Displaced Memories

Remembering and Forgetting in Post-War Poland and Ukraine

by Anna Wylegała (Author)
Monographs 380 Pages
Open Access

Table Of Content

  • Cover
  • Title Page
  • Copyright Page
  • Note on Translation, Transliteration and Names
  • Acknowledgements
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • Citability of the eBook
  • Contents
  • Introduction
  • Beginnings: Questions, Inspirations, Objectives
  • Theories: Memory, Politics and Forgetting
  • In the Field: Methods and Methodology
  • 1 Dramatis personae: History and Memory
  • Roots (up to 1939)
  • War and Other Misfortunes (1938–1945)
  • Brave New World (1945–1953)
  • The Post-war Culture of (Non-)Remembrance (1953–1989/1991)
  • After the Fall of Communism: New Beginnings? (1989/1991-present)
  • 2 Resettlement and the First Phase of Adaptation136
  • The Journey: Autobiographical Memory and its Transmission
  • Fear, Violence, Poverty: After Arrival
  • Yearning, Temporariness, Alienation
  • 3 The Creation of a New Community and Social Integration
  • Relations with the Authorities and the New Political System
  • To Build Everything Anew, or the Social Wild West
  • The Long-term Consequences of Post-war Divisions: Integration Processes Among the Younger Generations
  • 4 Resettlement and Identity
  • Returning Home – the Last Stage of the Psychological Integration Process
  • People Make a Place a Home: “Who would I return to?”
  • The Former Homeland as an Element of Identity: “It’s good that we know these things.”
  • The Lost Homeland and Crippled Identity: “A person is always attached to their homeland.”
  • No Need for Homeland: “Why would we go there?”
  • The Old Homeland in the Consciousness of the Younger Generations
  • Gains and Losses – Who Came Through Migration Successfully?
  • 5 Remembering the Absent: Germans and German Heritage in Krzyż219
  • Settlers vs. Germans: Memories of the Oldest Generation
  • Before our Grandparents: Memory Among the Younger Generations
  • The Germans Today: Castaways, Tourists, Litigants?
  • Around Material Heritage
  • German Heritage and Identity
  • 6 Remembering the Absent: Jews and Jewish Heritage in Zhovkva251
  • Life and Death Among Neighbors
  • Hearsay: What do the Resettlers Know about Zhovkva’s Jews?
  • Family (Non-)Memory: The Next Generations
  • Foreign Heritage
  • Survivors, Ghosts, Visitors
  • 7 Remembering the Absent: Poles and Polish Heritage in Zhovkva
  • Once upon a Time in Poland
  • Times of Threat
  • Emigration, Expulsion, Marginalization
  • “Now it is OK”
  • Material and Symbolic Heritage
  • 8 Between Heroes and Traitors: The UPA and the Soviets in Zhovkva310
  • Bandits or Heroes? Troubled Autobiographical Memories
  • Pride and Prejudice: Ukrainian Nationalists in Collective Memory
  • “Liberators” and Liberators – or Two Types of Soviets
  • Stalinism, Stabilization, Veterans: Memories of Soviet Zhovkva
  • Heroes and Traitors: Summary
  • 9 A Land Without Heroes: Problems of the Memory Canon in Krzyż
  • Good Russians and Bad Russians: Autobiographical Memory
  • The Soviets in the Memories of the Younger Generations
  • Krzyż and Zhovkva: A Comparison of Heroic Canons
  • Postscriptum: Symbolic Space
  • Conclusions
  • Memories of Resettlement
  • Memories of Absent Others
  • Memories of Heroes
  • Between Memory and Forgetting
  • Memories of the Past and Collective Identity
  • Biographical Index of Respondents
  • Zhovkva
  • Krzyż
  • Bibliography
  • Index


Beginnings: Questions, Inspirations, Objectives

On the outer wall of my family home in Krzyż – the German town of Kreuz (Ostbahn) before 1945 – it is possible to discern a Cyrillic inscription scraped onto one of the red bricks: “Zubov.” It was only when I became interested in the history of the town that I realized that this graffiti was probably carved by a Red Army soldier in the winter of 1945, when the Soviets “liberated” Kreuz on the way to their victorious advance on Berlin. I do not know who Zubov was; I have no way of finding out whether he met the previous owners of my home. But it was this inscription that kept returning to my mind as I wrote this book, a work devoted in most part to the memory of the Others who vanished from their (now our) homes: Germans from the Polish “Recovered Territories” [pl. Ziemie Odzyskane], and Poles and Jews from Western Ukraine.

This book, however, was initially supposed to be about something completely different. The research that I embarked on in 2007 was focused on collective memory in Ukrainian Galicia, a region I already knew, having spent time studying at the University of Lviv. I chose to look at the town of Zhovkva, situated between Lviv and the Polish border. I had been there for the first time in 2000. A further visit – a study trip with students from Lviv – gave me the idea that a town with such a complicated history would be interesting to study in terms of its “ordinary” inhabitants and their relationship with the past. After I started my doctoral studies, Zhovkva became the standout candidate for a case study. A multi-ethnic and multi-confessional locality before the Second World War, with Jewish, Polish and Ukrainian inhabitants, after 1945 it became a town of uprooted people. At the same time, because of the relatively good state of repair of the town’s material heritage, history here was tangible and close up; thus, the question of how present-day inhabitants relate to the past almost asked itself. I carried out my first pilot interviews, whilst still not having a coherent research concept, in Zhovkva in 2008.

It was at this time that I started working with the Oral History project at the Warsaw-based KARTA Centre, the most important non-university research institute in Poland dealing with the contemporary history of the country and of the broader East-Central European region, with a focus on individual people.1 ←13 | 14→The first project I carried out independently was a documentation of testimonies in my hometown, Krzyż; a town that was brought under Polish administration after 1945, where it is still possible to find traces of its German past. In the course of three years that I spent collecting personal biographies of the town’s oldest residents,2 I started to notice that I was comparing Krzyż and Zhovkva in my thoughts with increasing frequency; that the testimonies from the two places had remarkable parallels; and that I was asking about very similar things. Thus, seemingly by accident, the concept of a comparative analysis between two post-migratory towns was born.3

Although the pre-war histories and starting points for post-war transformations in the two towns were different, the existence of a tertium comparationis was indisputable: the contemporary faces of both towns are the products of wartime and post-war mass expulsions and other forms of mass population transfer. Both towns lost most of their residents as a result of the Second World War; both towns were repopulated by various, sometimes conflicting, groups of settlers; both towns emerged from the war in a different country with altered state borders; and finally, both towns experienced post-war life in non-democratic political systems that imposed a new, ethnically monolithic collective identity – Polish and Ukrainian, respectively. The testimonies of residents from Krzyż and Zhovkva, superficially so different, rapidly began to come together in a fascinating mosaic of similar experiences and similar memories.

The testimonies also strengthened my conviction that, despite the passing of time, the consequences of mass population transfer are still to be felt in Poland and other European countries. Resettled people not only lose the physical, material foundations of their existence; they are also threatened by a loss of identity, their functioning in society changes, and society itself changes significantly when it is uprooted and transported. Both Poland and Ukraine in the post-war era were countries where a substantial part of the population were faced with the necessity of rebuilding their lives from scratch, in a new place, and in a new political, cultural and material reality. Their situation was not made any easier by the ←14 | 15→lingering traumas of war or the oppressive political system, which was focused on building a “brave new world” rather than mourning the loss of the old. The experiences of resettled persons appear fundamental to an understanding of how history is interpreted in both countries, how national identity is constructed, how communities position themselves in relation to the past, and also their attitudes to neighboring countries. These experiences also influence the structure and strength of social bonds at various levels, from the cohesiveness of local communities, to the building of essential tenets of civic responsibility in modern societies. This influence is not limited to the individuals who were personally resettled; it also, indirectly, concerns successive generations.

On a broader scale, the post-war outcome in the area usually known as Central or East-Central Europe was the result of two major historical events: the Second World War as a total war, and the ethnic cleansings and genocides that began during the Stalinist Terror of the 1930s and continued in different forms until some years after the end of the war. The specific character of this region is poignantly conveyed by the title of Timothy Snyder’s book Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin.4 Enormous bloodshed and two totalitarianisms – these are the reasons behind the demographic, political and economic situation of East-Central Europe in the second half of the twentieth century. Considering questions of identity and collective memory, however, it is vital to add a third factor, one that followed directly from those first two: mass population transfers on an unprecedented scale. Another book title can serve as an apt metaphor for the resonance of this theme: Der Verlust [Loss], authored by the German journalist Thomas Urban in 2004 in the wake of Polish-German debates concerning the Centre Against Expulsions.5 The book’s introduction features a one-and-a-half page summary of all of the European nationalities that were subjected to ←15 | 16→deportation, flight or other forms of forced migration in the years 1939–1956; the list includes all of the ethnicities that lived in the interwar Polish state. After 1945, both Poland and Ukraine became republics with completely new borders. Poland was “shifted” westwards, losing the eastern provinces known informally as Kresy Wschodnie [Eastern Borderlands],6 gaining territories to the north and west that had previously been part of Germany.7 The Germans in these areas either escaped or were deported. A similar plight met the Poles who had lived in the former eastern provinces, which became part of the Soviet Union; they departed under various degrees of duress during a series of “repatriation” waves.8 Soviet Ukraine was expanded by three southeastern Voivodeships of interwar Poland; as Poles left these territories, Ukrainians and Russians from eastern Ukraine and other Soviet Republics arrived in Galicia, as did ethnic minority Ukrainians deported from the south-western provinces of the new Polish state.9 ←16 | 17→Thus, East-Central Europe of the second half of the twentieth century was not only the Europe of murdered bodies, but also of resettled persons. It was a Europe of lost friends and family, but also of lost homes and homelands. At its core, this book is about this fundamental loss and its consequences.

However, this book is not a history of resettlement and deportation; it is about the ways in which population transfer was experienced by concrete individuals, how they remember those ordeals today, and how the fact of resettlement influences successive generations of residents in contemporary Zhovkva and Krzyż. It is therefore a study of personal experience, local memory, and identity, not a reconstruction of history on the micro scale.10 Maurice Halbwachs long ago proposed the notion that collective (social) memory is distinct from history; for him, history was an objective picture of what happened, whereas memory was a source of tradition that could vary as long as different social groups existed. Elsewhere, Halbwachs opposed “living history,” or in other words collective (social) memory, to academic history.11 Polish historian Robert Traba, an expert in the culture of the German-Polish borderlands, argues that the essential difference between history and memory lies in the role the latter plays in group identity. As he puts it: “Cultural memory, that is, the recollections that contribute to the creation of meaning and identity, always carry with them the danger of being forgotten, erased, or of concealing that which would cast doubt on individual and collective identity: most often, guilt.”12 Another historian, Jay Winter, wrote, “History is memory seen through and criticized with the aid of documents […]. Memory is history seen through affect.”13 Thus, memory belongs to a completely different order to history; memory is non-normative and its objectives are distinct to those of history, as are the expectations placed on it. Memory is that ←17 | 18→which transforms history into individual experience; or in other words, it turns the past into a material from which identities are constructed.14 On the other hand, the pursuit of history is itself an act of remembrance.15 A hard opposition between history and memory is ultimately useless: perhaps it is better to understand both processes as different modes of remembering in culture. The past is not something given; rather, it must always be constantly reconstructed and represented.16 “Professional” history written by academics is undoubtedly distinct from the memory of “ordinary” individuals, but they also remain in a dynamic relationship of interdependence as cultural methods of facing the past. A consequence of accepting the equal status of history and memory is the unconditional rejection of a research methodology that aims to show the chasm between what people remember and what “really happened.” Memory is a research object in and of itself.

What, then, did I wish to find out from the residents of Krzyż and Zhovkva? At the most fundamental level: what they remembered, what they had forgotten or suppressed, and why. More specific questions were divided into three groups. The first category concerned the resettlement and its direct and indirect consequences. I was interested in how respondents interpreted questions of guilt, punishment and responsibility, as well as their personal evaluations of the benefits and losses of resettlement. I considered it important to understand the dynamics of how these processes took root in different generations: whether a new, internally cohesive community was successfully created which identified with the new post-war place; and also the extent to which the pre-war history of the town was recognized by residents as “their own.” I tried to interpret the extent to which the older generation still felt attached to their former places of residence, and whether this question had any significance at all for young people. The second group of questions concerned the memory of the previous residents of the town: the vanished “Others.” Was this a troublesome memory; was it screened off, or associated with a specific set of problems? Did it in any way affect attitudes towards present-day Poles, Jews and Germans? The third group of questions revolved around the transmission of memory. Did accounts ←18 | 19→of the past play a role in family life? If so, in what ways did the younger generations modify the contents of the experiences of the older generation? If not, why was there no intergenerational transmission of memory? How large was the influence of other factors that affect collective memory, such as official memory, neighbors’ accounts, or group representations? These three groups of questions were posed with the contextual background in mind: i.e. local policies of commemoration and identity construction in both Krzyż and Zhovkva. I was interested in how official commemorative policy operated in both towns, whether it approached the pre-war cultural heritage of the towns, and what the relationship was between private and official memory.

Theories: Memory, Politics and Forgetting

But what exactly do I mean when I declare that I am studying memory? Theoretical treatments are so abundant, sophisticated and diverse that it is impossible to provide a comprehensive summary of memory studies, a discipline that emerged relatively recently.17 Nonetheless, this book employs terms that have specific histories and conventions of usage, so it is important for the sake of clarity that the main ones are explained. The theoretical axis around which my analysis spins is the relationship between individual and collective memory. Collective memory is defined as the sum of cultural narratives about the past, including both knowledge about and judgment of history, that are potentially available to the average citizen (not just the intellectual elites). In my understanding it forms a kind of cultural “background” that includes mediated (i.e. not personal, first-hand) experience, which is essential to the construction and consolidation of group identity.

Maurice Halbwachs, one of the “founding fathers” of the discipline, argued that all individual memory is immersed in, and formed under the influence of, “social frames” of memory. Individual memory functions in particular (sometimes multiple) networks of referentiality; this is why we cannot separate it from the collective dimension or analyze it without situating it in the context of remembering groups. Social frames of memory carry out a very important ←19 | 20→function, in that they create a sense of continuity within a community. For Halbwachs, it is nearly impossible to cleanse individual memory of the influence of social framing and thereby to access a pure, undistorted experience.18 My research repeatedly confirms this observation: biographical memory is never based solely on individual experience, because each person uses models provided by culture to interpret his or her own experience. There is also an influence in the other direction: individual experiences, if they concern a significant portion of members of a community or are important enough to constitute part of its identity, over time become part of the collective memory. Needless to say, as in every aspect of collective identity, it is the elites who most easily make the cultural “background” their own, i.e. in Central European conditions – the intelligentsia.19 Nonetheless it remains an important fact that, although the elites have a closer relationship with the dominant narratives of collective memory, they never gain exclusive access to it.

Influential scholars in the German humanities also discuss the internal tension between collective and individual memory. Jan Assmann, who coined the term “cultural memory,” defines it as follows: “Cultural memory refers to one of the exterior dimensions of human memory […] the contents of this memory, the ways in which they are organized, and the length of time they last are for the most part not a matter of internal storage or control but of the external conditions imposed by society and cultural contexts.”20 Assmann distinguishes four areas of memory: mimetic memory (modes of action, which we learn through repetition); memory of things (objects, material culture); communicative memory (language and communication); and cultural memory (transmission of meanings). Communicative memory – that is, memories of the recent past as preserved by the closest generations – plays a special role in the interactions between individual and collective remembrance. Like Halbwachs, Assmann argues that there are no pure forms of memory: every individual recollection is a reconstruction of the past immersed in a social and cultural context.

Both Assmann and other scholars who have expanded on his theories make it clear that the two types of collective memory – communicative and cultural – can only be distinguished at the level of theory. As Harald Welzer writes, in ←20 | 21→the social practices of individuals and groups, these two forms of memory are tightly interwoven.21 The narratives of communicative memory can enter cultural memory through concrete practices of cultural transmission; they can be preserved, or otherwise, they are lost together with the memories of individuals. Communicative memory can also influence the content of cultural memory; for example, it can remove certain elements. Autobiographical memory is formed as a result of a constant interaction between people’s internal autonomy as individuals and external influences of which they are often unaware. What distinguishes the autobiographical memory of a given individual from the memories of everyone else is precisely the history of that individual’s communication with others.

Another German scholar, Astrid Erll, argues that “cultural memory” can serve as an “umbrella term” that covers various related meanings employed by researchers in different disciplines, such as: “social memory” (a point of departure for studies in the social sciences), “material memory” or “communicative memory” (objects of interest in studies of literature and media) and “mental” or “cognitive memory” (the field of research in psychology and cognitive science).22 Erll points out that the concept of “collective” or “cultural memory” is ultimately a figurative metaphor, whereby the mental act of remembering (a cognitive process that takes place in individual minds) is metaphorically transferred to the realm of culture.

Collective memory can also be understood as a communicative and ritualistic framework that gives biographical memory a collective dimension.23 It thus supplies “keys” through which individual experiences can be interpreted, creating a symbolic and cultural medium for the group in which one functions. This is precisely why in many of the testimonies analyzed here, the boundary between what someone personally experienced and what he or she only heard from others is often blurred. Asymmetry between biographical and collective memory – which arises when significant personal experiences do not become absorbed into collective memory – can lead to serious disturbances of identity, as well as marginalization and exclusion. Autobiographical memory, based on personal experience, is also sometimes described as “primary” memory, in ←21 | 22→contradistinction to the “secondary memory” of derivative “knowledge about” events,24 as well as “postmemory,” i.e. memory passed down to successive generations.25

Whilst the concept of collective memory is methodologically attractive, it does have its critics. One of the most interesting alternatives to the theory of collective memory is provided by Jay Winter, who argues: “If the term ‘collective memory’ has any meaning at all, it is the process through which different collectives, from groups of two to groups in their thousands, engage in acts of remembrance together.”26 For Winter there is no such thing as the memory of a state or nation; at most, there are memories held by people who are connected to the other people by virtue of belonging to the same group. If there are no remembering individuals – for example if they lose interest in a particular aspect of history, pass away, or physically relocate – the remembering collective also vanishes. This is, according to Winter, what Halbwachs had in mind when he wrote about memory disappearing when the social frames of memory disappear. Rather than “collective memory,” therefore, Winter proposes that we think in terms of “collective remembrance.” The essential questions for such an approach concern the intentions of individuals who are publicly active in spheres related to the past, i.e. those involved in the “work of memory.” Collective memory becomes only a metaphorical term, which in reality denotes a “set of practices of collective remembrance.” What matters, then, is not what people think about the past, but how they act. Winter’s critique of the term “collective memory” allows us to consider memory as a social phenomenon that is changing, procedural, constantly renegotiated, and always situated in the here and now.

