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Child migrants and deportees from Poland and Ukraine after the Second World War: Experience and memory



This article aims to compare the biographical experiences and individual memories of child deportees and migrants from Eastern Europe. The analysis is based on a field study of over 100 biographical interviews in two local communities situated in the borderland regions which were particularly exposed to post-war displacement, resettlement and population exchange: Ukrainian Galicia and Western Poland. The author claims that although the history of these two distant communities was totally different, contemporary memory of being a refugee/deportee/forced migrant, losing one's home/homeland and watching the deportation of the previous inhabitants of one's new place of residence bear many similarities. While analysing autobiographical narratives, I attempt to find common threads and topics generated by their experiences as children, as well as explain the differences by exploring the social context of individual memory, with a special accent on post-war socialisation and the Polish and Ukrainian memory culture. The author also strives to show how and why the children's memories differ from those of their parents.
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Child migrants and deportees from
Poland and Ukraine after the Second
World War: experience and memory
Anna Wylegałaa
a Institute of Philosophy and Sociology, Polish Academy of
Sciences, Warsaw, Poland
Published online: 09 Apr 2015.
To cite this article: Anna Wylegała (2015) Child migrants and deportees from Poland and
Ukraine after the Second World War: experience and memory, European Review of History: Revue
européenne d'histoire, 22:2, 292-309, DOI: 10.1080/13507486.2015.1008411
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Downloaded by [Anna Wylegaa] at 13:51 13 April 2015
Child migrants and deportees from Poland and Ukraine after the
Second World War: experience and memory
Anna Wylegała*
Institute of Philosophy and Sociology, Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw, Poland
(Received 30 April 2014; accepted 30 December 2014)
This article aims to compare the biographical experiences and individual memories of
child deportees and migrants from Eastern Europe. The analysis is based on a field study
of over 100 biographical interviews in two local communities situated in the borderland
regions which were particularly exposed to post-war displacement, resettlement and
population exchange: Ukrainian Galicia and Western Poland. The author claims
that although the history of these two distant communities was totally different,
contemporary memory of being a refugee/deportee/forced migrant, losing one’s home/
homeland and watching the deportation of the previous inhabitants of one’s new place of
residence bear many similarities. While analysing autobiographical narratives, I attempt
to find common threads and topics generated by their experiences as children, as well as
explain the differences by exploring the social context of individual memory, with a
special accent on post-war socialisation and the Polish and Ukrainian memory culture.
The author also strives to show how and why the children’s memories differ from those
of their parents.
Keywords: biographical memory; social memory; displacement; migration; children
When searching for a common historical experience for Central and Eastern Europeans,
one theme emerges as universal: a considerable number of people from the region
experienced deportation, resettlement, repatriation or economic migration.
In addition,
every migrant had to undergo the hardships of adapting to their new cultural and political
environment, as well as integrate into a new society, which often resulted in collective
cultural trauma.
Both these processes influenced the lives of the migrants and,
particularly if the migration took place during their childhood, became defining parts of
their identity. Scholars have just recently started to discover the specific way in which
children experience war; several works have been written about the perception of the
Second World War as a war directed against children, or at least a war which affected
children severely.
As an analytical sociological work, this article aims to determine
whether the common experience of post-war deportation of European children resulted
in comparable paths of biographical memory, and how this childhood experience is
reconstructed today in the biographical narratives of adults.
This article is intended to fill a gap in existing research. While there is literature
devoted to how children in Europe experienced the Second World War, it seems that most
attention is reserved for Jewish children. This includes both scholarly works and
collections of sources.
Not much has been written about gentile children’s experiences
and even less about how these childhood experiences are remembered today, either by
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European Review of History—Revue europe
´enne d’histoire, 2015
Vol. 22, No. 2, 292–309,
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individuals, or in the public space and public discourses. Some works dealing exclusively
with the memory of deportees and exiles include small sections on, or references to, the
specificity of childhood memories.
In addition, a few works focus on the memory of
children’s traumatic war experiences unrelated to migration, but again particularly on the
memories of Jewish children.
Therefore, a comparative analysis of gentile children’s
memories of post-war deportations seems potentially both challenging and rewarding.
This text is based on a field study conducted in two communities located in borderland
regions which were particularly exposed to post-war population transfers of various
character: Ukrainian Galicia and Western Poland. The complex history of this region
needs some basic explanation in order for this study to be properly understood. Ethnically,
Ukrainian Galicia was conquered by the Kingdom of Poland as early as the fourteenth
century, and remained under Polish cultural influence for the entire period of Polish
statelessness (1795 1918).
After Poland regained its independence in 1918, Galicia
became part of the new Polish state. Ethnically mixed since its conquest in the Middle
Ages (with Ukrainians as the dominant ethnic element and strong Polish and Jewish
minorities), Galicia not only experienced two occupations during the Second World War
(Soviet 1939 41, German 1941 4), but also a bloody Polish-Ukrainian conflict, rooted in
ethnic and class reasons, and in some places coming close to the ethnic cleansing of Poles.
After the war, Galicia was incorporated into the Soviet Union. Most of the Poles from this
region were moved to Poland in the framework of so-called ‘voluntary repatriation’, which
in most cases did not leave much choice to those who were ‘repatriated’. Western Poland,
after 1945 known officially as the ‘Recovered Lands’
, in the past was ethnic Slavic
territory, later conquered and populated by Germans. By the early twentieth century
Germans became dominant not only in terms of political power and cultural influence, but
also population: the Slavic (Polish) population was at that point reduced to a marginal
minority group. At the end of the Second World War, most of the Germans from the region
fled from the approaching Soviet Army. Those who did not escape were deported to
Germany after the post-war border shift, which moved Germany and Poland hundreds
of kilometres to the West, and left the latter with the formerly German territories
incorporated into the new Communist Polish state. A considerable number of Poles who
arrived and settled on the ‘Recovered Lands’ were people newly ‘repatriated’ from
Set in this broader historical context, my case study consists of the formerly German
town of Krzyz
˙, which became Polish after 1945, and the formerly Polish town of Zhovkva,
which at the same time became Ukrainian. Despite differences in pre-war history, the post-
war situation of exiles in both communities was quite comparable. Before the war, Krzyz
had been inhabited by Germans and an assimilated Jewish minority, which was deported in
the late 1930s. The town lay near the Polish border. After the war, Krzyz
˙lost almost all of
its population the Germans either fled from the coming front in 1945, or were forcibly
relocated within the first year after the end of the war (local authorities registered only
nine people of German nationality living in Krzyz
˙in 1947 out of approximately 4700
inhabitants). The largest group of Krzyz
˙’s new inhabitants consisted of ‘repatriates’ from
the Polish Former Eastern Borderlands (further referred to as the Borderlands), while the
rest included groups of Poles who lived on the other side of the border near Krzyz
the war, and settlers from Greater Poland (Wielkopolska) and Central Poland. Deportees
from the East constituted approximately 90% of all settlers in Krzyz
˙in 1947, after the
largest wave of migration was over.
Zhovkva was a multinational and religiously
heterogeneous borderland town: its population consisted of comparable numbers of Jews,
Poles and Ukrainians. The war deprived Zhovkva of its Jews and some of its Poles; most of
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the Holocaust survivors and the remaining Poles left for Poland after 1945 (only two Jews
from Zhovka decided to stay in the town after the war, while the remaining Polish families,
of which there were several dozen, were usually mixed). Due to post-war Soviet
repressions, which largely targeted sympathisers of the underground Ukrainian
independence movement, the town also lost many of its Ukrainian inhabitants. The new
population of Zhovkva consisted of Ukrainians deported from Poland in 1944 6, arrivals
from Eastern Ukraine and other Union Republics, as well as Ukrainian migrants from
nearby Galician villages.
The new inhabitants of both Krzyz
˙and Zhovkva were in very
difficult situations: both the Poles being ‘repatriated’ to Poland and the Ukrainians
‘returning’ to Great Ukraine lost their homes and regional homelands and were forced to
adjust to new social, political and cultural circumstances. They found themselves in ruined
and half-empty towns: Krzyz
˙’s population dropped from more than 7000 in 1939 to 2500
in mid-September 1945.
