Mission Accomplished, but Not Forgotten
More than 170 Lithuanian burial sites in Siberia, Kazachstan, Tadjikistan and other former Soviet republics were visited during 18 expeditions organized since the launch of the Mission Siberia project in 2006, involving over 200 organizers and a total of 14,000 young Lithuanians.
The project invited Lithuanian students to join the expeditions and then share their experiences with friends and other Lithuanians at home and abroad. In this way, with the help of the organizers, high school and university students were able to participate in preserving history and promoting civic awareness.
In 2019, however, the mission was denied visas to Russia and the participants departed to visit the sites of forced-labour camps Kazakhstan instead. In 2020, the mission was cancelled due to the pandemic. And now, the 15-year-old Mission Siberia project has announced it will end its activities.
“Amid the continuous complicated epidemiological situation worldwide and fading prospects of improvement in the Lithuanian-Russia bilateral relations, the Mission Siberia project has made a painful but unavoidable decision,” said Vygaudas Ušackas, one of the project’s initiators and president of its advisory council. The Mission Siberia team’s initial goal has been achieved, as a new generation of Lithuanians has been nurtured to see the deportations not only as a sad and painful time, but also as a historical period to understand and value.
“We remain a strong value-based community of hundreds of young and active people. Mission Siberia will live in Lithuania as long as we promote historical justice, are proud of ‘undefeated Lithuania’ and raise the younger generation based on the values of love and patriotism,” Ušackas said.
The project finale is planned on June 14 when Lithuania marks the Day of Mourning and Hope, the annual commemoration of the deportations, and was the day the project was launched 15 years ago. The day traditionally includes the annual campaign “Say, Hear, Remember”, when the names of deportees and political prisoners are read out. This year marks the 80th anniversary of mass arrests and deportations to Siberia, which started in Lithuania on June 14, 1941 and lasted until 1953. At least 275,000 people from Lithuania were sent to forced-labour camps or deported during the Soviet occupation.
Project leader Aistė Eidukaitytė noted that over the past 15 years, thousands of meetings were organized to educate schoolchildren, high school students, communities, together with dozens of exhibitions, hikes and memorial-tending tasks in Lithuania. “We have also produced 15 documentaries and issued a photo book. The success of all those activities has been strongly dependent on those exhibitions and the emotions and stories participants have brought back from Siberia and other deportation sites”.
With information from LRT.lt and Mission Siberia
Photos from Mission Siberia
Photos: Mission Siberia