An important question that follows from Winter’s critique is the distinction between collective and official memory. By official memory I mean the vision of the past constructed and transmitted by authorities through the available means of symbolic enforcement: education (curriculums and textbooks), various forms of public commemoration (museums, a monopoly on shaping symbolic space, the organization of holidays and anniversaries, etc.), and the media. The form of official memory that most frequently features in this study is the memory propagated by the state; nonetheless, it is worth noting that there are ←22 | 23→also official memories whose carriers are groups other than (smaller than) the state. In any situation where a social group creates a structure of power, they may also advance an official memory. A good example is the official memory of tightly knit ethnic minority groups, which have their own means of education and information distribution, such as the Polish minority in Ukraine and the Ukrainian minority in Poland. Official memory maintains various relationships of interdependence with biographical and collective memory. In a democratic society, collective memory is a foundation for official memory, whilst official memory can convey aspects of collective memory to individual memories. The less democratic a society is, and the more its governance relies on a ruling ideology, the more collective and official memory are out of joint. For example, Polish memory of the resettlement from the pre-war eastern territories was only inscribed into official memory after 1989.27

Thus, collective memory is inextricably entwined with group identity: a common memory turns a group into a remembering collective. Lech M. Nijakowski provides a useful description of remembering collectives as

aggregates of individuals (not necessarily groups) that are connected by a specific biographical experience, not always of a traumatic nature, as well as their descendants who inherit family frames of memory. Remembering collectives are made distinct from each other not just by the different “objective” histories of their members […], but also through the individual perspectives of their members […] and the emotions that are associated with those perspectives.28

Membership of a remembering collective does not have to be based on a familial transmission of memories that are constitutive for a given group; it can also be gained by means other than inheritance. Group memory does not only form a specific sensitivity to historical events that comprise that particular collective identity; it can also influence how people evaluate other elements of social memory. Group memory can define both large collectives (e.g. Red Army veterans in Ukraine) and small, localized groups (e.g. particular groups of settlers in Krzyż and Zhovkva). It can be integrated into collective and official memory, as has happened, for example, with the memory of settlers from the former Eastern Borderlands in Poland, or members of the group can undertake efforts to make it so. Particular remembering collectives in a given community can be in conflict ←23 | 24→with each other; but in this case, it is less likely that their narratives will enter collective and official memory.

Group memory is a particularly fertile foundation on which social practices of remembrance can develop; it is therefore the point at which memory understood as a potential repository of culture transforms into actual activity – a “historical remembrance” in Winter’s terms.29 Nonetheless, if memory is not turned into action, this does not mean that it does not exist; the reasons behind such passivity (or invisibility) can be various, from weak internalization of the narratives of collective memory to limitations resulting from diverse factors. Collective memory is often too weakly connected to personal experience to mobilize people into getting involved in practices of remembrance; autobiographical memory is too particular for such an outcome. This is precisely why remembering collectives are the most influential actors on this stage.

Another concept that is as important as memory for the purposes of this book is forgetting. The centrality of forgetting for collective identity was captured by Ernest Renan at the end of the nineteenth century, who argued that a nation is a collective that remembers together, and even more importantly, forgets in unison.30 Forgetting – also referred to as non-memory or selective remembering – is the second face of memory. Aleida Assmann states that memory and forgetting are inseparable parts of the same whole, together forming cultural memory.31 Paul Ricœur, who adapts the theories of Sigmund Freud, transfers psychoanalytical concepts from the individual to the collective, such as: repression; remembering, repeating and working through; excess of memory; and work of memory.32 In Ricœur’s understanding, societies struggle with similar problems to individuals: driven by anxieties about the integrity of their identities, they forget about certain elements of their past, only to later work through them arduously and to struggle with the returning effects of memories banished to the unconscious. The philosopher introduces a key distinction between active and passive forgetting: active forgetting is a conscious and purposeful action, intended to erase a feature of memory in order to preserve the symbolic and material good of the group; passive forgetting, on the other hand, is the ←24 | 25→usually unconscious avoidance of memories sensed to be problematic, difficult, or dangerous.

References to Ricœur’s ideas can be found in a broad range of empirical and theoretical studies. For a study based on analysis of personal interviews, an important consideration noted by Kaja Kaźmierska with reference to Fritz Schütze is that at the level of oral narration, “fading out of awareness” acts as the equivalent of passive forgetting.33 Marek Ziółkowski writes about the strong relationship of identity not only with forgetting, but also with what he calls “painful memory” (in relation e.g. to political and inter-ethnic conflicts). He argues that events that become part of collective non-memory are initially diminished and banished to the subconscious (passive forgetting), before they disappear from public discourse and cease to be a basis for collective action (active forgetting).34 Analyzing the memory of the Holocaust, Michael Bernard-Donals divides memory into Aristotelian anamnesis – recollection of persistently returning narratives that are uncomfortable or previously repressed – and mneme: rational, deliberately constructed stories about the past, or cultural memory.35 Anamnesis constantly interferes with mneme, trying to impose elements that have been erased from cultural memory. According to Bernard-Donals, these two dimensions of memory can be interpreted both in individuals (in which case anamnesis refers to difficult memories for the person) and in entire societies (in which case the repressed memories are those that have been erased from mneme by the collective as a whole). He argues that the Holocaust is a classic event that pertains to anamnesis.

When analyzing collective forgetting, it is important to consider why and how memory is suppressed. A community forgets certain facts, either actively or passively, in order to protect its group identity and moral integrity. That which is uncomfortable and unsafe, which might lead to some members of the collective ceasing to positively identify with the group, is erased. A second reason is more closely connected to the mechanisms by which individual and collective memory function. The loss of memory is a result of the disappearance of the ←25 | 26→social frames of memory; when they are removed, memory is also lost, first at the collective level, and then at the individual. Halbwachs argued that if certain memories fail to resurface, it is not because they are too old and gradually faded, but because they were previously part of a conceptual system that no longer exists.36 Jan Assmann makes a similar argument: when communication is interrupted or frames of memory disappear, forgetting ensues.37 The ideas voiced by both theorists are crucial for a study such as this one, which has been conducted in places where the previously existing frames of memory have completely vanished in the course of a single generation, or at least have been very substantially modified.

Another essential question in this context is the extent to which the social process of forgetting is reversible. As several scholars have shown, biographical memory can be altered under the influence of collective memory: individuals not only forget certain facts from their own lives, but also “re-remember” those that appeared forgotten forever.38 Can the same be said of collective memory? It appears that forgetting is a matter of a degree, and is more or less irrevocable. Aleida Assmann, using the same terms as Ricœur but giving them a completely different meaning, draws a distinction between active and passive forgetting:39 active forgetting removes an event from memory permanently and is irreversible; passive forgetting, on the other hand, happens through lack of attention rather than active choice, and can therefore be undone. In the scheme proposed by Assmann, collective forgetting (both active and passive) are complemented by active and passive remembering. Within a society, specific institutions – schools, civil offices and museums – are involved in active remembering. Active remembering constructs a canon of memory, whereas passive remembering happens in the realm of archival memory. Assmann illustrates this co-dependence by means of the suggestive metaphor of a museum, which has a display and storage. The display is accessible at any time, and is similar to active remembering. The storage is the archival memory, which is more difficult to access, but which can potentially be moved to the display hall. Processes of passive forgetting are often, in essence, passive remembering. The memory is not lost; it is merely temporarily out of use.

←26 | 27→

In the Field: Methods and Methodology

The method used in the present study essentially comprises three strands: a specific local community, memory seen through the prism of autobiography, and analysis of family memory through different generations. I decided to research social memory in small towns because I believe that the questions at the heart of this project are better answered from a lesser distance, rather than from a macro perspective; moreover, small-scale research facilitates deeper analysis. Of course, the findings of this study cannot be extrapolated to the greater whole of Polish and Ukrainian societies. Nonetheless, they do give an indirect perspective on the bigger picture by means of the typicality of the towns under consideration. Autobiography is a key word for this project because it is precisely through personal narratives that I examine how social worlds are reflected in the accounts of my interviewees.40 Especially in the case of older respondents, it would be impossible to understand their views and memories without a holistic consideration of their lives. As Norman Denzin argues in his essay reinterpreting the autobiographical method in sociology, “human behavior must be studied and understood from the perspective of the people under consideration.”41 If subjectivity is thus taken seriously, the categories of truth and falsehood become inadequate. The concepts of authenticity and inauthenticity, or “emotional authenticity” as the well-known oral historian Alessandro Portelli put it, become more appropriate.42

←27 | 28→

Moreover, memory that is constructed socially – through family, neighborhoods, and localities – is always connected to identity (both individual and group), and is thus impossible to study without reference to biography. Even if the respondent’s autobiographical narrative does not supply clues as to how one can place their views in a particular interpretive frame, as often happens with younger people, delving into the history of their family – and thus into constructed biography – completely changes the situation. Research into the intergenerational transmission of memory, especially studies of Holocaust survivors,43 shows the extent to which narratives distributed within the family can be used to understand the mechanisms of memory and forgetting.

At the fieldwork stage of this project, I treated generation as a working category – I was trying to carry out interviews with at least one member of each generation within a family, starting with the oldest. Only when I started analyzing the material did it transpire that a more nuanced division of respondents into different generations was needed. Besides respondents’ age, their shared historical experiences were also essential (although they did not necessarily lead to a feeling of community), as was their participation during their childhood and youth in the same memory culture (i.e. the overall mechanisms by which perspectives on the past were formed, including family, society, and official memory).44 Considering the enormous variety in age among my interviewees ←28 | 29→(who were born between 1914 and 1992) I decided to sort them into four generations (codified in respondents’ identity ciphers as A, B, C and D, respectively). The first (born before 1936) was the “Witness Generation:” the biographical memory of these individuals covers the entirety, or at least a large part of the Second World War, and often the pre-war period as well. War and its consequences were formative experiences for them. They underwent resettlement and experienced the building of a new post-war society as fully conscious adults or teens.

