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Memory of Lost Local Homelands: Social Transmission of Memory of the Former Polish Eastern Borderlands in Contemporary Poland

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Abstract

Memories of violence that individuals and societies in Central and Eastern Europe experienced include displacement on a massive scale. As a result of World War II, millions of people were forced to leave their local homelands. Among them were also people from territories of the former Polish Eastern Borderlands (called Kresy),1 which after World War II became a part of the Lithuanian, Belorussian and Ukrainian Soviet Republics (Ciesielski, 2004; Piskorski, 2011). After World War II many Poles from those territories were resettled to the new Polish state; as of 2015, about 5 million of their descendants live in Poland. During the period of communism, ‘the memory of the Kresy’, as it is commonly called in the literature, was successfully pushed back into the margins of social life, but after democratic changes started being introduced in Poland we have been able to witness an ‘explosion’ of this memory of the Kresy (Kolbuszewski, 1996; Handke, 1997; Szaruga, 2001; Kasperski, 2007), as well as of other memories repressed in communist times. The present volume offers various approaches of this topic, for example Zessin-Jurek’s chapter dedicated to the Polish Siberian deportees. ‘The memory of the Kresy’ has manifested itself mainly in a large number of published memoirs, novels, documentaries, albums, and in the emergence of many organizations of persons who were displaced from the Kresy as well as of their descendants.
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Article
Forced border changes and population transfers have affected many nation-states. However, memories of these events are usually described as part of a “unique” national memory of cartographic violence, “lost” territories, and victimhood. In popular representations, often reinforced by the personal memories of the wartime resettled, the territories ceded from Poland (Kresy) and Finland (Karelia) to the Soviet Union after World War II are remembered and imagined as “timeless” places which preserve and encapsulate “Polishness” and “Finnishness.” “Territorial phantom pains” is a central framing idea for us. We understand phantom pains as a social emotion related to memories and postmemories that tells members of a community that the body of their nation is not complete without the detached territories. Phantom pains are nostalgic, romanticizing, but also exclusive keeping memories of the territorial loss as not (only) memories of personal loss of home and heimat, but of a national loss.
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Identyfikacje kresowe we współczesnej Polsce. Od malych ojczyzn do regionalizmu sentymentalno-ideologicznego
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  • M Głowacka-Grajper
Pamięć aksjologiczna a historia
  • Dariusz Karłowicz
  • D Karłowicz
Chaos i przymus: trajektorie wojenne Polaków
  • Alicja Rokuszewska-Pawełek