The Sybir Memorial Run has been organized for five years by the Sybir Memorial Museum and the Bialystok Biega Foundation. It is an initiative that combines amateur sport and commemoration of the victims of several centuries of Russian and then Soviet repressions against the citizens of the Republic of Poland. The run is supposed to remind about people experiencing everything that is included in the broad word “Sybir”: those sentenced to hard labor or sent to forced settlement deep into Tsarist Russia, and in the 20th century deported to the Soviet Union or sentenced to stay in a labor camp.
The Sybir Memorial Run is always held in February to remind about the first mass deportation carried out on February 10, 1940 in the eastern territories of the former Second Polish Republic occupied by the Soviets.
The event has already gained its own reputation among enthusiasts of moving in the fresh air, for whom it is an important point of the race season.
The Bialystok run took place on Saturday, February 11, 2023. It was planned (like in 2022) in the Solnicki Forest, but for reasons independent of the organizers, a few days before the competition it was necessary to change the location. The choice fell on the Turczyński Forest, which turned out to be an equally attractive area.
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 observed a minute’s silence in honour of Tadeusz Chwiedź, Sybirak who died on February 8, 2023, the long-time president of the Main Board of the Association of the Siberian Deportees and the president of the Bialystok Branch of the Association of the Siberian Deportees.
The Sybiraks present at the run did not hide their emotions: “It is a laudable initiative, commemorating all of us who were deported. It’s also a very interesting way of conveying information and preserving history” — said Jolanta Hryniewicka, on run day in the role of the secretary of the Bialystok Branch of the Association of the Siberian Deportees, today acting as the President of the Branch.
298 women and 581 men finished the race. The largest number of runners represented the age group 40-49 (301 people) and 30-39 (281 runners). 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).
As every year, the arrangements (with the use of light and sound) prepared by the employees of the Sybir Memorial Museum awaited the runners. In 2023, they were enriched with an artistic installation: in the middle of the forest, we presented the “Ślad Pamięciowy” project by professor Izabela Łapińska. The runners returning to the finish line stressed how impressed they were with the lighting and the images shown.
The Sybir Memorial Run in 2023 was special. For the first time in the history of this project, the stationary run was also held not only in Bialystok. The chosen city was Wroclaw, which after World War II became a shelter for thousands of former inhabitants of the eastern territories of the former Second Polish Republic, which Poland lost to the Soviet Union. Among them — many Sybiraks, who still create an actively working community there.
The Wroclaw event took place on February 18, 2023, as planned, in the Osobowicki Forest. The runners at the starting line were greeted by Sybiraks from Lower Silesia with Ryszard Jarosz, president of the Branch of the Association of the Siberian Deportees in Wroclaw, in the lead. Professor Izabela Łapińska, the author of the installation, which we also presented during the Wroclaw run. There was also Barbara Derbisz, a descendant of the Siberian Stammering family, who donated to the Sybir Memorial Museum the violin that has been passed down in the family from generation to generation. This instrument, accompanying those deported by the Soviets, returned with them to Poland and today is presented at the permanent exhibition of the Bialystok museum. It was this exhibit that presented the medal of the 5th Sybir Memorial Run.
90 women and 211 men finished the run in Wroclaw. As in the capital of Podlasie, the largest number of runners was aged 40-49 (107 people). Among men, Kamil Bukłaha (19:28), Grzegorz Duda (20:03) and Michał Gałka (21:06) were the fastest. Among the women, the best results achieved: Agnieszka Mroczek (25:07), Joanna Kanikuła-Kolany (25:11) and Monika Kiedrowicz (25:13), who were the firest ones to cross the finish line.
The virtual edition of the Run was introduced in 2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic to maintain the continuity of the event. However, this solution worked so well that we decided to continue virtual running as a way to include those who, for example, are unable to come to the stationary run.
What was surprising for us, museologists — and the co-organizers from the Bialystok Biega Foundation explained it to us — the virtual option is also used by those runners for whom 5 km… is not enough! “Remote” participation is combined with traveling a minimum of 5 km, the upper limit of the distance depends on the will of the participant.
Thanks to the nearly three-week virtual run, 428 people joined us this year! 40 of them ran outside Poland. The most people in Great Britain (16), New Zealand (9) and the United States (8). Starter packages were also delivered to Belgium, France, Germany, Belarus and Lithuania.
Many virtual competitors ran — at the time specified by the organizers — many times, adding kilometers to their result. Therefore, many true long-distance runners among runners. Aleksander Kajmowicz ran the biggest number of kilometers — 542 km in total! There were 36 runners who ran more than 100 km. As many as 233 people decided to run a run exceeding the appointed minimum limit, i.e. over 5 km.
In total, 1,608 runners ran in the entire 5th Sybir Memorial Run: 548 women and 1,060 men. 1,180 people took part in the stationary runs (389 women and 792 men), 428 in the virtual run (160 women and 268 men).
At the end, there must be information about how many kilometers the participants of the 5th Sybir Memorial Run ran. The virtual distance covered this year is 12,025 km — if you were to head from Bialystok deep into Russia, following in the footsteps of the deported, the participants of the virtual run would reach the town of Bakaleja located by the Angara River — a few dozen kilometers before its entrance to Lake Baikal.
The distance traveled as part of the entire 5th Sybir Memorial Run is 17,925 km. It’s enough to get from Bialystok to the eastern end of Eurasia!
The Sybir Memorial Run and the Bialystok Biega Foundation would like to thank everyone who took part in the Sybir Memorial Run — regardless of the distance and the time of covering it. In this initiative, every meter and every thought directed towards the victims of Siberia count.