The second generation (born between 1936 and 1954) was the “Generation of Living Memory:”45 their memories were formed in the period immediately following the war, above all through direct transmission. These individuals experienced the war and resettlement as children (and often were unable to distinguish what they remembered themselves from what they were told by older people), or were born in the early post-war years and grew up hearing stories about the war and were formed in social conditions directly affected by it.46 The third, “Thaw Generation” (born 1955–1975) was made up of people born during the Thaw period, with a significant temporal distance from the end of the war; their memories were fully codified, formed by family memories crystallized by a specific time lag, and also especially by the official memory of the Polish People’s Republic and the USSR. The last generation, the “Grandchildren’s Generation” (born 1976–1992), were respondents whose socialization occurred in part or in whole after the fall of communism. Because of their young age, they have limited access to memories of personal experiences of the war.

Because I was interested above all in the memories of “ordinary” people, i.e. vernacular memory, the decision to carry out personal interviews and (partially participant) observation was an obvious one. As Mirosława Grabowska argues, the interview is the only possible research tool in situations where the questions ←29 | 30→being posed are complex or can be understood by scholar and subject in different ways.47 In such situations, this subjective understanding becomes the object of inquiry – and there is no method other than conversation by which to access it. I employed two types of interviews: narrative (autobiographical, oral history) interviews with older individuals (generation A and older interviewees from B) and thematic interviews with elements of biographical questioning with younger respondents (younger people from the generation B, as well as C and D). In sociology, narrative interviews can be both a research method and a method of analysis: for me, they were primarily a tool for gathering empirical material.48 The essence of this technique is that the narrative reflects personal experiences: the interviewee tells his/her story, creating his/her own narrative, and only after s/he has finished does the interviewer pose additional questions.

In practice, ideal narrative interviews happen rarely: often, the respondent does not have the narrative competence to construct their story (and this is not necessarily related to their level of education). The researcher’s prompts notwithstanding, respondents insist on concrete questions or start to relate their most important life experiences right away (in the case of older interviewees, this is most often the war), omitting their childhood.49 In such situations, I was compelled to pose questions that were in any case asked in every interview, not least because I was interested in respondents’ views on themes and events that were not necessarily directly related to their life experience. Additionally, interviews with older respondents almost always had a therapeutic dimension. Many people were telling their stories about painful experiences for the first time, and all of them found it difficult to articulate their wartime memories. Such conversations necessitated a particular empathy towards the respondents, and sensitivity to ←30 | 31→their needs.50 Interviews with younger people were more rigidly structured and were conducted according to previously prepared interview blueprints (which differed somewhat in the two localities).

Research in Zhovkva was carried out in 2008–2010, while fieldwork in Krzyż was carried out between 2009 and 2011. During my stays in both towns, besides conducting interviews, I tried to observe local commemorative practices: I attended ceremonies connected to important historical events (e.g. in Ukraine, Victory Day on 9 May and Independence Day on 23 August, and in Poland, Constitution Day on 3 May and Independence Day on 11 November); I also visited cemeteries and other sites of memory, museum exhibitions (in Zhovkva) and commemorative displays in schools (in Krzyż). In both places, I favored non-probability-sampling (purposive sampling).51 I recruited my first interviewees on the principle that they had to have lived in the town before the late 1940s: it was crucial that their experience encompassed the momentous period of the resettlements, the change of statehood, and the building of a new society. The first interviewees suggested contacts to other people, and I thus followed this classic “snowball” method of gathering interviewees, trying to collect respondents whilst maintaining proportionality of the different groups of residents who created the new Krzyż and Zhovkva after 1945. When I deviated from this principle on a few occasions and spoke to people who settled in the town after 1950, I did so because of the exceptionality of their experience or because of the difficulty of reaching individuals who fit my criterion. I carried out interviews until a point of saturation was achieved; or in other words, until I was convinced that further respondents would not bring any new contents to the already accumulated material.52

←31 | 32→

Conducting fieldwork in both towns, I used interviews that I myself had carried out and, to a lesser extent, those recorded by others. In Krzyż this was connected to the simultaneous progress of the Karta Centre’s documentation project; in Zhovkva, the Geschichtswerkstatt Europa was conducting a project financed by the EVZ Foundation. This multi-pronged amassment of empirical material made the body of available sources very large. In Krzyż, over 100 interviews were recorded; in Zhovkva, there were more than 90 (in both towns, nearly half of the conversations were with people born before the war). My initial plan was to collect about 15 interviews for each generation in both towns, or about 60 for each town, as well as supplementary expert interviews (with individuals who were important for the transmission of memory in the local community: representatives of the local authorities, teachers, culture professionals, etc.). However, gathering interviews with members of all the generations in a family turned out to be a difficult task. In many situations, a promising start with the eldest representative did not lead to further interviews with descendants: respondents did not have children or grandchildren, or the younger generations lived outside Zhovkva or Krzyż, or I simply had difficulties in establishing contact with them. On some occasions, the younger members refused to answer questions; older individuals also sometimes declined to participate. The final selection of material was the product of compromises: sometimes, I kept a conversation for my sample even if it had no generational continuation, or I kept a fairly average interview with an older person because his/her children or grandchildren gave an enlightening response. In the end, 82 interviews from Krzyż were kept for the sample (7 full generational sets/families, 17 partial sets, and 8 expert interviews) and 75 from Zhovkva (7 full generational sets/families, 13 partial ones, and 10 expert interviews).

In both towns, fieldwork had its own specificity. In Krzyż, progress was influenced by the fact that I myself come from there. In some situations, my connection to the town made work easier; in others, it was a limiting factor. Gathering materials and observing social life was certainly made simpler by my familiarity with local conditions. In this small community, I knew without any additional effort which employees in culture or administration had a real influence on local memory policy, which teachers conducted an extracurricular course on regional history, and who collected German memorabilia. Similarly, respondents were often better disposed towards being interviewed by me, because they already knew me or members of my family. This factor of being an insider, however, did come with a price, and in other situations was a hindrance. For instance, it happened that during interviews, respondents treated certain questions only ←32 | 33→briefly or omitted them altogether, judging them to be obvious; they assumed there was no need to talk about them if I knew about them already.53

Carrying out research in Zhovkva was much more complicated. Difficulties arose above all from being in a foreign country: from the outset, the fact that my interviewees and I (usually) came from different cultures and linguistic environments created barriers.54 Another problematic issue was the fact that I, as a Pole, was conducting fieldwork in Galicia – as a result of the difficult history of Polish-Ukrainian relations in this region, my background often affected the relationship between my respondents and myself. Above all, I received frequent refusals – roughly one in five interview requests was turned down, mostly by older individuals who had been resettled from Poland or had lived in Zhovkva since before the war; they had no desire to tell someone from Poland about their painful experiences from the past, which were perpetrated by Poles. A second group who fairly frequently declined interview requests were Ukrainians and Russians who had originally come from the East; this was most likely due to a general suspicion of foreigners, as well as a fear of recounting experiences from the war and immediate post-war years, for a variety of reasons.55 A number of individuals who I knew to have been active “builders of the new system” ←33 | 34→also refused to grant interviews – here, it was probably an anxiety about their connections to the previous regime, rather than anything to do with my nationality, that played a key role. One respondent, a former serviceman and functionary of the security services originally from central Ukraine, explained his refusal to be interviewed by stating that he had not lived in Zhovkva during the war, had no knowledge of Polish-Ukrainian relations at that time, and never had any conflicts with Poles. The logic of this explanation speaks volumes about how I might have been perceived: despite my efforts to convince people that I was not only researching Polish-Ukrainian conflicts, some residents of Zhovkva assumed a priori that, as a Pole, I could only be interested in this topic. Another, more fundamental issue was that my nationality could have prompted respondents to modify their narratives, more or less consciously.56

A few words of explanation are needed on how the collected materials were used. Because of the methodological foundations of the analysis, I decided to directly quote my interviewees, to give them a voice, as often as possible. All names are anonymized, not because of a desire to de-individualize them, but in order to protect their privacy. Working with materials gathered in such small communities, the simple method of substituting names with initials would have been insufficient.57 Thus, respondents are assigned identity ciphers, and their short biographies are given at the end of the book, ordered according to generational sets (i.e. families), for easy reference between quotes in the text and the speaker’s biographical context.58 Anonymization was carried out with a broad scope: not only are interviewees’ names hidden, but the names of people they are talking about have also been removed (in exceptional cases where names are supplied, justification is provided in the text); biographical details that would make it easy ←34 | 35→to identify individuals have also been held back. However, local toponyms from the areas surrounding Krzyż and Zhovkva have not been anonymized, as to do so would be to lose a substantial amount of local expressivity in the study. The biographical notes contain information about respondents’ professional and/or social activities only in cases where such details are directly related to their views (e.g. museum director or school headmaster). In order to protect the anonymity of interviewees, I did on several occasions (in cases where I was analyzing issues that were particularly delicate and potentially conflictual for the community) have to refrain from directly quoting an individual, instead paraphrasing their response in general terms (and omitting their identity cipher).


The qualitative interview, and especially the biographical interview, is by nature not just a process of extracting information, but also an interpretive and interactive event.59 In my fieldwork, this event always entailed an act of trust giving. This is why the preservation of the integrity of the interviews and of the anonymity of the interviewees was so important to me. For the same reason, working on the text of this book was more than a scholarly challenge: because of the themes involved, it was also a constant imbrication in other people’s traumas, losses and disinheritances. Maintaining an emotional distance from such matters turned out to be impossible and, in the context of the methodological foundations of the work, inappropriate. Also, because the inscription “Zubov” is still visible on my house, I glimpse at it every time I walk through the door. I still do not know who lived here before 1945. For this reason, the book that resulted is not only a scholarly analysis; it is also – for me, above all – a record of a personal journey towards understanding a certain reality and a particular set of people, who are close to me for a range of reasons. I hope that this intimacy is not a weakness, but a strength.

