As part of our training for the Peace at War project, we had the pleasure of having Misija Sibiras as one of our guests. Misija Sibiras was a project created by young people in Lithuania to recognize their country’s history. Many Lithuanians were deported to Siberia during World War II to work in the fields. Many of those Lithuanians died during the war, and their bodies could not be buried appropriately or watched over by their relatives. This suffering in Lithuanian history was written off and “forgotten” as a stain in the textbooks and the country’s memory. The Misija Sibiras project was born out of the need to remember this history, heal the wounds, and reconnect the younger generation with the history of their elders.
For 15 years, about eight young volunteers were selected for a 2-week expedition in Siberia, searching for graveyards to fix the area: cleaning them and building wooden crosses so that they could be recognized. Through this mission, the participants were able to reconnect with their history, honor their ancestors, and interact with the area’s current inhabitants. The missions ran for 15 years until the Russian government decided to stop issuing visas to its participants.
On June 14, 1941 NKVD officers of the KGB began to arrest Lithuanian citizens. In one week, about 18,000 citizens were moved to Siberia (which the Red Army had occupied a year before) for forced labour. And many others were imprisoned or killed.
Although the mission had no political purpose, as the missions progressed, the Lithuanian government began to support the project and even became involved in public events held by the participants. This politicization was positive for the extension of the project’s impact in Lithuania but led to the banning of the project by the Russian project.
Fortunately, after 15 years of work, the impact of the project has spread to a large part of the country:
- the participants who held workshops in schools after the missions shared their history with the younger ones,
- if history books barely had a page or two about this episode, the volunteers created a small book about what happened in Siberia and distributed it to the schools,
- they held several public events, including the reading of the dead during the June 14 Day of Mourning and Hope (anniversary of the beginning of Soviet mass deportations).
This project demonstrates the power of youth and the importance of reconnecting with history to connect between generations in search of a better future for the country.
More information about the project can be found in: