Monday, February 27, 2006

Members of the Kresy-Siberia group during their meeting in the London home of Jagna Wright. From left: Halina Szulakowska, Jagna Wright and Dianne Custonce. Photo by Elzbieta Gradosielska-Olsson

Translated from The Polish Daily of London, England

In the Footsetps of the Tragic Odyssey

LONDON 22-02-2006 -- The internet discussion group Kresy-Siberia has over 700 members world wide. Through this group, people who lived through the nightmare of deportation to Siberia make contact with each other. However, the majority of members of the group are children and even grandchildren of the “Sybiraks” who want to know and make known the truth of the events of those days.

Twenty four members of the group met recently at the home of Jagna Wright, the author of the film “A Forgotten Odyssey." This film played a direct part in the formation of the group. A review of the film in a Russian news paper was read by a “Sybirak” in Wroclaw who translated the article and put it on his own web site. Then, Stefan Wisniowski, the son of a “Sybirak” living in Australia, happened on this review on the aforementioned web site, after which he went about getting a cassette of the film.

Deeply moved by the subject, he decided with the help of the internet, to start a discussion on this tragedy that touched 1.7 million Poles, mainly from the Eastern Borderlands. This was at the end of 2001. From that moment, this discussion forum has been systematically expanding. For many of the participants in the group, a great psychological problem has been that their parents did not tell them about their terrible experiences. And even if some did speak, they were not always believed because their stories seemed too terrible to be true. Moreover, the stories were not authenticated by historians – says Jagna Wright.

A "conspiracy of silence" reigned over this subject, and in some measure still continues to influence it. This also applies to the West. In English language history books there is nothing at all about the deportations, and barely a mention about Katyn. This never was a comfortable subject, adds the author of the film. The history [of these events] has been filled with falsehoods and those wishing or daring to correct the falsehoods have simply been ignored. This complete lack of information on the subject has had disastrous results. The world pushes its own truths, for example accusing Poles of distrust of Russia "sucked" as it were with their mothers’ milk.

The members of our group wish to learn the historical facts firstly to acquaint themselves with tragic fate of their parents, and through this not only to understand them better, but to understand themselves better. Secondly, they wish to build and establish sound arguments through discussion and to convince the West of the truth.

During the meeting which was attended by members of the group from France, Sweden, as well as by Stefan Wisniowski, the production of a fictional film on the subject of the deportations was discussed, among other things. This film would touch on the subject of delicate problem of the behaviour of the allies with regard to the Polish situation. The idea has already been proposed to several directors. At the moment, the group is looking for £15,000 to pay for the screenplay.

The possibilities of creating a museum in Poland dedicated to the deportations and martyrology during the rule of Stalin are being contemplated. To this point in time, there is no such place.

The memory of approximately one million residents of the Eastern Borderlands (not only Poles but also among others, Ukrainians, Jews, and the citizens of the Baltic states and Chechnya) who came to their final rest in the earth of Siberia is surely worthy of such recognition.

In spite of the passage of so many years, much material, many documents and memoirs are accessible. Most important of all are the testimonies of eye witnesses which should be scrupulously recorded on film.

In the opinion of Jagna Wright, if an idea exists, with some enthusiasm and consequent effort to reach the goal, everything can be achieved having practically no resources. The quintessential example is the film “A Forgotten Odyssey” which she produced together with Aneta Naszynska.

This film recorded with an amateur video camera has found its way half way around the world. It has been or will be broadcast on 15 television stations in various countries such as the USA, Japan and Israel, and several times in Poland. Only the British BBC refuses to broadcast the film, finding one obstacle after the other.

In their spare time, and mostly without financial support, many of the members of the Kresy-Siberia group organize public viewings of “Odyssey” in their home cities. To this point in time, viewings have taken place in the largest cities in the USA, Canada and Australia. Others personally organize exhibitions about the deportations, Katyn and the army of General Anders or travel to schools with presentations.

During the meeting in London, the members of the Kresy-Siberia group presented ideas about expanding the internet pages that started the group and which a huge number of surfers of the net regularly visit. These pages are already rich in information and are very interesting. They include thematic studies and declarations, a gallery of unique pictures of pre WW II towns in the Eastern Borderlands and their residents, (provided by Tomasz Wisniewski, a journalist from Bialystok) and a “Memorial Wall” where all can have inscribed the names of loved ones who lived through the “Siberian hell” or died there.

The fact that around 70 percent of the members of the group are descendants of “Sybiraks” of the second and often the third generation clearly testifies that this chapter of history is still open with many “white spots” and even many pages of falsehoods. What is more, it will not be closed until it holds the whole truth and only the truth.

The internet pages and e-mail address of Kresy-Siberia: e-mail:

This article originally appeared in the Feb. 22, 2006, edition of The Polish Daily of London, England and was written by Robert MaƂolepszy. It was translated by Basia Charuba of Barrie, Ontario, a fellow member of the Kresy-Siberia newsgroup.

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