Skiing through Siberia. Krzysztof Suchowierski's story - Muzeum Pamięci Sybiru

15 December 2023

Skiing through Siberia. Krzysztof Suchowierski’s story

The luggage with energy food did not arrive. The equipment he took with him turned out to be inadequate. But he still managed to walk almost a half thousand kilometers along the bed of the frozen Kolyma River. What’s more — with an unplanned four-legged companion.

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Krzysztof Suchowierski, from Białystok, is a paramedic by education and profession, so he was aware of the need to properly prepare the body for a demanding expedition. — I did typical training for polar explorers, pulling large tires on the ground. I started preparations in 2015.

The winter for which he planned the expedition was announced in Białystok as the ‘winter of the century’. Unfortunately, the weather didn’t help much with training. — Only on the last day before departure it snowed and the thermometer showed -20 degrees. But I took the opportunity and went out to check out the skis.

After reaching Yakutsk via Moscow, it turned out that the Polish minus 20 was a warm breath of spring compared to the Yakutsk weather. — Temperatures reached -35, -40 degrees. But Yakutian children do not go to school until the temperature drops below -50 — said Suchowierski.

From Yakutsk, the traveler got to Chersky — this is where the lonely journey along the bed of the frozen Kolyma was to begin. He was still hoping that the airport in Yakutsk would receive information about a late shipment of food. Finally he decided he couldn’t wait any longer. — With the last money I had, I bought food, unfortunately — they were no longer specialized products. But I didn’t want to delay the march any further.

The locals warned that Krzysztof had inappropriate, too narrow skis. They said that the stove brought from Poland would not be practical. — Before the trip, my travelling friends said that my heavy tent would not work, that one with a tunnel structure would be better. But I had my vision and I stuck to it — Suchowierski honestly admitted. — Maybe I’ve watched too many survival films? — he joked.

Over time, it turned out that the advisors were right. The tent caught fire from the stove and the structure almost collapsed, and when you walk and camp in the middle of a 2.5-mile riverbed, going out into the woods for wood becomes a challenge. The traveler said goodbye to the stove.

Skis proved themselves as long as you could follow the trail made by snowmobiles. On the other hand, the sleeping bag, offering comfort down to -60 degrees, caught moisture from the body. ‘I was shivering all night’ — said the traveler. — But the mornings were the worst. You need strong will and endurance to unzip your sleeping bag and get out of it to prepare breakfast at -40 degrees.

If you ever bivouac in Siberia, remember to put your shoes under your sleeping mat at night. — Leather shoes become stiff and you have to work on them for quite a long time before you can put them on — explained Suchowierski. — Anyway, it’s better to use reindeer skin instead of a sleeping mat. It gives pleasant warmth — he added.

— I was learning all the time — said the wanderer. — Then people told me, for example, that you should go in the middle of the river because the wind blows the snow from there to the banks. The reindeer herders showed me their skis, very wide ones.

— With all my strength I reached the Kolyma Lowland — he admitted. ‘An American has come!’, one of the inhabitants of this small settlement called out when she saw him. One of the hunters warned the people of the Kolyma Lowlandthat a hiker pulling a sled with his belongings was coming towards them.

Krzysztof Suchowierski remembers his meetings with the inhabitants of Yakutia very well. He received a lot of support and hospitality. They shared food with him and tips on how to safely cross the next section of the route and where to find shelter. — The Siberian rescue services are very helpful. I’ve heard from other travelers that, for example, in Canada, a telephone conversation with rescuers starts with ‘please provide your credit card number.’ And they gave me the rest of their food and clean gasoline for the stove.

— The Yakuts respect Poles because of Polish researchers — emphasized the traveler, referring, among other things, to: Piekarski, Sieroszewski and Czerski.

The locals took the Pole to the river to check the nets in the ice holes and to the taiga to select prey from snares, and they talked about life in Siberia. — Alyosha spent his entire life in the taiga. He reassured me: ‘Don’t be afraid of the wolves, pour gasoline on the tent, they don’t like the smell.’ When we were choosing fish from the fishing net, he said the small ones, for dogs — Suchowierski told the audience surprised by the sight of large fishes in the photos.

— Alexei warned: ‘You shouldn’t be afraid of wolves, because they avoid humans, but crossbreeds of a dog and a wolf, they can attack.’ And he recalled a pack of dogs from the time when he had a harness and used to ride it often. Unfortunately, once when he had to go to Czerski, he left the dogs on chains in front of the house. A pack of wolves came and bit them to death. Alexei dreams that one day he will have dogs again… — said Suchowierski.

— Andrei the hunter said: ‘Taiga is my home, I wouldn’t exchange my job for any other’ and invited people to use his cottage, which was two days away.

A lonely journey through Siberia takes place in silence. — When you bring your breath into alignment, you can hear your own heartbeat — said Suchowierski.

In one of the settlements, Krzysztof was joined by a stray husky dog. — I gave him food and he started following me. Sometimes he was closer, sometimes he was even a kilometer away. But he always knew when it was time to stop for a meal, when I opened the food — and he was already by my side. Smart dog, he never begged for anything or took food greedily. He was waiting until I’d eaten — he continued the story.

The dog accompanied him for the rest of the journey. They spent the night together in Izbuszki, i.e. shelter huts, found along the route. — As the custom, such a shelter hut is always open, there are matches, a bed, and sometimes food. I used them often. I was warned about one of the huts. ‘Don’t spend the night there, it’s a haunted Izbushka,’ —Suchowierski reported.

— There is a cross next to it, the entire expedition died there because they did not properly prepare their sturgeon and got poisoned. People who stayed overnight there said they could hear noises, but there were no traces outside. Of course, I was going to avoid her. But as I passed by, I was so tired that I couldn’t resist. I didn’t sleep a wink, and at midnight the dog started getting restless and scratching at the door. It turned out that he wanted to go out, but why at midnight?! — the wanderer laughed.

On the way, twice, attracted by the smell of meat bait, the husky ran into the forest and fell into snares set by hunters. Suchowierski saved him with difficulty.

When they reached their destination, the wanderer wondered what to do with his travelling companion. — At first, for sentimental reasons, I wanted to take the dog, but what would he do in a block of flats in Białystok… Ultimately, I left him to Siberia. Especially when it turned out that we were traveling not in two, but… in seven. It was a female dog that was about to give birth. It was a smart dog, so I’m sure the puppies will cope in Siberia…

Krzysztof Suchowierski declares that the journey through Siberian spaces was a good lesson for him. And he will surely come back there.

Although the year is coming to an end, our series of meetings with travelers and creators with Siberia in the background goes on. On January 19 (note: exceptionally on Friday and at 5:00 p.m.) we invite you to a meeting with Bart Pałyga, who learned throat singing in Tuva. He will tell us about this unusual technique and the traditional music of those regions. Tickets are now on sale at the ticket office and on our website.


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