the journey

29 June 1940, Rawa Ruska
... as a result of an NKVD order I found myself on a train from Rawa-Ruska - The Unknown.

photo - July 2013
1 Juky 1940, Lwów
In Lwów and Krasny I can see Staliniec tractors loaded on railway wagons. For agriculture? For the military?

photo - July 2013
4 July 1940, Kijów
Kijów [tr. Kiev] – and crossing the Dnieper. Difficult to get water, yesterday they gave us half a loaf of black bread.

photograph - July 2013
5 July 1940, Kharkhiv
Before evening, we passed Charków [tr. Kharkiv], a row going on in the next wagon.

Photograph - July 2013
7 July 1940, Bałaszow
The steppes, and squalid cottages. Rubbish by the tracks. Houses with no fences or trees, the people in rags.

Photograph - July 2013
8 July 1940, Kuznetsk
Lice, lice, lice, all the time lice. Everybody’s scratching. Impossible to wash. In the wagon packed person to person - 73 of us.

Photograph: 2013
9 July 1940, River Volga
It rained at night, we knew nothing. All asleep. We are going east. We got nothing to eat or drink. We have passed a great river. I'm not sure what it is. It is flowing south.

Photograph: July 2013
10 July 1940, Bashkiristan
We are quite high now, after passing a few stations. Red clay, meadows and wretched birch woods, no fruit trees near the houses and shacks. It's evident that these are cattle farmers - except there are no cattle.

Photograph - July 2013
12 July 1940, Chelyabinsk
No people could be seen in the villages. Only women were working in the fields.

Photograph: July 2013
11 July 1940, Zlatoust
A large settlement. A factory by the river Ay. Houses scattered throughout the hills. No fruit trees. Forests of pine and birch. A mountainous region with mountain rivers. People were fishing with a net.

Photograph: July 2013
Bijsk, 16 July 1940
We are standing at the station, still locked up. It is now the eighteenth day of our mobile imprisonment. We are endlessly halted, not given food or drink. The children are squealing with hunger and thirst.

Photograph: July 2013
19 July 1940, River Cumysz
It is difficult to describe yesterday's journey. Uncomfortable, yes, but magnificent, with obstacles. We crossed the river Cumysz. We are sleeping in some kolkhoz, Janek is in the office.

Photograph: July 2013
20 July 1940, Udińsk
It's almost a trackless waste. In the afternoon we arrived at some settlement by a river without a name. We were quartered in the forestry office, and then thrown out in the evening, as the space was needed for women and children.

Photograph: July 2013

July 2013: retracing the journey

In July 2013 Adrian Palka, Wolfram Spyra and Roksana Vykaluk travelled six days by train following the footsteps of the diary from Lwow to Bijsk in the Altai region of Siberia. They gathered impressions and audio-visual materials for their artistic and educational projects and made performance interventions on the way.

map of the journey, July 2013

The gulf between the two journeys was insuperable. For Palka, simply to see the places and landscapes his father and grandfather went through was a powerful enough connection. Nevertheless, part of the mission for him, with Spyra and Vykaluk, was to process these impressions artistically. They therefore explored creative ways of making a connection with their experiences through live readings from the diaries and live projections as they traveled.

After eighteen days on the prison train in 1940, Zygmunt and Jan had arrived in Bijsk after a journey of over 5000 kilometres with little food or water, plagued by lice, 70 people to a truck. The journey to Bijsk in 2013 took six days in relative comfort. Following the route of the Trans-Siberian railway, however, it passed through many of the places and landscapes mentioned in the diary.

The 2013 journey simply followed the directions in the diary beyond Bijsk by road until it ended, in a small village, Novoloshino. There Palka and his companions made contact with the local people who, moved by their story, helped them on their mission. The final leg of the journey was simply to enter the wilderness and forest of the Russian Taiga and see it.