Dedicated to the 70th anniversary of the Soviet deportation of Lithuanians to Siberia, Hope & Spirit, a series of ongoing exhibitions and programs, will be presented by the Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture between June 18 and January, 2012. From 1940 to 1953, more than 132,000 Lithuanians were deported to remote areas of the USSR including Siberia, the Arctic Circle zone and Central Asia. More than 70 percent of the deportees were women and children. By the end of the deportations, some 30,000 Lithuanians had died as a result of slave work and starvation. Another 50,000 never returned to Lithuania. During this same period, another 200,000 people were thrown into prisons. More than 150,000 were sent to Gulags, the name for USSR concentration camps, situated mostly in Siberia.
The first mass deportation began the night of June 14, 1941. Thousands of unsuspecting people were awakened from their sleep and ordered to leave their homes immediately. Most failed to take anything with them. Crammed into cattle cars, women, the elderly and children were sent to remote villages were they were required to do hard labor; the heads of families were sent to prisons and camps. In that first week, more than 18,000 Lithuanian people were deported. The number would have been even greater had not the war between Germany and Russia started on June 22. Deportations resumed after the end of World War II, when Lithuania was occupied by the Soviet Union.
Starting June 18, 2011 and in the succeeding months, please join us at the various Hope & Spirit exhibits, lectures, film viewings and book discussions as we commemorate this tragic chapter in Lithuania's history and remember its innocent victims: the hundreds of thousands of Lithuanians and the millions of people from all Soviet-occupied nations--of all ages, religions, nationalities and races--who suffered persecution once, through forced exile, imprisonment, torture and genocide, and again, through the denial, minimization and suppression of their victimization and suffering. To all of these victims, the Hope & Spirit series is dedicated.