←35 | 36→←36 | 37→

1 http://karta.org.pl/, last accessed 13.12.2018.

2 Cf. https://audiohistoria.pl/zbiory/16-krzyz-kreuz-w-xx-wieku-polska-i-niemiecka-pamiec-p, last accessed 13.12.2018.

3 Post-migratory communities are those that, as a result of mass population transfer (in the Polish and Ukrainian contexts) were rebuilt and reconstituted by settlers and migrants, with a minor role played by the (remaining) autochthonous population, see: Wojciech Łukowski, Społeczne tworzenie ojczyzn. Studium tożsamości mieszkańców Mazur (Warszawa: Scholar, 2002); Zdzisław Mach, Niechciane miasta. Migracja i tożsamość społeczna (Kraków: Universitas, 1998).

4 Timothy Snyder, Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin (New York: Basic Books, 2010).

5 Thomas Urban, Der Verlust. Die Vertreibung der Deutschen und Polen im 20. Jahrhundert (München: C.H. Beck Verlag, 2004). The Centre Against Expulsions (German, Zentrum gegen Vertreibungen) was an initiative of the German Union of Expellees, a political organization that brings together individuals who were deported from the formerly German territories that were transferred to Poland and Czechoslovakia, as well as their descendants. The Centre was supposed to commemorate the expulsions of Germans and other ethnic groups during and after the Second World War. In Poland, the idea of the planned documentation center caused controversy, because of fears that it could relativize German responsibility for war crimes and lead to claims of equality between German victims and other victims of resettlement. The Centre has still not been built.

6 The concept of Eastern Borderlands has many different connotations in Polish, but it is most commonly used as a neutral term to denote the pre-war provinces that Poland lost as a result of the war and the post-war settlement. On the memory of the Eastern Borderlands and the use of the term, see: Małgorzata Głowacka-Grajper, Transmisja pamięci. Działacze “sfery pamięci” i przekaz o Kresach Wschodnich we współczesnej Polsce (Warszawa: Wydawnictwa Uniwersytetu Warszawskiego, 2017). On the ideological disputes over the idea of Kresy, see: Tomasz Zarycki, Ideologies of Eastness in Central and Eastern Europe (New York: Routledge, 2014).

7 On the post-war border shifts and mass population transfers in Poland and Ukraine, see: Pertti Ahonen, Gustavo Corni, Jan Kochanowski, Reiner Schulze, Tamar Stark and Barbara Stelzl-Marx, People on the Move. Forced Population Movements in Europe in the Second World War and its Aftermath (Oxford-New York: Berg Publishers, 2008); Grzegorz Hryciuk, Małgorzata Ruchniewicz, Bożena Szaynok and Andrzej Żbikowski, Wysiedlenia, wypędzenia i ucieczki 1930–1959. Atlas ziem Polski (Warszawa: Demart, 2008).

8 The resettlement of Poles from the former eastern provinces, and of Germans from the post-war western and northern regions of Poland, have been discussed in a range of studies, e.g. the documentary collections: Stanisław Ciesielski, ed., Przesiedlenie ludności polskiej z Kresów Wschodnich do Polski: 1944–1947 (Warszawa: Neriton, 1999); Włodzimierz Borodziej and Hans Lemberg, Niemcy w Polsce 1945–1950. Wybór dokumentów, Vol. 1 (Warszawa: Neriton, 2000). The resettlement of the Polish Ukrainians in 1944–47 is discussed in: Orest Subtelny, “Expulsion, Resettlement, Civil Strife: The Fate of Poland’s Ukrainians, 1944–1947,” in: Redrawing Nations. Ethnic Cleansing in East-Central Europe, 1944–1948, ed. Philipp Ther and Ana Siljak (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2008), pp. 155–172.

9 On post-war migration to Galicia, see: Tarik Cyril Amar, The Paradox of Ukrainian Lviv. A Borderland City between Stalinists, Nazis, and Nationalists (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 2015).

10 At the same time, I am indebted to many studies that do employ a microhistorical approach, especially in the context of the Polish-German and Polish-Ukrainian borderlands, e.g.: Shimon Redlich, Together and Apart in Brzezany: Poles, Jews, and Ukrainians, 1919–1945 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2002); Andrzej Sakson and Robert Traba, Przeszłość zapamiętana. Narracje z pogranicza: materiały pomocnicze do analizy polsko-niemieckich stosunków narodowościowych na przykładzie warmińskiej wsi Purda Wielka (Olsztyn: Stowarzyszenie Wspólnota Kulturowa “Borussia,” 2007).

11 Maurice Halbwachs, On Collective Memory (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1992).

12 Robert Traba, Historia – przestrzeń dialogu (Warszawa: ISP PAN, 2006), p. 34.

13 Jay Winter, “The Performance of the Past: Memory, History, Identity,” in: Performing the Past: Memory, History, and Identity in Modern Europe, ed. Karin Tilmans, Frank van Vree and Jay Winter (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2010), p. 12.

14 Cf. David Lowenthal, The Past is a Foreign Country (London: Cambridge University Press, 1985).

15 Cf. Jay Winter, Remembering War: The Great War between Memory and History in the Twentieth Century (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006).

16 Cf. Astrid Erll, “Cultural Memory Studies: An Introduction,” in: Cultural Memory Studies. An International and Interdisciplinary Handbook, ed. Astrid Erll and Ansgar Niinning (Berlin–New York: De Gruyter, 2008), pp. 1–18.

17 This does not mean that no such attempts have been made on the basis of particular studies, see: e.g. Jeffrey Olick and Joyce Robbins, “Social Memory Studies: From ‘Collective Memory’ to the Historical Sociology of Mnemonic Practices,” Annual Review of Sociology, Vol. 24, No. 1 (1998), pp. 105–140; and on Polish scholarship on memory, see: Kornelia Kończal and Joanna Wawrzyniak, “Provincializing memory studies: Polish approaches in the past and present,” Memory Studies, first published 25.01.2017, https://doi.org/10.1177/1750698016688238, last accessed 15.02.2019.

18 Halbwachs, On Collective Memory.

19 For a definition of the intelligentsia, see: Maciej Janowski, Birth of the Intelligentsia 1750–1831, Vol. 1 (Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang Edition, 2014), especially Jerzy Jedlicki, “Introduction” in this volume.

20 Jan Assmann, Cultural Memory and Early Civilization: Writing, Remembrance and Political Imagination (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), p. 5.

21 See Harald Welzer, “Communicative Memory”, in: Cultural Memory Studies: An International and Interdisciplinary Handbook, ed. Astrid Erll and Ansgar Nünning (Berlin/New York: de Gruyter, 2008), pp. 285–300.

22 Erll, “Cultural Memory Studies.”

23 Kaja Kaźmierska, Biography and Memory. The Generational Experience of the Shoah Survivors (Boston: Academic Studies Press, 2012), p. 57.

24 Dominick LaCapra, History and Memory after Auschwitz (Chicago: Cornell University Press, 1998).

25 Marianne Hirsch, Family Frames. Photography, Narrative and Postmemory (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1997).

26 Winter, Remembering War, p. 4.

27 See: Głowacka-Grajper, Transmisja pamięci.

28 Lech M. Nijakowski, Domeny symboliczne. Konflikty narodowe i etniczne w wymiarze symbolicznym (Warszawa: Scholar, 2006), pp. 32–33.

29 Winter, Remembering War, p. 9.

30 Ernest Renan, “What is a Nation?,” in: Nation and Narration, ed. Homi Bhabha (London: Routledge, 1990), pp. 8–22.

31 Aleida Assmann, “Canon and Archive,” in: Cultural Memory Studies: An International and Interdisciplinary Handbook, ed. Astrid Erll and Ansgar Nünning (Berlin/New York: de Gruyter, 2008), pp. 97–108.

32 Paul Ricœur, Memory, History, Forgetting (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004).

33 Kaźmierska, Biography and Memory. Kaźmierska discusses the notion of “fading out” at greater depth in her earlier text: Kaja Kaźmierska, “Wywiad narracyjny – technika i pojęcie analityczne,” in: Biografia a tożsamość narodowa, ed. Marek Czyżewski, Andrzej Piotrowski and Alicja Rokuszewska-Pawełek (Łódź: Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Łódzkiego, 1996), pp. 35–45.

34 Cf. Marek Ziółkowski, “Pamięć i zapominanie: trupy w szafie polskiej zbiorowej pamięci,” Kultura i Społeczeństwo, Vol. 3/4 (2001), pp. 3–22.

35 Michael F. Bernard-Donals, Forgetful Memory: Representation and Remembrance in the Wake of the Holocaust (Albany: SUNY Press, 2009).

36 Halbwachs, On Collective Memory.

37 Assmann, Cultural Memory, p. 23.

38 Alicja Rokuszewska-Pawełek, Chaos i przymus. Trajektorie wojenne Polaków – analiza biograficzna (Łódź: Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Łódzkiego, 2002).

39 Assmann, “Canon and Archive.”

40 My basic inspiration was the biographical method, a classic school in Polish sociology that draws on the work of William Thomas and Florian Znaniecki: their The Polish Peasant in Europe and America (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1918). Among the more recent sociological studies that employ autobiography as a key concept, the following have particularly inspired me: Barbara Engelking, Zagłada i pamięć. Doświadczenia Holocaustu i jego konsekwencje opisane na podstawie relacji autobiograficznych (Warszawa: IFiS PAN, 2001); Małgorzata Melchior, Zagłada a tożsamość. Polscy Żydzi ocaleni “na aryjskich papierach.” Analiza doświadczenia biograficznego (Warszawa: IFiS PAN, 2004); Kaja Kaźmierska, Doświadczenia wojenne Polaków a kształtowanie tożsamości etnicznej. Analiza narracji kresowych (Warszawa: IFiS PAN, 1999).