They also had to participate in the reconstruction of social
relations with other groups of settlers, all within the framework of an undemocratic
political system, while being subjected to strong post-war propaganda.
A considerable number of these settlers, migrants and deportees were children who
later became the first generation of new inhabitants of the Polish Krzyz
˙and the Soviet
Ukrainian Zhovkva. My hypothesis during fieldwork was that these children’s experiences
and memories of migration would differ from those of their parents. The data was
collected during various research projects. The vast majority of recordings from Krzyz
emerged during an oral-history project implemented by the KARTA Centre, a non-
government organisation dealing with contemporary history, where I worked at the time.
All interviews were archived in KARTA’s Oral History Archive (
and some are also available on the project’s website ( The interviews
were led by me and my colleagues from KARTA. Interviews in Zhovkva were recorded
for my Ph.D. thesis, by me and two Ukrainian researchers. However, fieldwork in both
towns followed the same methodology and consisted of biographical, unstructured
narrative interviews. We employed the methodological tools developed by Fritz Schu
later used by many sociologists and scholars from other disciplines.
This method
underlines the importance of the first, autobiographical and non-interrupted part of the
narrative, rather than the interviewer’s questions, which follow in the second part. All
interviews in Krzyz
˙were conducted in Polish, while interviews in Zhovkva used the
language chosen by the interviewee (Ukrainian, Russian or Polish). The general sample
consisted of 80 interviews conducted with people born between 1914 and 1944. When
choosing interviewees for this particular study of children’s narratives, I decided to
include respondents who were at least three, but not older than 15 years old when arriving
in Krzyz
˙or Zhovkva, which reduced my sample to 33 interviewees (20 from Krzyz
from Zhovkva). Dorothee Wierling has previously described an age group similar to this
one as a generation of ‘war children’. This includes all people whose childhood took place
during the war, and who were too young to get involved in any kind of political activity
during the war: her notion seems to describe my sample quite well.
This choice made my
sample more complex, as some differences are bound to occur between people who were
teenagers and experienced the change in their life more or less consciously, and small
children, who remember only basic facts and whose memory was subsequently influenced
by familial memory transfer. Regarding the latter, we are most likely to be dealing with
post-memory individual memory developed under the strong influence of other personal
(mainly familial) memories.
However, given the fact that I am aware of this complexity,
I assume that it might add new depth to my research. My initial aim was to compare the
narratives of forced migrants only, but soon it turned out that among people who were
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children at the time, coercion was not crucial in experiencing the migration process. It was
migration as such, with a special accent on the difficulty of adaptation after arrival in
˙/Zhovkva. Therefore, my analysis also includes interviewees whose families were
not deported, but who came to Krzyz
˙/Zhovkva of their own volition.
While analysing their biographical narratives, I will attempt to find common threads
and topics generated by their childhood experience, as well as explain the differences
between various groups of interviewees (i.e. forced and voluntary migrants, or Poles and
Ukrainians) by exploring the social context of individual memories. Following the classic
works of Maurice Halbwachs, I will use the concept of individual (biographical) memory
as always being rooted in the collective meanings, culture and imagination of society.
Another useful concept here is the notion of cultural memory introduced by Jan Assmann
and developed further by Astrid Erll and Harald Welzer.
However we name the social or
collective aspect of the memory, it is obvious that there is no biographical memory without
its cultural background, and that every memory is socially reconstructed especially
when narrated. When framing my research within these concepts, I intend to focus not on
theoretical distinctions, but rather on what is specific about the memories of children in
comparison to the memories of adults, what can be found in children’s narratives that
cannot be found in the stories of adults and the reasons for these discrepancies. Special
attention will be paid to various social and biographical factors influencing children’s
memory: age, family background, post-war socialisation and personal life development of
the interviewee, as well as contemporary memory culture in each country. While focusing
on the analysis of narrative and memory, I will also bring up issues of the objective
childhood experience and try to connect it, whenever possible, with the further
development of the interviewees’ life strategies.
Children as more vulnerable than adults
Although children’s and adults’ memories about migration and the first period of
adaptation in the new place of settlement have much in common, a careful look enables us
to identify certain characteristics in children’s narratives. Some issues are remembered
more clearly by children and also seem to have had a significant impact on their future
lives. One of the most prominent of these experiences is the constant fear of violence.
Most interviewees recall feelings of anxiety and insecurity when they think about the first
days, weeks or even months after their arrival in Krzyz
˙or Zhovkva. These feelings were
caused by the direct experiencing of violence, the observation of their immediate
surroundings, or stories told by family members. An important feature of these memories
is that they appear equally often among all groups of settlers deportees as well as
economic and political migrants.
Here, in the West, we had this experience, especially me as a child. I experienced the assault
of Russian soldiers on Huta Szklana, our village. In the night, at midnight, from behind the
window pane and shutter, there came a clank. Dad took to the shutter and he saw someone
there, so he tried to keep him from entering the house, and my uncle did the same. Then Mum
switched off the light, we heard gunshots, everyone screamed ... Later we saw that my uncle
had something sticking from his head and he had a knife sunk in his head! [ ...] So, for a
long time, a long time indeed, whenever it was dark outside, I was afraid of going to another
room or to the toilet, or doing anything. I was a six-year-old child, it was very difficult for me
and my sister. (K., m., b. 1940)
I still remember how they walked around near our house. They were wrapped up in cloaks and
wore huge trench-coats. Their hands were hidden. Over there, where our garden is now, near
the forest, they always came out of the woods and wandered in our orchard. As soon as it got
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dark they would be in our orchard. And we would immediately lock ourselves in the house,
like that. (So you were afraid of them?) Of course we were afraid. Because who knows who
these people are, and what’s out there? (Z., f., b. 1944)
As opposed to the adults interviewed, children understood less from the surrounding social
and political reality and therefore felt much more confused about what was happening.
Sometimes, the same dramatic event retold by an interviewee’s parent or older sibling
gains new meaning and, because of that, becomes less frightening. People walking in
someone’s garden cease to be terrifying creatures and turn into ordinary policemen. While
that does not necessarily make them any less dangerous, it at least makes the danger
possible to understand. The specificity of the child’s perception can also be traced in the
structure of the narrative produced today. Diane L. Wolf, in her book about the memories
of Jewish children from the Netherlands who were hiding from Nazis during the war, calls
it the polyphony of various voices: when one looks at what is recalled today by the
interviewee, it is possible to distinguish the voice of a child, who expresses emotions from
the past, as well as the voice of the adult, who presents reflections from the contemporary
interviewee’s perspective.
Accounts of violence, which appear in most of the narratives
analysed, are an example of how the child’s voice conveys direct and very strong
emotions, feelings of helplessness and pain.
It seems that the violence experienced by child migrants in their new places of
settlement might also have influenced their further adaptation and identity development.
Studies on post-war family and community reconstruction have shown that one of the
consequences of children experiencing traumatic events during the war was a change in
the basic relations between children and adults. Children lost their trust in adults parents,
teachers and others because they proved unable to provide them with security, or
presented themselves as fragile and helpless figures.
