Cyclists of all ages, but also rollerbladers and scooter users — of all ages, also with families — arrived on Saturday, August 26, at the square in front of the Dramatic Theater in Białystok. From 4:00 p.m., employees of the Sybir Memorial Museum, as well as a specialist in servicing bicycles, were waiting for them there — all with a view to safe shared travel.
For the previously registered participants, starter packs with a set of commemorative trinkets, including a reflector and a commemorative spoke, were waiting.
The Białystok Peloton was also visited by foreign guests — Arunas Bubnys, PhD, director of the Center for the Study of Genocide and Resistance Movement of Lithuanian Inhabitants, which runs the Museum of Occupations and Fights for Freedom in Vilnius, and one of the employees of the Museum of Occupations of Latvia in Riga. Both of these institutions operate together with the Sybir Memorial Museum as part of the “Common Memory” Museums’ Cooperation Network. Both also undertook to popularize the idea of the Memorial Peloton in their countries.
The guests were welcomed by the Director of the Sybir Memorial Museum, professor Wojciech Śleszyński, who emphasized the necessity of modernity in the form of recalling history. In this way, we can reach the world with a message important to the nations of Central Europe, affected by Soviet repression:
— “Faced with the war in Ukraine, our nations must speak with a common voice about the history of more than 80 years ago,” he stressed.
Arunas Bubnys, PhD, thanked for including his institution in the bicycle initiative and reported on the course of the Peloton in Vilnius. “We hope to attract even more participants next year.
The peloton set off at 5:00 p.m. The journey is planned for about 6 km, with several stops along the way. The first one took place at 26 Akademicka Street, in front of the house where the last pre-war president of Bialystok, Seweryn Nowakowski, lived.
The next stop on the route was today’s VI High School. During the Soviet occupation, a school for children of red dignitaries was located here.
Stretched for several hundred meters, the Peloton then drove through the largest intersection in the city — Piłsudskiego Avenue and Sienkiewicza Street — and along Włókiennicza Street reached the intersection of Poleska and Nowogródzka Streets. The last stop was between the blocks of flats in the place where Fabryczna Street ran before the war. In the last two places, unusual surprises awaited the participants of the Peloton — staged accounts of repressed people, whose houses once existed in these locations.
The ride ended at the Sybir Memorial Museum, where the cyclists were greeted by emotional Siberian girls. — We would like to thank all participants of the Peloton — said Jolanta Hryniewicka, president of the Białystok branch of the Association of Siberian Deportees. In her speech, she emphasized how important it is for Siberians that the inhabitants of Białystok remember people repressed by the Soviet occupier. Director of the Sybir Memorial Museum, professor Śleszyński, said: — They are the true heroes, the Siberians, they deserve great applause.
Approaching the Siberian women, the director of the Sybir Memorial Museum emphasized: — You have support in us, the employees of the Museum, but please look at how many inhabitants of Białystok are here. You are important to them, you rely on them.
Memorial Peloton ended with the lighting of a symbolic light at the monument dedicated to the Heroic Siberian Mothers. The candles were laid by Sybiraks and the representatives of museums co-organizing Peloton. Then the lanterns were lit by the participants of the Peloton.
We would like to thank all participants of this year’s Peloton. The next one is to have even greater momentum — more countries and cities are going to join the project.
For the favor and organizational support at the 2023 Memorial Peloton, we would like to thank Bialystok Waterworks, which provided a position with a saturator at the start site, PPTK — Regional Branch of PTTK in Białystok and VI High School — King Sigismund Augustus in Bialystok.