41 Norman Denzin, “Reinterpretacja metody biograficznej w socjologii: znaczenie a metoda w analizie biograficznej,” in: Metoda biograficzna w socjologii, ed. Jan Włodarek and Marek Ziółkowski (Warszawa–Poznań: Państwowe Wydawnictwo Naukowe, 1990), p. 53.

42 Alessandro Portelli, “Philosophy and the Fact: Subjectivity and Narrative Form in Autobiography and Oral History,” in: The Battle of Valle Giulia: Oral History and the Art of Dialogue (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1997), pp. 79–90.

43 Cf. Karoline Tschuggnall and Harald Welzer, “Rewriting Memories: Family Recollections of the National Socialist Past in Germany,” Culture Psychology, Vol. 8 (2002), pp. 130–145; Lena Inowlocki, “Grandmothers, Mothers and Daughters. Intergenerational Transmission in Displaced Families in Three Jewish Communities,” International Yearbook of Oral History and Life Stories, Vol. 2 (1993), pp. 139–154; Daniel Bertaux and Paul Thompson, eds., Between Generations. Family Models, Myths and Memories (New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers, 2005); Gabriele Rosenthal, The Holocaust in Three Generations. Families of Victims and Perpetrators of the Nazi Regime (Opladen–Farmington Hills: Barbara Budrich Publishers, 2010).

44 Historical experience is a key concept in many studies of generation, see: Thomas C. Wolfe, “Past as Present, Myth or History? Discourses of Time and the Great Patriotic War,” in: The Politics of Memory in Postwar Europe, ed. Richard Ned Lebow, Wulf Kansteiner and Claudio Fogu (Durham–London, Duke University Press, 2006), pp. 249–283; Piotr T. Kwiatkowski, “Wprowadzenie. Doświadczenie II wojny światowej w badaniach socjologicznych,” in: Między codziennością a wielką historią. Druga wojna światowa w pamięci zbiorowej społeczeństwa polskiego, ed. Piotr T. Kwiatkowski, Lech M. Nijakowski, Barbara Szacka and Andrzej Szpociński (Warszawa: Scholar, 2010), pp. 12–54; Howard Schuman and Jacqueline Scott, “Generations and Collective Memories,” American Sociological Review, Vol. 54, No. 3 (1989), pp. 359–381.

45 Polish sociologist Nina Assorodobraj’s idea of “living history” provided the inspiration for this concept, see: Nina Assorodobraj, “‘Żywa historia.’ Świadomość historyczna: symptomy i propozycje badawcze,” Studia Socjologiczne, Vol. 2, No. 9 (1963), pp. 4–28.

46 Dorothee Wierling identifies a “war children generation,” corresponding rather well with my generation B: she describes them as people whose childhood happened during the war; who grew up without their fathers, who had been conscripted to the army; and who were too young to get involved in any political activities before 1945, see: Dorothee Wierling, “Generations as Narrative Communities. Some Private Sources of Public Memory in Postwar Germany,” in: Histories of the Aftermath. The Legacies of the Second World War in Europe, ed. Frank Biess and Robert G. Moeller (New York-Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2010), pp. 102–120.

47 Mirosława Grabowska, “Wywiad w badaniu zjawisk ‘trudnych.’ Przypadek polskiej religijności,” in: Poza granicami socjologii ankietowej, ed. Antoni Sułek, Kazimierz Nowak and Anna Wyka (Warszawa: UW, IS, PTS, 1989), pp. 141–166.

48 Cf. Kaźmierska, “Wywiad narracyjny.”

49 This type of autobiographical narrative is observed fairly frequently among respondents who were born before the war, see: Ewa Nowicka, “Wojna jako element opowieści biograficznej greckich repatriantów z Polski,” in: Pamięć zbiorowa jako czynnik integracji i źródło konfliktów, ed. Andrzej Szpociński (Warszawa: Scholar, 2009), pp. 73–124. On the problems involved in soliciting a “good” autobiographical narrative, see: Gabriele Rosenthal, “Rekonstrukcja historii życia. Wybrane zasady generowania opowieści w wywiadach biograficzno-narracyjnych,” in: Metoda biograficzna w socjologii, ed. Jan Włodarek and Marek Ziółkowski (Warszawa–Poznań: Państwowe Wydawnictwo Naukowe, 1990), pp. 97–112.

50 Questions surrounding the therapeutic dimension of interviews and of the accompanying difficulties, have been discussed in a large corpus of literature, see: Juliet Corbin and Janice M. Morse, “The unstructured Interactive Interview: Issues of Reciprocity and Risks when Dealing with Sensitive Topics,” Qualitative Inquiry, Vol. 9, No. 3, (2003), pp. 335–354.

51 On purposive sample and methods of achieving point of saturation in the sample, see: Daniel Bertaux, “From the Life-History Approach to the Transformation of Sociological Practice,” in: Biography and Society, ed. Daniel Bertaux (London−Beverly Hills: Sage Publications, 1981), pp. 19–28.

52 Daniel Bertaux calls this type of obtained representativeness – in opposition to statistical representativeness that appears at the morphological level (superficial description) – representativeness at the sociological level (in socio-cultural relations), see: Bertaux, “From the Life-History Approach.”

53 On the limitations of being an “insider researcher,” see: Marta Kurkowska-Budzan, Antykomunistyczne podziemie zbrojne na Białostocczyźnie. Analiza współczesnej symbolizacji przeszłości (Kraków: Tow. Wydawnicze “Historia Iagellonica,” 2009), p. 98; Jennifer Platt, “On Interviewing One’s Peers,” The British Journal of Sociology, Vol. 32, No. 1 (1981), pp. 75–91; Maxine Baca Zinn, “Insider Field Research in Minority Communities,” in: Contemporary Field Research: Perspectives and Formulations, ed. Robert M. Emerson (Long Grove: Waveland Pr Inc., 2001), pp. 159–166.

54 On conducting fieldwork in a country other than one’s own, and the possible modifying effects of the researcher’s nationality on biographical narratives, see: Gabriele Rosenthal and Dan Bar-On, “A biographical case study of a victimizer’s daughter,” Journal of Narrative and Life History, Vol. 2, No. 2 (1992), pp. 105–127; Anna Wylegała, “Badacz z Polski na Ukrainie: problemy metodologiczne,” Przegląd Socjologii Jakościowej, Vol. 9, No. 4 (2013), pp. 140–151.

55 One of my interviewees (born in central Ukraine) told me that she considered for a long time whether to agree to the interview, because she had been afraid of coming into contact with foreigners since the time of the war, when she was deported to Germany as a forced labourer. Her reluctance to voice her experiences from those times was not groundless. After the war had ended, thousands of Soviet forced labourers in Germany who returned to their homes were deported to the camps in Siberia. Those who avoided this fate were afraid to talk about their wartime histories for the rest their lives. See: Marta Dyczok, The Grand Alliance and Ukrainian Refugees (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2000); Gelinada Grinchenko, “The Ostarbeiter of Nazi Germany in Soviet and Post-Soviet Ukrainian Historical Memory,” Canadian Slavonic Papers (September–December 2012), pp. 401–426.

56 This is a question that can only be discussed in relation to specific interviews and their historical contexts. For this reason, I develop it in later sections of the book, see: e.g. footnote 313 in Chapter 8: “Between Heroes and Traitors: the UPA and the Soviets in Zhovkva.”

57 On the limitations of mechanical anonymization in research on “sensitive” issues, see: Ralph Larossa, Linda A. Bennett and Richard J. Gelles, “Ethical Dilemmas in Qualitative Family Research,” Journal of Marriage and Family, Vol. 43, No. 2 (1981), pp. 303–313.

58 Z or K indicates Zhovkva or Krzyż, respectively; number − the number of the generational set/family; the capital letter is the generation, and f/m – the person’s gender. Z1Af is thus a female interviewee in Zhovkva from the oldest generation, and Z1Bf is her daughter.

59 Piotr Filipkowski, “Historia mówiona i wojna,” in: Wojna. Doświadczenie i zapis – nowe źródła, problemy, metody badawcze, ed. Sławomir Buryła and Paweł Rodak (Kraków: Universitas, 2006), p. 15.

1 Dramatis personae: History and Memory

Roots (up to 1939)

In order to write about identity and memory in any place, we need firstly to outline its history. I will therefore attempt to briefly sketch of the histories of the two towns, using scholarly works as well as statements of my interviewees. Before the Second World War, both Zhovkva and Krzyż were towns with very distinct identities, with their own specific dynamics that had, and continue to have, a substantial impact on the identity of the locality and its inhabitants.60 In the case of Zhovkva it was an identity of a historically multicultural town; for Krzyż, it was an identity of a modern, energetic society that had emerged thanks to the presence of a railroad: the quintessence of nineteenth-century progress.