Deportation was less likely to play
such a role in transforming intra-family dynamics as it did not usually break the integrity
of the family. Nevertheless, it was perfectly able to deprive children of the sense of
security which is essential for proper personality development. For many children who
lived through the war mostly unaware of it, due to their young age, or whose parents
succeeded in protecting them from being directly exposed to the brutality of the war, the
arrival in Krzyz
˙or Zhovkva marked their first-ever remembered contact with violence,
death and blood. Interviewees from Zhovkva recall the bodies of murdered UPA partisans
left for display next to the police station; those from Krzyz
˙tell about the bodies of
Germans who died of hunger or were shot by the Soviets. One of the interviewees from
This very first moment of coming to Krzyz
˙ my mum was dressed in a white coat, and in a
red hat. I was wearing a red coat and a white bonnet, I remember. Today, the [railway] bridge
is high, and those days it was lower. Below us there were trains and Russians. One of them was
drunk and started to shoot, he almost shot us. I still remember the first Russian words I ever
heard: Ochen’ khoroshaya dochen’ka!’ [‘a very nice girl’]. One of the officers said that a
‘nice girl’ was coming because I was going first, and then my mother that he should not
shoot, because ‘a nice girl’ was coming. We went down and of course he was shot in front of
my eyes, this Russian. Immediately, straight away, he was shot. (K, f., b. 1938)
Once again, it is possible to hear in this story told by a dignified elderly lady the voice of a
seven-year-old ‘nice girl’, terrified by seeing a Russian soldier getting killed in front of her
eyes by his commander for almost killing her just a moment earlier.
The same sharpening of memories applies to deportation if the migration was forced.
However, this is only true in the case of interviewees from Zhovkva.
Ukrainian child
deportees perceive the resettlement process itself as something much more oppressive than
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how their parents had perceived it. They remember long journeys, often in the middle of
winter, difficult conditions on the train, and the brutality of Polish soldiers. While their
parents or older siblings remember the journey as nasty and unpleasant, but not as
memorable as what they had experienced in Poland or what awaited them in Ukraine, the
children tend to present the deportation as their most acute wartime memory probably
because for many of them it was the first event that they clearly remembered.
We went to Ukraine. It was 1946, end of February, beginning of March. It was very cold. They
gave everyone two carts, to each family, so that we could go on these carts, and we went. To the
station in Uhniv, there’s a train station two kilometres from Uhniv, they took us there ... They
took us to Ternopil province, to Berezhany, that’s a nice county town Berezhany ... There
was a whole host of people there, with animals, if someone took any, with little children with
everything, horses and livestock. They unloaded us onto the sidetrack. I was still a little boy but
I remember that mum wrapped me up in a shawl because it was very cold, with a fierce wind and
horrible weather. We spent a month in that backwater. (Z., m., b. 1934)
In some cases, the brutality of both the deportation itself and the first encounter with the
new home resulted in significant problems with post-migration adaptation. What these
interviewees tell about their feelings and behaviour in the first period after their arrival
resembles the classic signs of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Children who witnessed
violence, especially physical brutality and death, had trouble falling asleep, woke up in the
night because of nightmares, tended to be distrustful of strangers and avoided leaving
home. In the end these interviewees seem to have managed to adapt smoothly to their new
place of residence, but as adults they enjoy speaking about their country of birth and tend
to idealise this ‘old homeland’ a tendency generally absent among child deportees. One
can imagine that this idealisation of lost homeland emerged precisely because of their
memories of a hard beginning in their new homeland. Again, this is most evident in the
case of child respondents from Ukraine, where the subject of Soviet and UPA post-war
brutality was repressed in the official politics of memory and went unmentioned in private
due to concerns for safety. Frightened of being given away by their own children, parents
did not discuss at home what was happening outside, even if the children were seriously
disturbed and affected by these events.
Thus, the children my interviewees today
were not only disturbed and traumatised by the violence, but also deprived of an
explanation for it. Only after 1991 did it become possible in Ukraine to speak openly about
immediate post-war history and its legacy for the people who grew up in its shadow. Frank
Biess writes that ‘real’ emotions about the war only started to be released in the 1960s in
Western Europe, helping to bring closure to the post-war period. In this context, one may
claim that for Ukraine, ‘Post-war’ ended only after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Another issue that is more strongly present in the narratives of children than in the
stories of their parents is that of material problems and the feeling of being worse than
one’s peers due to being a migrant. This memory appeared only in the narratives of
deportees the Ukrainians resettled from Poland in Zhovkva and the Poles ‘repatriated’
from the Borderlands in Krzyz
˙, as well as economic migrants who came from distant
places, who had various traumatic war histories. As people arriving from nowhere, with
only some of their possessions or even none at all, deprived of the help of their extended
families and community networks, they did indeed form the poorest strata of their new
local communities and as further research shows, this pattern was common for Polish
and German post-war deportees.
For many interviewees, this is one of the most painful
memories of their childhood.
The second day at school, how did it look, my second day at primary school? We stood on two
sides of the corridor, on the one side, the strangers, the auslanders’, like me and others from
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the East, and on the other side those from Drawsko, Wielen
´[villages near Krzyz
˙]. [ ...] They
were so different, because they had no war experience at all, there wasn’t a single gunshot
fired in Drawsko, nothing like that. They did not feel hunger, nor run away from bombs ... So
they stood on the one side, each with a slice of bread in their hand, a slice of bread with a
sausage, and they ate. And we, from the outside, on the other side, without any breakfast,
because you still couldn’t buy bread at that time, and we had no money for it, so how could we
even think about the sausage?? We looked at them while they were eating. I still remember
this. I came back home, I told my mum everything, and she said: ‘Sonny, I don’t have any
breakfast for you’ [crying]. (K., m., b. 1938)
We had these neighbours who were rich. There were two girls there, like me and my sister,
from the same year. So we would come over to their house to play. We lived in poverty. And
they had white bread. For us, mum would bake bannocks, she fed us as best she could. So over
at their place L., the rich girl, would sometimes give us some bread, and we ate ... [with a
trembling voice]. Our parents couldn’t stand it, they always yelled at us for it. (Z., f., b. 1944)
Similarly to fear and anxiety, the feeling of economic deprivation had a much greater
impact on the children than on the adults. Adults also painfully experienced their reduced
social and economic status as a result of their migration, which was usually forced, but
they were able to rationalise and justify it. This particularly concerned Poles who had been
deported to Krzyz
˙from the Borderlands. In many cases they perceived the resettlement as
the only way to live in their own national state again, and although they mourned the loss
of their homelands in the East and were frustrated by coping with everyday life difficulties,
they also saw this as a patriotic duty and something demanding, but necessary.
As one of
the older interviewees stated:
When we arrived [in Krzyz
˙], we had to begin everything from scratch. First and foremost I
remember that we, the scouts, started to clear out the rubble, because where we now have the
park named after John Paul II, there used to be a market place, and it was in ruins, and we, the
youth, we cleared out the rubble. This debris was taken over to some square, and it was said
that it would contribute towards the rebuilding of Warsaw. It was a great goal: all of society
was to re-build its capital. [ ...] There was a great enthusiasm about it. (K., m., b. 1928)
Children were usually too small to understand the complex reasoning behind national
obligations and simply missed the previous well-being of their families.
Another problem experienced much more severely by children than by adults were
cultural differences factoring into the social-adaptation process. Here, significant
differences regarding the particular groups of migrants can be noticed: those affected the
most were children of deportees, who differed from children who had lived in the
neighbourhood before the war, and thus felt rejected and derided.
People did not greet us warmly, they said we were Polish. Mum said that sometimes she even
cried, and there were some ... Not everyone is the same, you know, here and there. They
derided us, because we used some Polish words and phrasing, because we lived well with the
Poles back at home, and here they laughed that we were Polish. They told us: ‘Why did you
come here, go back to your Poland.’ That was painful for people. (Z., f., b. 1943)
That hurt me so much when we came here, to Poland ... But it was also our Poland! But when
we arrived in the West, here in the region of Poznan
´, people were not honest with us. They
called us hadziaje [a derogative term for someone coming from the East], or Ukrainians ...
And what could we do? Tough luck. They didn’t understand how it was. (K., f., b. 1930)
Both in Krzyz
˙and Zhovkva groups of pre-war ‘neighbours’ dominated the economic and
social spheres. It was they who dictated the post-war standards of ‘true’ Polish and
Ukrainian identity.
Although real differences between various groups of settlers were
significantly smaller in Zhovkva, due to the small distance from the town to the former
homelands of the deportees, being classified as a second-class national was equally painful
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as in Krzyz
˙. Thus, children could experience serious problems with their identity re-
construction: not only were they worse off and traumatised by overwhelming violence,
they were also denied their national identity by members of their own national community.
