On the eve of Mother’s Day, a meeting devoted to the latest publication was held at the Sybir Memorial Museum: “Mother. Catalogue of the Photography. Collection of the Sybir Memorial Museum”. This volume introduces the images and the fate of mothers, who fought in exile to keep their children alive and healthy, and took care of their upbringing in Polishness.
— None of us needs reminding what role did a mother play in Siberia or Kazakhstan. After all, most families were deported without a father. When we were wondering what topic should be chosen, we had no doubts that the first catalogue of the collection should be dedicated to mothers — said the Director of the Museum, professor Wojciech Śleszyński.
The moderator of the meeting, Olga Gordiejew, emphasized the devotion of Siberian Mothers and referred to the statement of professor Elżbieta Smułkowa. “We children had their love and protection. In extremely difficult conditions, they had no one only their concern for us. First, their husbands, the rest of their family, their home and everything that was dear to them were taken from them. Finally, they were thrown with small children into completely foreign, remote, extremely difficult conditions. These conditions, thanks to our mothers, strenghtened us and allowed us to live an interesting, creative life after returning to Poland, with a sense of its objective value.
— Once, when looking through our collection, I came across two adjacent photographs signed with the same name, but at first glance it would seem that they depict two completely different women. The first one shows a beautiful, young, smiling lady, dressed in an elegant blouse with a white, embroidered collar, with slightly curled hair. And in the next photo — an old lady. It was actually the same woman. The photo was taken one year later. — said the author of the texts of the catalogue, Katarzyna Śliwowska — Head of the Collection Department — when asked about the reason why “Mother” was chosen to be the leading theme of the publication .
The photographs included in the publication are primarily related to the fate of mothers deported to the Soviet Union in 1940–1941. Not numerous, but also present in the catalogue, is a collection of photographs telling the stories of mothers forcibly displaced in the 1930s from the territories of the Soviet Republics of Belarus and Ukraine, as well as those who were repressed at the end of the war and in the 1950s. The photographs bear biographies. In many cases, they were enriched with the fragments of memoirs, correspondence and other archival materials from the resources of the Sybir Memorial Museum.
— Do you want to share your memories on the eve of Mother’s Day? — Olga Gordiejew addressed to the gathered guests. — “A child is just a child, he/she does not realize how serious the situation is. A child does not care, where she’d get food. That’s a sad truth. I only understood my mother when I became a mother myself. How much she had to go through, how much she had to devote her time, which, in fact, she should have spent on rest, on sleep. And now I wonder, where did this mother get strength from (…). Our mothers did everything and let’s praise them for that. — said Jolanta Hryniewicka, President of the Bialystok Branch of the Association of Siberian Deportees, with emotion. Then, she asked for a symbolic minute of silence to honor the deceased Siberian Mothers.
— Looking at this album, these photos, I am very moved, and at the same time I am very happy that I lived to see this day, when I can see in this photo, in this album, my family home (…), my beautiful mother, her wedding photo. It is very touching that all these mementoes will remain after us. — added Barbara Sokólska. Janina Rutkowska also took the floor — I thought I’d never live to see the day, when people would remember what our mothers went through, to whom we owe all this.
— The stories of individual women, put together, create the story of a mother, of her role in exile, of her fight, of her longing for her husband, for the country, it will stay with us forever — Katarzyna Śliwowska summed up the meeting. She also emphasized that this album would not have been created without people who have donated their memorabilia to the museum.
So many tears flowed down our faces that night… Conversations, during which the gathered guests remembered their mothers and grandmothers could be heared long after the event ended.
The publication “Mother. Catalogue of the Photography. Collection of the Sybir Memorial Museum” can be purchased stationary in the museum shop and on the website: www.sklep-sybir.pl
This is not the end of Mother’s Day celebrations at the Sybir Memorial Museum. We prepared a unique thematic path enabling you to visit the permanent exhibition in the footsteps of Siberian Mothers. We invite you for a special guided tour on Friday, May 26 at 2:45 p.m and on Saturday, May 27 at 5:45 p.m..
Tickets can be purchased at the Museum ticket office or on our website.