Zhovkva was founded (as Żółkiew) at the end of the sixteenth century by Stanisław Żółkiewski, the Field Crown Hetman (i.e. the highest-ranking military commander) of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. It was designed as an ideal Renaissance-era town: Paweł Szczęśliwy [Paul the Happy], a prominent architect of Italian origin, was commissioned to design the castle complex, the town walls and the Collegiate Church of St. Lawrence, the most important buildings in Żółkiewski’s vision. Żółkiew was granted town privileges in 1603, and from this time it enjoyed rapid advancement in both the economic and the cultural spheres, reaching a zenith in the second half of the seventeenth century. At this time, Żółkiew was the favorite residence of King Jan III Sobieski and his wife Marie. The Ukrainian national hero Bohdan Khmelnytsky is also connected to Żółkiew61 – according to local lore, he was born in the town or its surroundings and spent part of his childhood there. Whether or not this is true, it is beyond doubt that the Cossack hetman stationed his troops in Żółkiew twice ←37 | 38→during the Cossack-Polish War (1648–1657), leading to considerable damage. In the second half of the seventeenth century, a series of impressive buildings were erected, which remain the principal landmarks of the town to this day: the Roman Catholic Church of St. Lawrence, the Orthodox Church and monastery of the Basilians, the walled Renaissance synagogue, the Dominican church and monastery, and the arcaded townhouses surrounding the market square.

At this time, Żółkiew was already a multinational and multi-confessional town. Żółkiewski had founded it on the site of an old Ukrainian village called Winniki (Vynnyky), so it is hardly surprising that Orthodox (and later, Greek Catholic) Ruthenians comprised a significant part of the town’s population. Roman Catholic Poles arrived together with Żółkiewski, and since the town became an important trading hub, Armenian, German and Jewish merchants soon followed. Whereas Armenians assimilated with the Polish majority relatively quickly due to the absence of a confessional barrier, the Jews remained an autonomous and closed community right up to the twentieth century. Zhovkva’s synagogue is still one of Ukraine’s largest buildings despite wartime damage, testifying to the significance and size of the town’s historical Jewish community.

In the eighteenth century, a period of relative decline ensued, as Żółkiew was conquered and plundered by Polish, Cossack, Swedish, Saxon and Russian armies. In 1772, after the first Partition of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, Żółkiew the town became part of the Habsburg monarchy, along with the rest of the region of present Lwów (now Lviv, which started to be named Lemberg). The Habsburg period in Żółkiew, particularly the second half of the nineteenth century, was above all a time of competing nationalisms: Polish and Ruthenian (Ukrainian).62 For the Ruthenian national movement this involved a conflict between opposing visions of nationhood: the so-called Muscophile branch, which held that Ruthenians were members of the Russian ethnos, and the Ukrainophile branch, which believed that they were a fully separate collective.63 At the same time, the Ruthenians were keen students of Polish nationalism, although the Poles rarely took notice. An indirect consequence was that the Ukrainophile vision eventually held sway throughout Habsburg Galicia, with Żółkiew conforming to the pattern. As a result, residents of the town were active participants in the Polish-Ukrainian conflict over Galicia after the First World ←38 | 39→War. The Great War itself did not leave substantial physical damage in Żółkiew, although the retreating Russian army burned down the already damaged castle in 1915. In November 1918, a Ukrainian administration took control of the town, and many Ukrainians joined the ranks of the Sich Riflemen and (later) the Ukrainian Galician Army – military organizations that fought for Ukrainian independence against both the Bolsheviks and Poles. Until spring 1919, Żółkiew was a field of battle between Polish and Ukrainian armies. The conflict ended in May 1919, when Poles gained control of the town.

In the inter-war period, the contestation between Polish and Ukrainian nationalisms in Żółkiew lost none of its intensity, but its form changed. Ukrainians engaged in activities that the Polish authorities allowed. Ukrainian social organizations were active, such as the most wide-spread and influential Prosvita [Enlightenment], and the associations Zoria [Star], Besida [Dialogue], Sojuz Ukrainok [the Union of Ukrainian Women] and Sokil [Falcon]; Ukrainian co-operatives also developed. The center of cultural and religious life was the monastery and church of the Basilians, as well as the Ukrainian printing house. For a time, there was also the local branch of the all-Ukrainian Scout Organization, Plast, until it was outlawed by the Polish authorities in 1930 and became an underground organization. These events coincided with the emergence in Żółkiew and its surroundings of illegal OUN groupings [Orhanizatsia Ukrayinskykh Natsionalistiv, or the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists], which attracted an ever-increasing number of young Ukrainians. Poles, meanwhile, found themselves in a rather comfortable situation between the wars – their nationalism had yielded a nation state, and they were the group holding the reins of power. There were, at this time, three schools in Żółkiew that taught in Polish, a Polish-language middle school, and a college for teachers run by Felician nuns. In contrast, there was only one Ukrainian school – in the district of Winniki, a part of the town that had previously been a Ukrainian village. There was also a Jewish finishing school for girls and a fully-fledged Jewish school of the Tarbut network.64

The results of the national census of 1931 (in which there was no data about nationality, only mother tongue and religious affiliation) show that of the 18,070 people living in the towns in the Żółkiew district (i.e. the 11,000 residents of Żółkiew itself, as well as neighboring Kulików (Kulykiv) and Mosty Wielkie (Velyki Mosty)), 68.6 % regarded Polish as their mother tongue, with ←39 | 40→7.1 %, declaring Ukrainian and 13.8 % Yiddish. 27.3 % of respondents considered themselves to be Roman Catholics, with 37.8 % Greek Catholics and 34.4 % of the Jewish faith.65 Meanwhile, the Ukrainian historian and geographer Volodymyr Kubiiovych, who edited the monumental Encyclopedia of Ukrainian Studies, estimated that in September 1939 there were 4,270 Jews, 3,500 Poles and 3,100 Ukrainians among the 11,100 residents of Żółkiew.66 Gerszon Taffet, author of the book entitled The Extermination of Zhovkva’s Jewry, believed there were around 4,500 Jewish residents in the town on the eve of war.67 The question of which of these estimates is the most precise is moot, given that many individual identities certainly did not fit into these clearly delineated ethnic categories. It is difficult to draw conclusions about ethnonational identity from the census categories of mother tongue and religion, especially when it comes to, say, Polish-speaking Jews or Polish-speaking Greek Catholics.68 Nonetheless, it can be concluded from each of the estimates that Jews formed the most numerous ethno-confessional group in Żółkiew; Poles and Ukrainians comprised roughly a third of the population each, although it can be assumed that the Ukrainians were slightly less numerous than the Poles, and certainly weaker. The more pertinent question concerns the relations between the groups.

As Yaroslav Hrytsak argues, multiculturalism did not exist in Galicia during this period in the normative sense, i.e. there was no peaceful coexistence of different cultures in one place without the domination of any single group.69 ←40 | 41→Poles, Ukrainians and Jews lived in the same town, Żółkiew, but to all intents and purposes they lived separately, with the dominant group, the Poles, setting the tone. Cultural, social and religious practices were formed in more or less closed and parallel ethnonational communities. They came into contact mostly during conflicts of collective interest. The Poles treated the Ukrainian national movement as a fabrication dreamed up by a clique of intellectuals and an act of indecency on the part of the previously docile Ruthenians. The Ukrainians, on the other hand, felt discriminated against as an ethnic minority. Both groups knew little about the Jews who co-inhabited their town and the changes that were occurring within their community, such as the development of Zionist and communist ideas. Whereas Polish-Ukrainian marriages were not rare, Jewish-Christian ones practically never occurred. The fact that there were three football teams in Żółkiew serves as a poignant illustration of the ethnonational division of communities in the town: Polish “Lubicz,” Jewish “Noria” and Ukrainian “Strila.” This national segregation that was characteristic of Galicia had significant consequences for the residents of Zhovkva during and after the Second World War.

Krzyż, like Zhovkva, was founded on the site of a much older village. In 1701, a major local landowner and the future governor [starosta generalny] of the province of Wielkopolska, Jan Kazimierz Sapieha, founded the village of Olędry Sapieżyńskie on the site of today’s Krzyż, based on the specific legal principles for the settlement of Olędrzy, i.e. peasants usually from Friesian or Netherlandish backgrounds and often of Mennonite faith, who were permitted to set up free villages in pre-defined regions of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The first settlers in Olędry Sapieżyńskie were probably Dutch, and in time Germans and Poles joined them, although the community became Germanized relatively quickly (the treaty for the granting of land towards the construction of an Eastern Railway in 1848 contains exclusively German surnames). During the period of the Partitions of Poland (1772–1918), the German name of the village came into common use, which identified two separate parts: Drage-Lukatz and Busch-Lukatz. A major development was the decision, made in the 1840s, to construct a Prussian Eastern Railway to connect Berlin with Bromberg (Polish: Bydgoszcz) and Königsberg (now Kaliningrad, Russia).

The railway colony that sprung up around the new train station began to develop quickly and dynamically. Drage-Lukatz and Busch-Lukatz were formally unified into the district of Lukatz-Kreuz. Residential complexes were built around the station for employees of the rail company, postal workers and civil servants, and the fact of being a railway junction made Kreuz an important communications and trade hub. The fortuitous location (in addition to the railway, ←41 | 42→the town was also near a major loading port on the River Netze (Polish: Noteć)) was conducive to industrial development – Kreuz was home to a starch factory, a syrups factory and a sawmill, amongst other businesses. The construction of an Evangelical church was completed in 1882, and a few years later the first school building appeared on the grounds of the new parish. It was nonetheless the railroad that defined the atmosphere of the town; trains departed from Kreuz in five directions: Berlin, Stettin (Szczecin), Posen (Poznań), Bromberg (Bydgoszcz) and Deutsche Krone (Wałcz). For the comfort of travelers, Kreuz offered several restaurants and wine taverns, a hotel, and a cinema.

Kreuz also had ambitions to become a town where people lived well. In 1915 the municipality acquired a nearby lake, named Kaisersee in honor of Kaiser Wilhelm. A park and recreational area was created across five hectares of land surrounding the lake, featuring tennis courts, sports fields and a dance floor; a yacht pier, swimming pool and trampoline were also built. The picturesque landscapes and easy accessibility helped the villages surrounding Kreuz (especially Busch-Lukatz and Neu-Beelitz, which were located on the water) to become resort destinations for summer tourists.