Adult deportees were also subjected to discrimination and mockery, but as mature
individuals they were able to resist attacks on their identity and were not as easily
persuaded that they did not fit the mould of ‘real’ Poles or Ukrainians. Especially in the
case of adult Poles who came to Krzyz
˙from the Borderlands, cherishing their own kind of
national identity was a reason for pride, not shame. Children, however, were much more
susceptible to peer pressure, and thus suffered due to differences in language, customs and
Defence mechanisms of children’s memory
Apart from issues that are more visible in children’s narratives, there are also motifs which
do not appear at all, or appear less distinctly. One such issue is homesickness. Interviewees
described in detail how they suffered from palpable things, such as the above-mentioned
problems with economic or social adaptation. But most of these people were unable to
recall the burdensome longing that their parents had to deal with. Overcoming the feeling
of losing one’s homeland was obviously less painful, or even not problematic, for children
and young people: the younger they were when they arrived in Krzyz
˙/Zhovkva, the easier
it was for them to adapt. Some interviewees remember missing home, but this was rather
peaceful nostalgia than painful longing. The difference becomes very clear when we
compare the narratives of a mother and her son, who until 1945 lived in a small village
near Warsaw and moved to Krzyz
˙for economic reasons.
You know, even when I was a little boy, I missed home, I remember ... I remember this small
river, the willow avenue, you know, our big forest. I used to play there when I was a child, and
I recalled this often. And when we sometimes sang this song ‘Warsaw, oh, my Warsaw’,
I always had a feeling of pleasant sweetness. And I sang it very often. (K., m., b. 1940)
How many tears did I shed here, how much did I suffer here, all because I had to leave that
place to move here. Here everything was strange to me, everything was wild, everything so
empty, I couldn’t cope with it. When we came here, to this small house, sweet Mother of God,
what a ruin it was! It wasn’t like you see it now, now it is all rebuilt, renovated, this was all
done later, and the children are still improving it. But you know, when we had just come here -
how many tears did I shed? I don’t know if anyone ever cried so much. (K., f., b. 1919)
This inter-generational dialogue makes it possible to see the differences between a
woman who was afflicted by migration as an adult and mature person, and a man who left
his home as a boy. The mother is still mourning her lost family home and she still
perceives Krzyz
˙as an alien place where she does not feel at home. Her son’s feelings are
more akin to soft nostalgia; he is mythologising his home region as a land of Arcadian
childhood, but it does not make him less happy with where he is now. She would give
everything to go back; he is comfortable with reminiscing. An interrelated issue consists of
feelings of instability and temporariness. For many years after they had settled in Krzyz
Zhovka, the interviewees’ parents hoped that they would soon return home. They did
not refurbish their new houses and sometimes they did not even unpack their luggage.
In Krzyz
˙, many ‘repatriates’ settled near the railway station, because they considered it
practical in view of an imminent return journey. People who were small children at that
time did not cherish such hopes. Their new place of settlement soon became much more
important to them than their lost home and they built their mature identity on the basis of
their relationship with Krzyz
˙/Zhovkva. This can even be seen in the stylistic layer of their
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narratives: ‘at our place’ always means Krzyz
˙/Zhovkva, never the town or village where
they were born and sometimes grew up. ‘Back there’ is very distant and definitely belongs
to the past. What is more, interviewees remember being tired of their parents’ dilemmas
and hopes of a return. Some people remember comical issues like the grandfather who
made the family promise that they would not bury him on ‘German soil’ and whose death
caused real consternation, because at that point it was already clear that there was no going
back. Nevertheless, most people recall more serious and depressing situations. As one of
the interviewees from Krzyz
˙(born 1943) said, he sometimes felt in his childhood that
mourning the ‘lost Borderlands’ was much more important for his parents than building a
new life in the West. As a child who did not remember what had been lost, he was unable
to understand his parents’ feelings and was very frightened when in the evenings they sat
in the kitchen and talked about ‘packing the suitcases’. He did not want to go anywhere.
The differences in how the adults and children felt about their lost regional homelands
are clearly visible when they talk about visiting their former hometown or village a few
years after the migration. Soon after Stalin’s death, several people from the sample group
managed to pay a visit to where they came from. They went with various motivations and
using various excuses (for business, to see the remaining family, and so on), but it is
striking that all of the adults were still going home with unrealistic but still very strong
hopes that something might change with this one visit. The children went as strangers to a
foreign place they were indeed only visitors, and very reluctant ones at that. The
difference is evident when we compare two interviewees who experienced such a visit
‘home’ (or home) in the 1950s: the first story is a dialogue between two Ukrainians who
were deported to Zhovkva from Eastern Poland already as a married couple, and the
second is an account of a woman who was born in today’s Belarus in 1942 and resettled in
˙in 1945.
I went to Poland, to my relatives, but they were gone they had died. So I went to my
nephews ... My sister was married to a Pole, and she had given us an invitation for a visa, we
stayed for a week, we looked at everything there and we went away.[...] They were afraid to
speak in our language, we spoke Ukrainian, and they were afraid, they spoke to us quietly in
Ukrainian, but everything else in Polish. We didn’t even go anywhere, we stayed with my
sister and then went back. It was not even a week, not even a week ... (And who was living in
your house?) A neighbour was there, he had been in Germany, this neighbour. My uncle, my
nephews, they were supposed to, to sell it and send us the money, sure enough ... Later they
pulled it down, and that’s it, there was a house, the house isn’t there anymore. My sister says:
‘Let’s go to the church’,but they had turned it into ... The service was in Polish, and
everybody ... Everybody was staring at us! They were giving us dark looks, and we left the
church, and away we went, away, because people were as if ... As if we were God knows
who. And so away we went. (Z., m., b. 1922/ Z., f., b. 1921)
Everything has changed. We were surprised, because some [Polish] people were still there.
This was in 1956, not even 10 years since we had left. So some of the people knew us and they
were happy to see us. Some of them were migrants, but they already had kolkhozes, there was
already a kind of fear. I can’t even describe it, how frightened I was, as a child. Because for
example when we were on the train, or at the railway station, we could enter anywhere,
because we were visitors, kind of. And somehow, we had a lot of money, we could afford
everything. And these people, they walked without shoes, they would sit in the corner, not
even inside the station building, but outside, waiting for the train like that. (K., f., b. 1942)
As we can see, much had changed since the interviewees had left people’s identity (or
identification), houses, countryside, agriculture and politics. It was an unpleasant visit for
both adults and children, but in a different way for each group. Adult deportees met this
change with despair and frustration, and great disappointment. All of those who visited
their former homeland in the 1950s came back convinced that it was lost forever. For
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some, it was only then that the real adaptation process in Krzyz
˙/Zhovkva started. Kaja
´mierska, in her book about Polish Holocaust survivors who subsequently left Poland
after the war and settled outside the country, notes how important the temporary ‘home-
coming’ was for people who had to rebuilt their entire identity.
Children reacted
differently. All were frightened by what they saw and most of them could not recognise
home in any of the places they visited. All they wanted was to come back to the only place
they could call home not the place where they had been born, but the one in which they
had already become rooted. And when they returned, they were happy that their parents
had finally lost their illusions and hopes.
