Siberian Exiles

The photobook. Part 1: Lithuania
Heinermann, Claudia
818 blz., gebonden, 2020, ISBN 9789081408943

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Artist Statement: While I was working on my previous book ‘Wolfskinder A Post-War Story’ in Lithuania, people often mentioned the deportations to Siberia. I knew about the labour camps (Gulag) but I was not aware that during mass deportations whole families were sent to remote areas without any kind of conviction. The more I learned about this topic the more I was indignant by the many hidden stories about families who were torn apart that I decided to start this project. Especially the deportations to the arctic hit me the most. What evil brain sends women and children to the arctic to build up a fish industry? Where winter reigns ten months a year, where the temperature drops to fifty degrees below zero, without protective clothing and housing and only a piece of bread a day? It was obvious that many deportees would die, especially young children, but under Stalin a human life had no value. It didn’t matter how many people would die under horrific circumstances as long as they realized his ideas and served the system.

The deportation of innocent civilians to Siberia is a collective trauma in the Baltic states. Almost every family can tell about it from their own experience. As a documentary photographer it is my aim to contribute to keeping these historic memories alive.

This book is a journey through history and has become a story about oppression, abuse of power and crimes against humanity. It is also a story about a people who refused to be broken and to give up their identity and culture. It is about the human will to survive and human resilience.

The drawings of Gintautas Martynaitis, a survivor of the deportations, the mostly unpublished archive images and the photos from the expedition of 1989 offer glimpses into the past, while I have endeavoured to capture the present. I have listened to the eyewitness accounts of these events and visited the places where they took place. I have traveled through the Altai and Yakutia in search of traces of this remarkable chapter in history and I have recorded what encountered: the landscape of these remote areas, the villages, the culture, and the indigenous people with their still vivid memories of the time under Stalin.

Dutch graphic designer Sybren Kuiper, with whom I previously made the prize-winning book Wolfskinder A Post-War Story designed the book. The result is a monumental design of 818 pages material divided over 5 separate books in a slipcase.

In 2021 the result of the complete project will be shown in the ‘Nederlands Fotomuseum’ in Rotterdam after which the exhibition will travel to Vilnius (LT), Latvia and Estonia.

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€ 85,00
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