Over 800 people ran in the 5th Sybir Memorial Run, which took place on Saturday, February 11, 2023 in Bialystok. The night 5 km run recalls the victims of the Soviet deportations that began on February 10, 1940.
Despite the unfavorable weather — cold and drizzle — over 800 runners showed up at the start line in the Turczyński Forest in Bialystok wanting to commemorate the victims of the Soviet repressions, and many of them also wanted to start the running season.
Opening the Run, the Director of the Sybir Memorial Museum, professor Wojciech Śleszyński drew attention to the date: “It is February 11th. On this day, 83 years ago, the trains were already on their way to East…”.
Just before the start, the participants of the event honored Tadeusz Chwiedź, a Sybirak who died on February 8, 2023, the long-time president of the Main Board of the Association of Siberian Deportees and the president of the Bialystok Branch of the Association of Siberian Deportees with a minute of silence. A moment later, the first group of runners took off. In the forest, the arrangements prepared by the Sybir Memorial Museum and the artistic installation “Ślad Pamięciowy (“Memory Trace”) by professor Izabela Łapińska were waiting for them on the 5 kilometers long route. The runners returning to the finish line emphasized how impressive were the lighting and projected images. “I felt a chill, an amazing experience” — recalled Marcin after the run.
Numerous runners decided to dedicate their effort to the memory of a specific person or family. At the time of application, they could choose a Sybirak from the list proposed by the Sybir Memorial Museum or enter a person they know who experienced the drama of deportation. “I will run for my great-great-grandfather, who died in the Komi Republic. This is my first Sybir Memorial Run. It’s my first run ever!” — said Mr. Zbigniew before the start. “I am a deputy head of a school named after Sybiraks, I will run to honor the memory of the recently passed Tadeusz Chwiedź” — explained Mrs. Ewa. Mr. Adrian ran for the Rzędzian family: “My coworker told me to do it, it was his grandfather’s family. This is my third run, first time stationary.” “I was running for my grandmother, Krystyna,” — said Mrs. Maja, already receiving the medal.
The Sybir Memorial Run, as every year, connected generations. Together they ran, among others, Piotrek, for whom it was the first run in his life, and his dad: “This is the first event of my son that he could qualify for.” “I was preparing for two months,” — admitted one of the youngest participants of the event. His younger brother, who came to support his dad and brother, assured: “Someday, I will run too”.
The Sybiraks present at the run did not hide their emotions: “It is a glorious initiative, commemorating all of us who were deported. And it is a very interesting method of conveying information and preserving the history,” — admits Jolanta Hryniewicka, secretary of the Bialystok Branch of the Association of Siberian Deportees.
The race was completed by 268 women and 549 men. The best results among men were achieved by Andrzej Leończuk (17:50), Marek Olszyński (18:01) and Pavel Kulesh (18:20). Among the women, the fastest to the finish line were: Volha Kolb (21:40), Agnieszka Oksztul (22:56) and Joanna Cieśluk-Rusiłowicz (23:28).
The 5th Sybir Memorial Run, an event organized by the Sybir Memorial Museum and the Bialystok Biega Foundation, does not stop at the Bialystok event. On Saturday, February 18, 2023 — the Wroclaw edition of the run will take place in the Osobowicki Forest in exactly one week . This is the first event outside Bialystok. At the same time, from February 11 to February 28, a virtual run takes place and thanks to it everyone interested in taking part in the 5th Sybir Memorial Run can take part in it, regardless of where they live and their physical condition — all they have to do is submit their participation no later than February 28 and run or walk the distance at least five kilometers. Previous editions of the virtual run gathered runners from all over the world.
Participants of all editions of the run receive a commemorative medal. This year it shows the violin of the Jąkała family. This instrument was taken by the deportees from their family home, accompanying the family in distress and happily returned to Poland with its owners. Today it is one of the exhibits at the permanent exhibition of the Sybir Memorial Museum.