Of course, patterns of behaviour observed among a small sample cannot be
generalised. But they seem to be meaningful and when one looks at the exceptions, they
tend to confirm the rule. A woman born in 1930 in the Borderlands, deported to Krzyz
1945, said:
You still wish you could return to your old home. I would like to see it one more time before
I die, but I won’t for sure ... These days I can’t go very far. My husband would go with me, if
he came from the East, but he’s from around here, so he never felt the urge. The children also
got used to this place ... It’s hard to forget, I was too big, I remember everything. If I had
been younger, I wouldn’t remember so much, it wouldn’t hurt me so much. But here I am,
walking around, walking down the street in C. [name of town], and often when I walk like that
I feel as if I’m back home, in the East. (K., f., b. 1930)
It might be said that there were three main factors determining the presence of
homesickness among deportees’ and migrants’ children: age, whether migration was
voluntary or forced, and individual psychological factors. The smaller the children were
when leaving, the less likely they were to miss home in the future. Those at the threshold of
adulthood reacted similarly to the adults, at times even more intensely, such as the
interviewee quoted directly above, since leaving home was likely to become a key format ive
experience for them. Secondly, the interviewees reminiscing about home sickness were not
only older children, but also children born in deported families. Undoubtedly, the trauma of
forced resettlement was more likely to be transferred onto children than the simple nostalgia
associated with economic migration. Finally, some people, even at a young age, tend to
create much stronger emotional and intellectual connections with the place they live in,
while others seem relatively unworried by migration. Maria Lewicka, a social psychologist
researching cities with changing populations, calls these ‘individual psychological
My next aim is to demonstrate that children’s experiences, and memories, do not have
to be coherent. Although most of the narratives from both towns were dominated by
reminiscences of fear and brutality, a considerable group of younger (born in 1934 and
later) children from Krzyz
˙also seem to remember the ‘bright sides’ of deportation and the
first period of adaptation, which their parents do not. Polish child interviewees remember
elements of humour and adventure in the long journey: they speak about missing the train
and having to chase it on foot, organising ‘picnics’ when the trains stopped, and stealing
apples from neighbouring gardens. They remember feeling delighted upon arrival, ready
to discover their new home:
They took us to Kuz
´nica, because there was a train from Krzyz
˙to Wałcz, and from Kuz
we continued in carts. I remember that it was a sunny day, so warm. And we were children
and suddenly we saw the mountains! We’d never seen mountains before, back home there
were no mountains at all, only woods, woods, and even more woods, but no mountains. There
were rivers, but no lakes for example. And here, there was a hill here, another hill there,
hills on all sides. When we arrived we ran to the hills at once, it was great fun for us children.
(K., f., b. 1934)
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These same children speak about being hungry, frightened and cold. It seems that they
simply needed to comfort themselves with something positive in the overwhelming,
depressing reality they had been thrown into, or that they need this comforting feeling
now, ex post, when creating their narrative and sharing their memories with a stranger.
Diane L. Wolff writes about a similar mechanism referring to Jewish children in Holland
who were hiding from Nazis: a few of those who were adult enough to be conscious of
what was happening perceived the situation as an adventure.
This type of response might
be connected to the psychological features of a particular child, but it can also indicate a
more general pattern of defensive reactions to the outer world: what cannot be changed
(because one is only a child) becomes transformed in the child’s perception into an event
with a different meaning and, in this way, neutralised. Hans Markowitsch and Harald
Welzer even write about the possibility of creating ‘authentic’ false memories if they serve
as useful tools to present one’s identity coherence.
The same holds true for memories of immediate adaptation. In the narratives of
children from Krzyz
˙, the first period is dominated by negative feelings of fear and anxiety.
But when they talk about the period after the Soviet Army had left Krzyz
˙, they discover
some amusing aspects of living in a strange, foreign place: they remember roaming in the
debris and playing hide-and-seek in abandoned and ruined buildings, looking for German
treasures, and so on.
There was something interesting here, but I can’t recall it precisely now. In the park near the
train station there was a hill and I remember that there was a small gate. I mean, I was small, but
this gate was small as well. Then there was a broken wooden door and a kind of hiding place, and
we were afraid to enter it. We peeked inside, but never went in. And when they were building the
amphitheatre, they covered it with soil. But it was said that there was some kind of shelter, or
hidden corridor, nobody knew what exactly. [ ...] And I remember that there was an empty,
abandoned house, near the furniture factory, where people live now, for a long time it was all
empty. And we believed it was haunted, we didn’t go there. (K., f., b. 1942)
It is crucial to stress here that these ‘bright sides’ of migration, whether it was forced or
not, were present only in the narratives of Polish interviewees. There are several reasons
for this disparity, ranging from objective differences in the respondents’ experiences, to
different socialisation during the Communist period, and contemporary memory culture in
Poland and Ukraine. The deportation of Ukrainians from Poland was indeed much harsher
than the deportation of Poles from the Eastern Borderlands, even if one does not question
the equal moral and legal qualification of both processes. In comparison to the Poles, the
Ukrainians had much less distance to cover during their journey, but they were much more
exposed to physical and psychological violence. Most of the deportations took place in the
winter, early spring and late autumn, which only added to the difficulties and the sense of
being oppressed. In addition, the post-war situation in Zhovkva in terms of the political
system, ideological pressure, repressions and economic growth was much worse than in
While landmines constituted the main danger for children in Krzyz
˙after the
Soviet Army’s departure, the children of Ukrainian deportees in Zhovkva did not dare to
roam for fun, because it was simply too dangerous for a number of reasons. In addition,
Zhovkva itself could be likened to one big landmine, primarily because of the regular
war between the Soviet authorities and the Ukrainian Partisan Army which lasted until
the mid-1950s, and involved most of the local population in bloody conflict voluntarily
or against their will. While both the political and economic situation in Krzyz
in a few years after the war’s end, the inhabitants of Zhovkva, and Western Ukraine in
general, continued to live in constant fear of repressions for a long time after the Second
World War.
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Another important factor influencing the memories of interviewees is post-war and
contemporary memory culture. Population exchanges with all their consequences were a
taboo subject in both post-war regimes of the totalitarian Peoples’ Republic of Poland and
the Soviet Union, but while this taboo persisted in the Soviet Union until the late 1980s,
Polish deportees benefited from a period of relative ideological ‘thaw’ which started in the
The memory of ‘voluntary repatriation’ from the Borderlands was still
unwelcome in official discourse, but it found partial release in the semi-private sphere of
social relations, by means of, for example, commemorations in churches or movies which
touched upon the topic, even if indirectly. A perfect example of this process is the motion
picture Sami swoi (‘Our Folks’), produced in the 1970s and telling the story of two
families from the Borderlands who settled in the ‘Regained Territories’ after the war and
continued their neighbourly arguments. The deportation itself is not covered in the film,
since the plot focuses on the post-war adaptation in the West, but the comedic character of
the picture made it very popular and somehow de-traumatised the difficult memories.
Many interviewees from Krzyz
˙mentioned the film when talking about their experience
and some even incorporated certain scenes into their narrative. One can presume that in
some cases the events from the film gradually became a part of their own experience.
Harald Welzer called this phenomenon ‘source amnesia’ when he wrote about many
young German soldiers from the Second World War who integrated into their biographical
memory the scene of a fight over a bridge portrayed in the film Die Brucke (‘The
Bridge’) (1959).
Mistaken memories notwithstanding, what was important for the
deportees was that the deportation and its immediate aftermath were discussed and
commemorated, even un- or semi-officially in Polish families, neighbourhoods and local
communities throughout the entire Communist period, which enabled this experience to
become collective and less traumatic in terms of individual perception. All interviews
collected for that study show that shared trauma is less traumatic than individual trauma;
the feeling of belonging to a community of others who are equally affected allowed my
respondents to rethink their loss, inscribe it into a wider trajectory of the group, and shape
their group identity. After the fall of Communism in 1989, deportees from the Borderlands
did not create a political power, as the German expellees from the East did, but they
managed to form a partially institutionalised community of memory
based on common
experience and expressed in various commemorative actions, including the publishing of
memoirs, creating virtual museums, building monuments and other commemorative
They were not politically active, but they did support each other in recovering
from their traumas. As a result, resettlement from the Borderlands remains a traumatic
experience, but it has shifted from an individual trauma to a collective one.
This was not the case in Ukraine. Under Soviet rule, deportees were displaced both
physically and socially even neighbours could be unaware that they were both deportees,
although from various sub-regions of Eastern Poland. As one of the interviewees stated:
Everything was hidden. No one said anything, people kept everything in secret. We revealed
everything only recently, when we got the documents [a Ukrainian passport after 1991]. And
now we see that this one is from the deportees, this one, and this one ... How could we know?
I worked 20 years in the glass factory. My neighbour, she lives over here, she was also deported.
