SYBIRAK Cycle is an 8,000 km cycling & railway expedition following the path of Polish citizens deported to labour camps across Siberia and Kazakhstan, and their journey to freedom. Our goal is to explore the geography, culture and history along the way using bicycles as vehicles for adventure, research and advocacy.
‘Sybirak’- A person imprisoned or exiled to Siberia, including those Polish citizens specifically sent to Siberia, Arctic Russia and Kazakhstan in the 1940s. The expedition in 2015 marks the 75th anniversary of the mass deportations of 1940, and is inspired and dedicated to their journey.
1. To explore the path of deported Polish citizens through the taiga, tundra, mountains, steppes and deserts and visit historically significant sites along the way.
2. To investigate the communities and people along the route and share in their cultural richness and perspectives.
3. To share our explorations through writing, photography, website and film, and raise awareness about a little
known chapter in history.
4. To acknowledge and help those who assisted the exiles by giving back to charity in two of the countries the
exiles escaped to - Iran and Africa.
May 5, 2015 until November, 2015.
Pre-expedition: Research, preparation, and training. Interviews with survivors of the deportation and journey to freedom with documentation through film and mapping.
Expedition: Self-propelled exploration and documentation of landscapes, cultures and communities along the route.
We will start in Warsaw, Poland and cycle through Belarus to northern Russia (Kotlas area), crossing the Ural Mountains, and then continue through Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan (Tashkent) to Turkmenistan (Turkmenbashi-Krasnovodsk) where we cross the Caspian Sea to Iran and finish in Tehran.
Team Leader: Ewa Dembek - Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada (Mother’s family was deported on Feb. 10, 1940 to Kubalo (Kotlas region), Oblast Archangelsk.
Photojournalist/ Filmaker: Lee Carruthers - Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada
Post-expedition: We will utilize action footage from our expedition, interspersed with interviews, audio and photos to create a quality High Definition (HD) documentary telling the story of our journey along the historic route of the Sybiracy.
In 1940, after Russia invaded Poland, Stalin deported an estimated 1.5 to 2 million Poles to slave labour camps in Siberia and Kazakhstan. Under gunpoint, entire families were hurried to waiting trains, crammed into cattle trucks and deported as disposable labour into the depths of Stalin’s Russia.
When the Nazis attacked the Soviet Union in 1941, Stalin agreed to release the deportees to help with the Allied fight against Hitler. By then, many had already died from starvation, disease, and the rigid demands of labour in harsh climates. Once released, many more died on their long journey south from the arctic labour camps, enduring severe malnutrition and disease on their way to their freedom in Persia (Iran).