During the four large-scale deportations organised in the 1940s, about tens of thousands of inhabitants of Białystok and its surroundings were deported to Siberia and Kazakhstan. Practically, every fifth inhabitant of Białystok “disappeared” from his or her apartment, house, courtyard, street or square… Almost every family was affected by the Soviet persecutions. Deportations and years of war caused gigantic losses in population, led to economic and cultural collapse of the city.
As inhabitants of Białystok living nowadays we feel obliged to commemorate the sacrifice of several thousands of Polish citizens deported to former north-east lands of the Second Republic of Poland and invoke the memory of people who experienced the fate in exile in previous centuries. We are convinced that this part of history is a significant element of our identity and, at the same time, opens the grounds of discourse with other nations. War and post-war deportations which significantly affected inhabitants of the Białystok region, through their scale and journalistic contribution, gained an international dimension.
Many deportees never came back to their houses. Part of the survivals settled in other regions of Poland, Europe or even the world. The Sybir Memorial Museum is a meeting place of people often very distant geographically but close through experience of exile – of their own or relatives. The place of this meeting is not accidental. Białystok, commonly called “the city at the crossroads of culture”, historically shaped by influence of different nations, their languages and religions, is an ideal meeting place as well as a place for dialogue of people and institutions not only from Poland but also from the whole world. Thanks to its location Białystok (as the easternmost voivodeship capital on the map of Poland) is also a kind of a “window to the East” for researchers, scientists, publicists and, above all, descendants of Siberian Deportees looking for information about deportations. The authorities of our city and Białystok community try to cherish this desire for truth and remembrance. Hence, Białystok aspirations to become the seat of the Sybir Memorial Museum.