But I did not know about her and she did not know about me, and we worked together for
20 years. You know, at the beginning we were afraid to speak about it. (Z., f., b. 1944)
They could not commemorate their experience publicly, only in the family sphere. But
even among their own relatives, they usually refrained from speaking about the past:
people were too frightened about their children’s future to burden them with potentially
dangerous family history. My research conducted in families with representatives of
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various generations shows a great disproportion between memory transfer in Krzyz
Zhovkva. Deportees from Zhovkva, but also the town’s population in general, regardless
of their origins, did not speak much about the past in their families. They remained an
obscure community until the breakdown of the system, and, to some extent, until today.
The situation has not changed much since Ukraine gained independence in 1991. There are
some societies of former deportees, but their activity is very limited and not visible in the
public sphere. Since the very beginning, Ukrainian public discourse about history has been
dominated by the so-called ‘burning issues’ that divided Ukrainian society mostly the
conflict between the UPA and the Soviet Army (with the Great Famine of 1932 3 as an
exceptional case of a ‘unifying’ rather than a dividing experience).
Only recently did
other topics, such as the Holocaust and Ukrainian attitudes towards Jews during the
Second World War, enter the discussion
, but the deportation of Polish Ukrainians is
certainly not one of them. Deportation remains a predominantly private and still very
traumatising and repressed experience. The individual character of this trauma deprives
people of the opportunity to rework it. Unlike the Polish deportees, the Ukrainians are
barred from developing defence mechanisms of memory based on the collectivity of
experience. The people made particularly vulnerable by this situation are those who
experienced deportation as children. In contrast, research conducted in Krzyz
˙shows that
there is a clear transfer of memory about the family origins in the deportees’ families.
Children are asking and grandparents are telling the stories, even if the interest decreases
as time goes on and the plots lose their colourfulness and dynamics. It is interesting that
patterns of memory transfer discovered during my research in Krzyz
˙can be easily
juxtaposed with Barbara Szacka’s study based on a nationwide sample analysis. When
discussing the place of the Second World War in the family memory of Polish society,
Szacka states that among ‘existential’ (of suffering, threat and survival) and national (of
battle, heroism and patriotism) narratives of war, it is the existential one which dominates
in the family memory.
There is no doubt that memory of deportation and migration is
part of this narrative.
This comparative analysis makes it possible to formulate some conclusions. Firstly, it
seems that the experience of deportation or migration generally carries a different meaning
for a child than for an adult. The children who found themselves in Krzyz
˙and Zhovkva
after the Second World War were afflicted by the same cruel reality as their parents or
older siblings, but they were much more fragile when confronted with violence. Unable to
rationalise and understand it, to distinguish between political parties, ‘real’ victims and
‘real’ perpetrators, they were left defenceless in the face of brutality and suffered from this
severely. The voices of terrified children still echo in the narratives of today’s adult
interviewees, speaking about their post-war experience with the Soviet Army, UPA
partisans and Germans. Most importantly, this sensitivity towards violence, which
sometimes resulted in problems adapting to one’s new surroundings, was universal among
interviewees from both towns and among all groups of migrants (forced and voluntary),
and therefore can be regarded as independent of cultural and political circumstances.
Another common feature of the child’s experience and memory although found only
among the children of deportees and not among children of economic migrants was
living in poverty and being subjected to social ostracism as a result of cultural differences.
Children proved to be particularly sensitive to being different to their peers, and remember
this as a very painful experience, even after over 60 years.
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Another important conclusion is that some plots and events appear in adults’
narratives, while being completely absent from the accounts of children. Among the most
significant are homesickness and feelings of instability and temporariness. Like their
parents, children were suffering from problems with identity and cultural adaptation. But
with the exception of a few individuals, they suffered from problems connected with what
happened after the deportation or migration, not because of broken bonds with the former
homeland or identity disorder. Constructing an identity rooted in their new surroundings
was more difficult for them than for their peers who did not experience such a change, but
at least they did not have to rebuild their identity, as their parents did: they were simply
developing it from the starting point, albeit under difficult conditions. Also, in some cases
children’s memory seems to be more merciful than that of their parents and older siblings:
interviewees who went through the difficult post-war years as children are often able to
note some positive aspects of this experience. However, due to differences in the post-war
political situation and contemporary memory cultures, this holds true only for
interviewees from Krzyz
˙. Be it a selective memory or a defence mechanism to enable
psychological adaptation, this feature allows us to once again discover the polyphony of
various voices in these narratives. The joyful voice that speaks of discovering a new and
fascinating world after forced migration can be clearly identified as belonging to the child,
which is still present in the memory of the adult.
1. For an overview of the war and post-war migration in Central and Eastern Europe, see, for
example: Ahonen et al.,People on the Move;Ther and Siljak,Redrawing Nations.
2. I am using the notion of the collective cultural trauma after Jeffrey C. Alexander: “Cultural
trauma occurs when member of a collectivity feel they have been subjected to a horrendous
event that leaves indelible marks upon their group consciousness marking their memories
forever and changing their future identity in fundamental and irrevocable ways.” Alexander
et al.,Cultural Trauma, 1.
3. Zahra,The Lost Children, IX; Fehrenbach, “War Orphans,” 175 95.
4. Small selection includes but is not limited to; Dworak,Children with a Star;Grossmann,Jews,
Germans and Allies;Gutenbaum and Latala,Last Eyewitnesses.
5. For examples see: Zahra,Lost Children;Kozaczyn
´ska,Ocalone z transporto
Through The Eyes.
6. See for example: Kaz
´mierska,Biography and Memory;Billinger,History in Exile.
7. Wolf,Beyond Anne Frank;Michlic, “The Aftermath and After.”
8. For a concise overview of the region’s history in that period in English see: Snyder,
Reconstruction of Nations.
9. For impartial Polish and Ukrainian scholarship on Polish-Ukrainian conflict see: Iliushyn,
Ukrainska Povstans’ka Armiia;Motyka,Od rzezi wołyn
10. For a discussion of the contemporary functioning of the myth/concept of the “Recovered
Lands” in Poland see Kowalewski, “Ziemie Odzyskane. Co dalej?,” 64 5.
11. Molenda, “Zmiany ludnos
´ciowe,” 116.
12. For specific literature on deportation of Ukrainians from Poland see: Subtelny, “Expulsion,
Resettlement, Civil Strife,” 155 72. For literature on the Soviet colonisation of Western
Ukraine see: A
˚berg, “Paradox of Change,” 285 302.
13. Molenda, “Zmiany ludnos
´ciowe,” 95.
14. For post-war propaganda in the region see, for example: Tyszkiewicz, “Communist
Propaganda,” 91100.
15. Schu
¨tze, “Kollektive Verlaufskurve,” 31110; Schu
¨tze and Riemanan, “Trajectory,” 333 58;
Rosenthal,Holocaust in Three Generations.
16. See Wierling, “Generations as Narrative Communities,” 109 14.
17. The conceptof the post-memory has been introduced by MarianneHirsch: Hirsch,FamilyFrames.
18. Halbwachs,On Collective Memory.
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19. Assmann,Pamie˛c
´kulturowa;Erll, “Cultural Memory Studies,” 1 18; Welzer, “Commu-
nicative Memory,” 285300.
20. Historians of that period in Poland describe the feeling of fear as one of the dominant feelings
among all social strata. Zaremba,Wielka Trwoga, 158 62 (on fear of the Soviet Army), 316
(on the fear of bandits and robbery), 330 (on mutual fear of the various groups of settlers in the
“Recovered Lands”).
21. Each quotation is accompanied by information about its author: town of the interview, sex and
year of birth of the interviewee (Z. stands for Zhovkva; K., for Krzyz
˙; m. for male; f. for
female; and b. for born). Although most of the interviews have been archived in Karta’s Oral
History Archive (, I decided on secondary anonymisation of the
respondents due to the sensitivity of the analysed data and in-depth character of the analysis.
