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'Siberia is indeed a land of superlatives: bigger than Europe and the US combined, with the biggest gas reserves in the world'

'Confusion, a lot of emotions inside. A bit of fear, concern and anticipation'

By The Siberian Times reporter
22 July 2012

This is how Stase Narkeviciute, 18, described a remarkable journey he and other young Lithuanians are making to Siberia this week.

City of Vilnius, where 'Team Siberia' started their journey to Khakassia from. Picture:The Siberian Times

They are following in the footsteps of their tragic forebears who were forcibly removed from their homeland and exiled here during the Stalin era. 

Travelling the 5000 km by train, they arrive this week in the  Republic of Khakassia where they will tend the graves of Lithuanians who perished in Siberia, said the Baltic News Service which reported their departure from Vilnius on 20 July. 

The group on the expedition will meet Lithuanian people who now live in Khakassia, descendants of those exiled around the years of the Second World War and in the period that followed. 

Known as Mission Siberia 2012, and organised by the Lithuanian Youth Council, this is the seventh such annual visit and ex-president  Vytautas Landsbergis saluted the group as they left.  

'Your determination, you activities are the best testimony and message to other young people that money is not everything in life, not everything is fun and career', he told them. 

The missions are described as 'an effort to encourage the interest of young people in the country's history, promote a dialogue between generations and mutual understanding'. 

Statistics cited by BNS say that 'over 130,000 Lithuanians were deported from their country in 1940-1953. The deportee lists included elderly and ill people, persons with disabilities, pregnant women, children and infants'. 

Some 28,000 people died during deportation, and another 23,000 were shot to death or died in Soviet camps, stated the news agency. 

The Baltic state's foreign minister Audronius Azubalis stressed the importance that Russian graveyards in Lithuania were properly tended, as well as Lithuanian burial sites in Russia. 

He thanked Russian diplomats for facilitating visas for the expedition and hoped 'an inter-state agreement on the upkeep of graveyards will be successfully finished'. A record 1,700 Lithuanians applied to go on the trip, it was revealed.  

The last Lithuanian expedition to this region of Siberia was two decades ago.  Since 2006, Mission Siberia says it has facilitated the upkeep of nearly 100 Lithuanian graveyards.

Comments (1)

Nice and decent presentation of the Mission. Yet one small mistake: Vytautas Landsbergis never was a president - only the Chairman of the Supreme Council of Lithuania - a still soviet political body which declared the independance. Thanlk you.
Rza, Vilnius, Lithuania
19/05/2014 17:09
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