerski, Benedykt Nałęcz-Dybowski, Ewa Felińska, Wiktor Godlewski, Sergiusz Jastrzębski, Józef Kalinowski (later St. Brother Rafał), Józef Kowalewski, Edward Piekarski, Wacław Sieroszewski, Julian Talko-Hryncewicz, Mikołaj Witaszewski and Leon Barszczewski.

Most of the heroes portrayed by Kopestinska are connected with the fact that they were sent to far-off Siberia for independence activities, and their talent and determination allowed them to take actions that brought them fame and recognition in the world. Among them are naturalists, geographers, ethnographers, archaeologists, geologists, discoverers, linguists and even lexicographers. Many of them, however, are still better known in the faraway Siberia and the world than in their home country.

The Sybir Memorial Museum through an exhibition devoted to Polish discoverers, wanted to change this state and restore the memory of such researchers as Wiktor Godlewski, who came from the small nobility of the borderlands of Podlasie and Mazowsze (Boguty Pianki), who was sent to the Transbaikal for participating in the January Uprising. During his exile, he made friends with Benedykt Dybowski, and led him to study the fauna and flora of Siberia, and especially Baikal. He measured the depth of the lake, and although he had only a self-constructed measuring apparatus, he was only mistaken about a dozen meters. People of Bogut remember about Godlewski, where the Medal of W. Godlewski for special achievements in nature and contribution to nature protection.


Godlewski is unknown to wider public opinion. The exhibition was also part of the anniversary of the death of Bronisław Piłsudski, the elder brother of Marshall Piłsudski, who received his first monument in Poland this year, although his achievements in describing the disappearing Ainu folk are known and appreciated, and in Japan the researcher has his place even in school textbooks. Portrait of Piłsudski dominated among the portraits we presented - beautifully highlighted, took the stand next to the monument of Józef Piłsudski. Popularization of Bronisław's silhouette among children and youth was also supported by the action of pouring large-format portraits of both brothers with colored sand. This happening accompanied the opening of the exhibition and showed that discovering the story can be combined with good fun. 

An illustration of the fate of Bronisław Piłsudski and his research legacy was also guided by a meeting with Jacek Wan, the director of the documentary "Eagle and Chrysanthemum", as well as a screening of the film. This expert on Eastern culture reached the Ainu grandson of Bronisław Piłsudski, who in the eighties of the twentieth century learned that he has such a famous ancestor. Wan's film is an extraordinary document showing how Kazuyasu Kimura struggles with the family's past, and learns about his Polish grandfather, visiting Piłsudski's whereabouts in Japan, in Sakhalin and following the traces of his activity.

The meeting with the author of Polish researchers’ portraits has become a special complement to the exhibition "From the exile to the heights of science". The painter spoke with passion about the Yakut culture, customs, shamanism and climate of the Sacha Country. Dressed in a traditional Yakutian costume, she charmed the guests, convinced everyone that the Poles and Yakuts have common heritage and common heroes. In this spirit, the exhibition ending the meeting with Kopestynska was also maintained. The artist was a guide who passionately explained the story behind the creation of portraits and the selection of painted figures.

To commemorate the meeting, Paulina Kopestyńska gave the Director of the Sybir Memorial Museum with a tag symbolizing the gesture of kindness and cordiality. The key ring shows a figure holding a “czoron” in front of it - a ritual dish used to drink a koumiss, horse milk, which according to the Yakut beliefs provides immortality. The symbolism of this key ring bodes well for the idea of restoring the memory of Poles in Siberia. Common actions, passion and determination in overcoming difficulties will certainly help in reaching the knowledge and completing the missing elements.

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