For detailed justification of the secondary anonymisation of oral-history data in my research
see: Wylegała,Przesiedlenia a pamie˛c
´,1057. For a useful case study on the anonymisation of
sensitive data see: Larossa, Bennett, and Gelles, “Ethical Dilemmas,” 303 13.
22. Wolf,Beyond Anne Frank, 26.
23. Zahra,Lost Children, 114.
24. For analysis of the relevant memory in the case of Polish interviewees, see the next section in
this article.
25. For PTSD syndromes among the “war children” generation see: Wierling, “Generations as
Narrative Communities,” 10914.
26. For typical examples of disorder in family communication and memory transfer under the
Soviet rule see Figes,Whisperers: Private Life. Figes writes about Stalin’s period of Soviet
history, but it seems that many features of the memory-transfer culture in Soviet families,
originating from fear and distrust, remained unchanged during the 1950s.
27. Biess, “Feelings in the Aftermath,” 3048.
28. Ther, “Integration of Expellees,” 779805.
29. Kaja Kaz
´mierska writes about motivations for leaving the Borderland and coping with those
decisions after settling down in a new place in Communist Poland. See: Kaz
´wiadczenia wojenne Polako
30. The issue of post-war relations between various new groups of population in post-war Central-
Eastern Europe, e.g. native and refugee populations, has recently received considerable
attention, especially in Poland and Germany. See for example: Schulze, “Growing Discontent,”
5372; Czyz
˙ewski, “Repatrianci i wype˛dzeni,” 159 72; Bodnar, “Tam bulo dobre,” 20 36.
31. This kind of behaviour is widely discussed in literature about post-war social adaptation in the
Polish “Recovered Lands.” For one of the best works published after 1989 see: Mach,
Niechciane miasta.
32. See: Kaz
´mierska, Biography and Memory.
33. Lewicka, “In Search of Roots,” 49 60; Lewicka,Psychologia miejsca.
34. Wolf,Beyond Anne Frank.
35. Markowitsch and Welzer,Development of Autobiographical Memory, 17 23.
36. For literature on post-war political, religious and social tensions in Galicia, see, for example:
Marples,Stalinism in Ukraine;Bociurkiw,The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church;Motyka,
´ska partyzantka 19421960.
37. For the overview of changes in the memory of Eastern Borderlands in Poland see: Ahonen
et al.,People on the Move, 155 66; Korzeniowski,Transformacja pamie˛ci.
38. Welzer, Moller, and Tschuggnall,“Opa war kein Nazi.”
39. For a definition of the community of memory see: Booth, “Communities of Memory,” 249 –63;
Nijakowski,Domeny symboliczne, 323.
40. Głowacka-Grajper, “Społeczna i indywidualna kontynuacja,” 155 82.
41. Marples,Heroes and Villains;Hrytsak, “Holokost i Holodomor,” 14 16.
42. For current discussion on the Holocaust in Ukraine see: Wylegała, “Ukrain
´skie dyskusje o
´cie,” 54654; “Yevreiska spadshchyna v Ukraini ta reprezentatsi Holokostu.”
43. Szacka, “II wojna s
´wiatowa w pamie˛ci rodzinnej,” 81 132.
Notes on contributor
Anna Wylegała is a sociologist. She works as Assistant Professor at the Institute of Philosophy and
Sociology, Polish Academy of Sciences. Her research interests include biographical and collective
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memory and collective identity. She is currently working on the issues of post-war social and cultural
change in Poland and Ukraine.
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... We found that different methods were used in the selected studies. Narrative interviews were the most frequently used method; twelve out of 22 studies utilizing this method (58,59,62,63,65,72,73,75,76,79,80,85). In these studies, participants were asked to recall the days before migration, and describe the genocide or conflict they witnessed during their migration journey and/or after resettling in the host country. ...
... In these studies, participants were asked to recall the days before migration, and describe the genocide or conflict they witnessed during their migration journey and/or after resettling in the host country. Two of these studies used the archived data in which narrative interviews of refugee participants were preserved (76,80). Nets-Zehngut (80) compared archival narratives collected from 131 Palestinian refugee people with the recorded history of the Palestinian refugee people's lives. ...
... In six studies (64,72,73,76,79,85), both adolescent and adult refugee participants mentioned an alteration of past identities and accountabilities. They perceived their refugee status as worthless compared to their pre-migration life (85). ...
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Research examining trauma, memory, and mental health among refugee and asylum-seeking people has increased in recent years. We systematically reviewed empirical work focusing on the link between autobiographical memory and mental health among these populations. The review protocol was registered with PROSPERO (CRD42018095888). Six major databases were searched in August-2020 with no time limit for publication. Following PRISMA Statement guidelines, 22 articles reporting ten quantitative, nine qualitative, and three mixed-method studies were selected from 254 articles identified in the initial search. A basic convergent and qualitative meta-integration technique was employed for data extraction. Four recurrent themes were extracted: (1) memory activation method, (2) memory features, (3) memory content, and (4) refugee mental health. Theme 1 illustrates that narrative interviews, important event recall, and cue word methods were used in most studies. Theme 2 highlights that memories of refugee people were often less specific, inconsistent, and negative-focused. Retrieval failure was also common among these people. Theme 3 reveals that refugee and asylum-seeking people frequently discussed their abandoned identities, lost resources, injustices, ongoing sufferings, and pointless futures. Finally, theme 4 identifies the prevalence of various mental health conditions like Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, depression, helplessness, and anger among these people. The results are discussed in the context of the current autobiographical memory and mental health theories, considering refugee-specific experiences in the asylum process and refugee status.
... There is a lack of research on future episodic thinking among refugee people, but several narrative studies focused on what refugees think about their future (e.g., Békés et al., 2017;Pineteh & Mulu, 2016;Ramsgaard & Bohn, 2019;Wylegała, 2015). Békés et al. (2017) found that Holocaust survivors imagined their future to confront the possible difficulties in predicting their emotional reactions -considered a mature defense mechanism. ...
... Another study on 100 biographical interviews of refugees from Ukraine and Western Poland revealed that some refugees imagined their future negatively and expressed concern about the uncertain future of their children. Nonetheless, some remained hopeful about returning to their own country (Wylegała, 2015). Belcher and Kangas (2015) found that people who produced less specific future episodic thinking after lab-based trauma exposure experienced intrusionsa common symptom in PTSD and depressive disorder. ...
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Past research has shown that trauma‐exposed refugee people frequently report less specific autobiographical memories, but the characteristics of their future episodic thinking remain largely unexplored. This study investigated the specificity and emotional valence of autobiographical memory and future episodic thinking among 120 Rohingya refugee people resettled in Malaysia. The participants retrieved three autobiographical memories and produced three future episodes to three cue words. The Post‐Traumatic Stress Disorder‐8 Scale, Patients Health Questionnaire‐9, and Trauma Questionnaires assessed participants’ PTSD, depression, and trauma exposures. Results revealed that nearly two‐thirds of the memories (64%) were overgeneral, and almost an equal number contained traumatic elements (63%). However, most future episodes were overgeneral (91%), and two‐thirds showed positivity bias (62.5%). The participants who retrieved more autobiographical memories with enhanced specificity also reported more future episodes with enhanced specificity. The higher PTSD and depression scores significantly predicted the reporting of overgeneral future episodes. Participants with a lower level of depression were more likely to report future episodes with enhanced positivity. The results indicate that therapeutic interventions targeting improving memory specificity and the positivity of future episodes could eventually improve refugee people’s mental health. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
... A partir de la convivencia y de las separaciones familiares (separaciones temporales de los/as niños/as con fines educativos), los/as niños/as heredan y negocian los recuerdos tanto de sus orígenes como de los campamentos y los lugares por los que han transitado, señalando la importancia que estas memorias tienen, en tanto pueden promover un cambio respecto a las historias de conflicto. En las migraciones forzadas, Wylegała (2015) compara las memorias de deportación entre adultos y niños/as de Polonia y Ucrania que vivieron situaciones violentas pos segunda guerra mundial. Al respecto, señala que los recuerdos tienen en común la presencia del dolor, la pobreza y el ostracismo social. ...
