The 6th Sybir Memorial Run in Białystok is behind us. Thank you! - Muzeum Pamięci Sybiru

10 February 2024

The 6th Sybir Memorial Run in Białystok is behind us. Thank you!

It was the record-breaking Sybir Memorial Run in Białystok. There were 970 names on the starting list! The runners ran 5 km through the Turczyński Forest, experiencing extraordinary impressions along the way — including sound.

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This year, the day of the race in Białystok took place on February 10, i.e. on the 84th anniversary of the first mass Soviet deportation of Polish citizens from the areas occupied by the Soviet Union after September 17, 1939.

In 1940-41, four major deportation operations were carried out, during which at least 330,000 Polish citizens were deported to Siberia and Kazakhstan. However, it was the first deportation in February that was particularly memorable for the Sybiraks and their descendants — it was associated with the greatest surprise and nightmare of a multi-day (sometimes several weeks) journey in freight wagons in difficult winter conditions.

Every year, the Sybir Memorial Museum prepares a rich program of celebrations on February 10, and the Sybir Memorial Run attracts the greatest number of interested people.

After six years, the event combining amateur sport and commemorating all those who ended up in Siberia already has a reputation in the running community. For many, it is a mandatory beginning of the season.

For the second time, the Sybir Memorial Run took place in the Turczyński Forest on the border of Białystok and Kleosin. There was winter weather, the temperature was 0 degrees in the evening. In the clearing at the starting line, mud mixed with ice, and the forest was covered with a thin layer of snow. Despite these conditions, there were plenty of runners in sleeveless shirts.

As every year, many runners decided to dedicate their efforts to specific Sybiraks. Some people used the list of names prepared by the Sybir Memorial Museum, others indicated people they knew from their family or friends. Their names and surnames were included in the participants’ starting numbers.

Mr. Patryk wanted to commemorate the Niwiński family: — I read the biographies and decided that I would run for this family.

— The Lipiński family… the Majewski family, the Tyszkiewicz family… everyone has somebody else — said students of the Primary School No. 4 named after Sybiraks in Białystok accompanied by a physical education teacher.

One of the runners put Francesca Michalska’s personal details on his starting number: — She’s a doctor from my town, from Siemiatycze. Unfortunately, she has passed, she was a wonderful woman. Doctor, humanist. As far as I know, she was a pediatrician and she took care of children, as long as she could — he told us.

Before the start, there was a lot of noise in the clearing near the forest, volunteers were already preparing hot tea and soup for those who would finish the run. Runners lined up slowly at the starting line. Some of them were accompanied by dogs. Fans were positioned near the barriers, preparing their phones to record their loved ones and friends.

At 6:00 p.m., the participants of the 6th Sybir Memorial Run were first welcomed by the Deputy Mayor of Białystok, Rafał Rudnicki:

— Thank you for the effort and organizational effort put in by the Białystok Biega Foundation. This is a unique event that takes place in our city thanks to cooperation with the Sybir Memorial Museum. The memory of the past can be shown in various ways, not only in the museum building, not only through the testimonies of people who are here with us, i.e. Sybiraks, but also through this event. Such a large participation of young people shows that it is a great way to reach them with history and at the same time to move a little.

The host of the event, giving the floor to the Director of the Sybir Memorial Museum, Professor Wojciech Śleszyński, reminded about the prestigious award received by the institution:

— You are running with the best museum in Europe — said Professor Śleszyński. — We received the Council of Europe Museum Award. We worked for it together. All thanks to Sybiraks, the team, politicians — here I would like to mention Mr Krzysztof Truskolaski. But today the most important thing is you. Have a safe run! — he finished.

On behalf of all the Sybiraks, the President of the Białystok Branch of the Association of Siberian Deportees, Jolanta Hryniewicka, welcomed the audience:

— I would like to thank all participants for honoring in a dignified manner today all those who remained in the inhuman land, those who died after returning and those who are still alive today. Thank you very much for this great run. Have a great run and victory!

The president of the Białystok Biega Foundation, Grzegorz Kuczyński, emphasized: — Thank you for creating a record-breaking edition with us. This year, a record number of competitors registered, 970 people. Great respect and thanks. Be careful after the start, the road is slippery! — he warned runners jogging in front of the starting line.

A moment later, ‘Strange is this world’ (“Dziwny jest ten świat”) sung by Czesław Niemen rang out from the loudspeakers, and torches were lit just behind the starting line.

— Three… two… one… go! — the first group of athletes who declared a short period of time to cover a distance of 5 km begun to run. It only took fifteen minutes starting place to be empty and the forest to be illuminated by the headlamps of runners.

The first runner at the finish line appeared after just a few minutes, but there were also those who took full advantage of the allowed time limit, i.e. one hour. However, this is not the most important thing when it comes to the Sybir Memorial Run — what counts the most is participation, the desire to commemorate the people of Siberia, not only the ‘time’ achieved.

At the finish line, each participant received a medal — this year’s one shows Renia Jackowska’s teddy bear. She was only seven years old when she was deported to Siberia. Today, the toy is one of the exhibits at the permanent exhibition of the Sybir Memorial Museum.

Interested people could have their personal details, information about the person to whom they dedicated the race or the result they achieved engraved on the medal.

Hot tea and soup were served for everyone. A crowd of smiling runners milled around the podium wall — everyone wanted to take a photo with the medal around their neck.

Before the awards ceremony, the Academic Choir of the University of Białystok sang for everyone performing a song inspired by ‘the Mother of God’ (“Bogurodzica”). This is not the only musical accent of this year’s event. Three choirs performed on the route in total. The Choir of Foresters of the Białowieża Forest and the 29th Scout Team and the Cub Scout Pack ‘Pomarańczarnia’ also performed. All groups performed songs which — as we know from preserved Siberian accounts — deportees sang on their way to Siberia to hearten themselves up. The ‘Anthem of Poles from Siberia’ was also sung.

— Choirs — great! It was such a boost of energy for the runners — said one of the runners after crossing the finish line.

The competitors who achieved the best results were traditionally honored by being invited to the podium. Commemorative ‘diplomas’ made of a tree slice were presented by Sybiraks and the Director of the Sybir Memorial Museum and the President of the Białystok Biega Foundation.

Among men, the best result was achieved by Yaravy Baryslau from Belarus — he crossed the finish line in 17:10. The fastest woman was Patrycja Marcińczuk with the result of 21:57. Full results can be found on the Sybir Memorial Run website.

We would like to thank everyone involved in the organization of the 6th Sybir Memorial Run, and above all — runners.

Remember that there is still the second run (in Wrocław) ahead of us (on Saturday, February 17, in the Osobowice Forest).

We encourage everyone who would like to join this joint effort and commemorate the people of Siberia to take part in the virtual edition of the run, which started on February 10 and will last until the end of the month.

No matter what your fitness level is and what part of the world you live in, you can walk or run a minimum distance of 5 km to complete the 6th Sybir Memorial Run and receive a commemorative medal. You can join even on the last day!

Registration on the website

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