Father's Footsteps

Artistic documentary / experimental film, 2013.

The project is an artistic documentary film based on the real situation in the occupied Soviet Republic of Lithuania. The film is also a real situation of its participants being directly influenced by the Soviet regime and now, after 60 years, travelling back to their family's exile place in Siberia.

The project brings questions about historical issues of the former Soviet countries, mostly the Baltics, and inquiry issues in regard to the post-socialist aspects in the region. The political aspects are strongly expressed in the art project, it is somehow a combination of Soviet propaganda and deported peoples' everyday lives in the remote areas of USSR. How have these people created a song, which reflects very hard living conditions in deportation, but at the same, the National choir - Pyatnitsky State Academic Russian Folk Choir - popularised the song over the whole nation. The main topic is an artistic exploration of migration and memory of the old man, who in his childhood and with his parents, was deported to Siberia by the Stalinist regime.


The artist Vygandas Simbelis took his father Leonas Simbelis on a journey to his father's family deportation place, Irkutsk district in Siberia, Russia. They travelled through Moscow, Irkutsk, the lake of Baikal and Bodaybo area in June 2012.

Soviet occupants deported Leonas along with his parents, brother and sister from Lithuania. Leonas was 9 years old at the time. They lived under Stalinist repression from 1949 (March deportation, Operation Priboi) till 1958 there.

In just a few days, during the March deportation, some of the 90,000 Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians labelled as "Enemies of the People", were deported to inhospitable areas of the Soviet Union. In total, around 10% of the entire adult Baltic population was deported or sent to labour camps in other parts of USSR. The Gulag is recognized as a major instrument of political repression in the Soviet Union.

The family was transported 5000 km by trains in freight/cattle wagons and was left on an empty field, by the forest. Under Stalin's acquisition of power - all family's property and private assets in their home country were nationalized by the Soviet regime.

By following on his father's childhood route, 60 years later, visiting Leonas' involuntary "home", and other places populated by deported Lithuanians, travellers have experienced deportees' lifestyle and conditions. 73 years old Leonas and his son Vygandas have been looking for 3 villages, where the greater family had lived in exile. Instead of villages and houses, they explored the Russian gold mining industry and the ruined landscapes.

Artistic research on migration paradigm and resistance has been developed in accordance with national identity and in association with Vygandas' family’s voluntary emigration from Lithuania to Sweden in 2010 and living and working in between of Sweden and Lithuania. "In this piece, I try to combine two personal stories - my family’s and mine - involving political and historical aspects of my home country", briefly comments the artist.

Folk song of Irkutsk district: In the wild steppes of the Trans-Baikal

In the wild steppes of the Trans-Baikal,

Where gold was dug in the mountains,

The stroller was cursing a fate,

Was walking with scrip on his shoulders.

He escaped from the prison, a dark night,

In prison, he longed for truth.

To go further there is no strength -

In front of him, the Lake of Baikal was stretched widely.

The stroller had reached the Lake of Baikal,

He is taking a fishing boat,

And he starts singing a sad song,

Singing something about the Motherland.

The stroller sailed across the Lake of Baikal,

Towards his Mother.

"Oh, hello, oh, hello, my Darling,

How are my Father and brother feeling?"

Your Father had been long in the grave,

Laying down under-the-ground,

And your brother had stayed in Siberia,

He has been rattling the shackles for long.

Part of an ongoing project

Father's Footsteps experimental and artistic documentary film is part of an ongoing artistic and research project Archive of Migrating Memory, in which at this moment the artist collects content, interviewing deportees and other people directly connected to migrative discourses. The main person behind the Lithuanian revolution - which started as the Lithuanian independence from USSR - Vytautas Landsbergis was recently interviewed. Other members of the deportee community were interviewed and some historical material has been collected. The work with archive materials will be implemented in the further steps of the project. Perhaps the form of interactive media art installation will be shaped by the collected content and implemented as one of the results of this research.

The project Archive of Migrating Memory is supported by a grant from Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Lithuania.


Father's Footsteps, artistic documentary film/experimental, 4.55 min, stereo, colour and b/w, full HD, 2013.

The artistic documentary film project Father's Footsteps is produced for film screening occasions and art installation format. Expositions in cinema as well as in art exhibition exhibited as one channel projection. For art installation, the video is looped.


production and postproduction: Vygandas Šimbelis
sound postproduction: Anders Lundström
music: Leonas Šimbelis, and Pyatnitsky State Academic Russian Folk Choir

Project supported by The Swedish Arts Grants Committee and The Nordic Culture Point
Special thanks to supporting of the Embassy of the Republic of Lithuania in Moscow, Lithuanian culture community "Lighthouse" in Irkutsk, and the Union of Lithuanian Political Prisoners and Deportees in Vilnius.


Premiere at the Southern Panoramas exhibition at The 18th International Contemporary Art Festival SESC_Videobrasil, São Paulo, Brazil, November 2013. Sponsored by Lithuania Consulate in São Paulo and Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Lithuania.

"Memory Migration" exhibition, "Now&After" 2014 International Video Art Festival, The State Museum of the History of GULAG, Moscow, Russia. Supported by the Embassy of the Republic of Lithuania in Moscow, Russia.
The artist (and his family members, who were invited to take part in the exhibition) have had rejected the invitation to visit the festival's opening and the screening at the forefront as a cause of the recent execution of Russian terror acts in Ukraine (Crimea and Eastern Ukraine). Even though the artwork has been left to be exhibited and not completely cancelled for a reason of the explicit exposition of a political statement in the movie. And considering the exhibition's location of the Gulag museum as a proper place in Russia to promote such political statements and to communicate such controversial message in the context of another conflict with the same Russian aggression and heavily located propaganda around both political incidents and in both Stalinist and Putin's regimes.

Screening in respect to the Lithuanian Independence day on the 16th of February 2017 in the Sts. Peter and Paul church in Omaha, State of Nebraska, US.

Revisiting the Home, screening at Geomedia 2019 conference, 7-10 May 2019, Karlstad, Sweden;

Das Vegas Baltic deportation to Siberia art film and installation Vygandas Simbelis Vegas Simbelis

Father's Footsteps 


Gold mining with "Draga" dredge 



Bodaybo gold mining site 


Archive of Migrating Memory 

Vytautas Landsbergis 

A collection of family photographs 

Olkhon island in the Baikal Lake