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Infancia, memoria colectiva y migración, suelen ser temáticas que la literatura científica aborda por separado. En el presente artículo, exponemos los resultados de una revisión sistemática que tuvo como propósito identificar la producción científica en torno a la memoria social, la infancia y la migración entre los años 2010-2020 en formato de artículos científicos. Siguiendo las directrices PRISMA, incluimos 38 artículos científicos mediante un análisis temático. Los resultados dan cuenta de la construcción de memoria de los/as niños/as desde aspectos identitarios; a través de la transmisión intergeneracional y la posmemoria, y por medio de experiencias de migraciones transnacionales y forzadas. Por último, algunas investigaciones se preocupan de estudiar las memorias como prácticas de resistencia, y a los/as niños/as como agentes de la memoria colectiva. Finalmente, por medio de las discusiones y las conclusiones, reflexionamos sobre las maneras en que se conciben a los/as niños/as en estos campos de estudio y la importancia de valorar su participación en investigaciones que tratan sobre las prácticas de memoria y los procesos migratorios, junto a algunas limitaciones y contribuciones de la revisión.
... In order to understand how individual children reacted to such policies, researchers have used the oral history method. The testimonies of adults recalling their childhood years in borderlands after World War II, for example, have revealed that chil dren were more flexible than adults in adopting, and adapting to, the premises of a post war reality (Wylegala 2015). ...
... Wittekind et al. (2017) found that trauma-exposed refugees shared more traumatic stories than non-traumatised refugee participants. In several narrative studies, refugee people vividly described their traumatic experiences from the time back home and their migration journey (Crespo & Fernández-Lansac, 2016;Hollo, 2020;Pineteh & Mulu, 2016;Wylegała, 2015). The participants of this study fled their homeland due to the eviction operations at different times and had gone through a terrifying migration journey to get asylum in another country. ...
Literature indicates that trauma exposure leads to autobiographical memory (AM) impairment, but the differential effects of direct and indirect trauma on memory remain unclear. We investigated AMs of 100 Rohingya refugees (Meanage = 35.79; SDage = 15.36) recruited from camps in Bangladesh and communities in Malaysia. Each participant retrieved ten memories to word cues and rated to what extent those memories were self-defining on a 5-point scale. They also completed the PTSD-8 scale and a trauma checklist reporting the types of traumatic events they experienced. Results showed that participants with frequent exposure to direct and indirect trauma recalled more traumatic memories. Surprisingly, more direct-trauma memories appeared to be specific than indirect trauma and non-trauma memories. As expected, individuals who scored higher on the PTSD-8 scale recalled more non-specific AMs. Rohingyas in Bangladesh who migrated months before data collection, thus retaining recent trauma experiences , retrieved more non-specific memories than those in Malaysia who migrated years ago. The direct trauma memories of the Malaysian cohort were more self-defining than their counterparts. The participant's ability to recall more direct trauma memories with specificity could be attributed to the repeated recall of those memories to the relevant authorities of the host countries to justify their refugee status.
... In order to understand how individual children reacted to such policies, researchers have used the oral history method. The testimonies of adults recalling their childhood years in borderlands after World War II, for example, have revealed that children were more flexible than adults in adopting, and adapting to, the premises of a postwar reality (Wylegała 2015). ...
Full-text available
This article investigates the capacities of children to participate actively in their lives in the Belgian-German borderlands in the time period between World War I and World War II. The article interprets a body of historical sources that has hitherto been left unexplored-namely, borderland child ego documents-with the help of insights from child studies and border studies. These ego documents unfold as borderland child heterotopias. Borderland child heterotopias include material places and creative linguistic loci established by or for those considered in crisis in relation to the rest of society based on their age within or outside child spaces of modernity. The borderland child heterotopias offer a unique gateway to borderland children's past imaginations for a better world.
... In addition, Wylegała shows how and why children's memories differ from those of their parents, and, in doing so, helps to strengthen research on the subjectivity of children in childhood studies. 96 Ulrike Präger explores the experiences and memories of children subjected to forced migration or the loss of home through their singing practices. Drawing on ethnographic interviews with two groups of Germans from the Bohemian lands -those who left for Germany and those who stayed in Czechoslovakia -she offers insights into the importance of political frameworks for individual and collective processes of memory and identity-building. ...
Full-text available
This article explores the memories of Latvian children who were displaced dur-ing the Second World War by analysing how they experienced this displacement and how they compose the narratives of this childhood experience recorded in life story interviews presented to the Latvian National Oral History Archive. Although these testimonies were given more than 50 years after the events, they neverthe-less convey the displacement experience in an intense way by vividly depicting the psychological, emotional, and material circumstances that children faced in the particular historical situation and by revealing common themes relevant to the children at the time of the displacement (toys and games, food and its supply, and a sense of fear and/or security). It was also revealed that the displacement experi-ence was most often recalled as an unusual and disturbing, but not traumatic. Most likely, this is a consequence of the collective memory practices of the Latvian exile community that enabled this experience to become collective and less traumatic.
Building on recent investigations into children as historical actors, this article examines the experiences of ethnic German ( Donauschwaben ) expellees from northern Yugoslavia’s Vojvodina region. Using original oral history interviews, the article embeds these individuals’ childhood experiences of World War ii and expulsion into their greater life stories, thereby highlighting children’s multifaceted wartime roles and opportunities for agency. Contrary to prevailing (German) historiographic and popular imagination—as encouraged particularly by postwar expellee organizations—young ethnic Germans were not the mere passive victims of war and expulsion. Rather, even during their expulsion, they actively participated in Nazi youth organizations, accompanied columns of Jewish camp evacuees, worked in Nazi munitions factories, and fought in the Third Reich’s final desperate military “storm.” At different occasions, children and youth thus became both witting and unwitting agents of wartime destruction. As the article concludes, a more concerted investigation into questions of childhood agency in war is central to the analysis of such contested topics as German victimhood and perpetration during World War ii , the Vertreibung (expulsion), and Germany’s transgenerational postwar reckoning with the crimes of its past.
Autor w niniejszej publikacji nawiązuje do swojej wcześniej publikacji dotyczącej polskich doświadczeń wojennych i uczuć im towarzyszących: cierpienia-zagrożenia-uprzedzenia. Autor skupia się na Warmii i Mazurach oraz tzw. repatriacji w 1945 r.
Krótko po opublikowaniu anglojęzycznej wersji książki Omera Bartova Erased: Vanishing Traces of Jewish Galicia in Present-Day Ukraine (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007) na ukraińskim portalu dyskusyjnym (Zachodnia Grupa Analityczna) ukazała się recenzja, której autor prorokował Bartovowi rolę ukraińskiego Jana Tomasza Grossa. „O ile mi wiadomo, składanie na UPA odpowiedzialności za ludobójstwo ludności żydowskiej w Galicji pozbawione było do tej pory dostatecznego uzasadnienia. […] Ponieważ teraz za sprawę tę wziął się doświadczony specjalista, całkiem prawdopodobne jest, że galicyjscy Ukraińcy dostaną swoje Jedwabne”1. Ihor Czornowoł po wielokroć przecenił potencjał książki Bartova, w jednym jednak miał rację: na dłuższy czas zdominowała ona ukraińskie dyskusje o Zagładzie.
Cultural memory studies addresses the question of how the “past” is created and recreated within sociocultural contexts. What is the place of “family”–and of family memories–in this burgeoning field? And how can the concept of memory be used as a tool in comparative family research? This article presents, first, the main notions of Maurice Halbwachs’s theory of mémoire collective and asks how the sociologist places family within collective memory. Second, it discusses how the “new memory studies” of the 1980s and 1990s, which clearly showed a bias towards large-scale, often national memories, can be refocused through the lens of small-scale family memories. Third, it provides an overview of current research on the dynamics of remembering within families. It discusses how new approaches, which are based mostly on qualitative interviewing, have adopted innovative transgenerational, transnational, and media culture perspectives.