The Kreuz district was inhabited almost exclusively by Germans – the last pre-war census counted 4,922 residents in the town and several hundred more in the surrounding villages, of which only nine individuals declared Polish nationality.70 There were also a few Jewish families in Kreuz, who were completely assimilated. Some Germanized Polish surnames can be found in local newspapers, photographs and tombstones that have survived from the period, but these are the only traces of the historical Polish presence in today’s Krzyż. Nonetheless, Kreuz always had very close contact with Poles. The closest Polish “neighbor” was the older village of Drawsko, which was originally larger than Kreuz. Before the First World War, Germans from Kreuz and Poles from Drawsko ran businesses together, served side by side in the military, and sent their children to the same schools. The gaining of independence by Poland in 1918 changed the situation dramatically. During the Wielkopolska Uprisings of 1918–1919,71 fierce battles were fought over Polish villages on the opposite bank of the Netze, and Kreuz served as a base of operations for German units fighting ←42 | 43→against the Polish insurgents. After 1919, the new German-Polish border ran two kilometers to the east of Kreuz, along the River Netze. The border changes had a major effect on the economic situation of the municipality of Kreuz, which lost a part of its market in the newly Polish territories; some of the rail connections were also suspended. Nonetheless, contacts with Poles from the other side of the Netze remained fairly strong. Poles from surrounding villages frequently visited the town: they came to do their shopping or to visit the hairdresser, and many people still owned land on the German side of the river, as did Germans on the Polish side.

War and Other Misfortunes (1938–1945)

The Second World War was not only experienced completely differently in Kreuz and Zhovkva; it started at very different times. In Kreuz, the outbreak of war was the culmination of political developments over several years in the 1930s: the creeping militarization and ideologization of everyday life, the obligation to join the Hitler-jugend and Bund Deutscher Mädel for children and young people, the pressure to sign up for the party and paramilitary organizations among adults. In 1938, the Jews “disappeared” from Kreuz. In the course of one night, all families of Jewish background were deported from the town, most likely to one of the concentration camps that were being constructed around Germany. Their property – houses, craft workshops, and trading premises (the local department store belonged to a Jewish merchant) – was confiscated by the state. War broke out formally in the town on September 1, 1939, when the border crossings were dismantled at the bridge over the Netze on the road leading to Drawsko. The majority of Germans perceived this event as a return to things as they should be: they saw the Polish state’s two-decade existence as a temporary nuisance. Soon afterwards, German homes in Kreuz acquired Polish forced laborers from nearby areas that had until recently been on the Polish side of the river. Poles worked in practically every German household, in trade, and above all in agriculture, where they substituted for the German men who had been mobilized for the front. They received varied treatment: some were subjected to very harsh conditions, but in other cases, Poles became something close to family members for the Germans. Kreuz also became the site of a camp for Prisoners of War (PoWs,) located next to the starch factory; American, French and Soviet prisoners were interned there.

The period up to 1944 was relatively calm for Kreuz: other than food shortages, for its residents the war started “for real” only when the German army started to lose. In 1943, people displaced from German cities bombed by the Allies ←43 | 44→started to arrive in Kreuz. Information that the Red Army was approaching the town began to reach its residents in the autumn of 1944, alongside reports of the Soviet treatment of German civilians. The village of Glasshütte, just a few kilometers from Kreuz, was converted into a transit camp for German escapees from the East. Between December 1944 and January 1945, the majority of the town’s residents fled: some of them left of their own initiative, while the authorities evacuated others in organized transports. Of those who did not manage to board the last evacuation train on January 26, 1945, many tried to escape Kreuz by foot or private transport but were killed by the Red Army, which had already arrived in the region. Kreuz was taken or “liberated” in the official language used up to 1989 – by the 5th Shock Army (part of the 1st Belarusian Front) on January 28, 1945.

For Kreuz, “liberation” meant the greatest defeat in the town’s history. Kreuz had not suffered during the bombardments, and there had been no heavy fighting over the town. Like many other localities on the territories conquered by the Soviets, it was destroyed by the Red Army after its military takeover. Soviet soldiers peppered the tower of the Catholic Church with bullets, and burned down half of the buildings in the market square – the former Hitlerplatz – as well as an entire row of townhouses on the main street, just for fun. Overall, over 50 % of the town was destroyed. The fate of German residents, who, for diverse reasons, had not left, was worse than that of the buildings; they were primarily elderly people and farmers. Dozens of people were murdered and women were raped in broad daylight. The handful of German communists who had escaped from a nearby concentration camp and arrived in Kreuz to greet the Red Army as liberators were accorded the same treatment as all other Germans.

For the residents of Żółkiew, the war lasted incomparably longer and was a much more complex historical reality. The Red Army entered the town on September 21, 1939. Local communists greeted the new masters at a hastily assembled triumphal entry gate, but were accorded hardly any attention. The reorganization of all spheres of public life according to the Soviet model began immediately. Factories, craft enterprises and shops were nationalized, and agricultural land around the town was seized with a fanfare of propaganda from the gentry, the church and wealthier villagers. The schools were converted into Soviet institutions, with ten years of teaching in the Ukrainian school and eight years in Yiddish in the Jewish one. “Political work” on the residents of Zhovkva also began: dozens of party and Komsomol (political youth organization in the Soviet Union) activists arrived in order to conduct interviews, meetings and lectures with obligatory attendance for all residents; Soviet-trained teachers were also brought in for the schools.

←44 |

Arrests began soon after the Soviet takeover, with deportations to Siberia starting in 1940. Historian Jan T. Gross writes about a young communist activist from Zhovkva who recounted during an interview, recorded in 1980 in Tel Aviv, that the Soviets began to study official files in the local district archives; they wanted to know each individual history.72 Poles who in the pre-war period had worked as civil servants, teachers, forestry workers and military settlers, as well as Poles, Jews and Ukrainians, who were simply relatively wealthy, were persecuted. The NKVD (Narodnyy Komissariat Vnutrennikh Del) also interrogated and arrested former members of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN). Many people disappeared without a trace, and town residents could only assume that they had fallen victim to Soviet terror.73

The zenith of the terror in Zhovkva was in June 1941, during the Soviet retreat in the face of Nazi advancement: the NKVD carried out a mass murder of the prisoners held in the castle tower.74 According to the residents’ recollections, tractors with running engines were deployed under the tower, so as to drown out the screams of the victims. On June 28, 1941, when the German forces occupied Zhovkva, more than 50 murdered bodies were found in the courtyard of the prison. The majority of the victims who could be identified were Ukrainians active in the independence movement or otherwise standing up to Soviet power. The funeral that was arranged for the victims transformed into a Ukrainian patriotic rally. In the context of the declaration of a pro-Nazi Ukrainian state by Yaroslav Stetsko in Lviv on June 30, 1941, Zhovkva also made gestures of support for the Germans. The main town gate was adorned with the slogans “Heil Hitler!” and “Long live our leader Stepan Bandera!” hanging next to each side by side. Nonetheless, the pro-German enthusiasm among Zhovkva Ukrainians was premature. The Stetsko government was promptly arrested and imprisoned, and the Germans refrained from any form of cooperation with the Ukrainian nationalists for most of the war.

←45 | 46→

Although the Polish and Ukrainian populations of Zhovkva lived under difficult conditions during the German occupation – the most acute problem was the threat of deportation for forced labor75 – the gravest experience of occupation was reserved for the Jews.76 In the very first days after taking over the town, the Germans set fire to the synagogue and murdered a delegation of Jews who had come out to greet them. They introduced discriminatory policies that were common to all of the occupied lands: Jews were forced to wear badges with yellow stars, they were expropriated and thrown out of their own homes, and forced to labor under oppressive conditions. In March 1942, the first mass expulsions took place, with 700 people transported to the death camp in Bełżec.77 In November of the same year, 2,500 Jews were taken to Bełżec. The construction of a closed ghetto followed, and surviving Jews from the nearby shtetls of Kulykiv and Velyki Mosty were made to resettle there alongside those from Zhovkva. On March 15, 1943, several dozen young Jewish men from Zhovkva were sent to the Janowski concentration camp in Lviv.78 Ten days later, the “Liquidation Operation” took place: divisions of the SS, Schutzpolizei and Ukrainian auxiliary police surrounded the ghetto, rounded up all of the Jews they could find on St. Dominic’s Square, and transported them in trucks to a forest approximately 3km from the town, known among inhabitants as “Borek” (literally, “the thicket.”) There, they shot the Jews and buried them in pre-dug mass graves. Those who ←46 | 47→managed to survive the liquidation of the ghetto were murdered in the “Final Operation” of 6 April.

In Zhovkva, only 74 individuals of Jewish descent survived the Holocaust, out of a pre-war population of 4,500. Most of them hid in refuges in the town and surrounding areas, helped by local Christians; a few survived in labor camps, including the Janowski camp. Both Ukrainians and Poles sheltered Jews; likewise, both Ukrainians and Poles handed Jews over to the Nazis. After the liberation of the town by the Red Army on July 24, 1944, a number of Jews were murdered by local residents.

After the Soviets had re-conquered Zhovkva, only a small group of Poles remained of the town’s pre-war residents, alongside the Ukrainians, who now formed a clear majority, and the handful of Jews who had survived.79 The German occupation had resulted in an escalation of the Polish-Ukrainian conflict that had simmered for decades previously, with local units of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army [Ukrainska Povstanska Armiia, UPA] playing an active role.80 Poles in Zhovkva itself felt relatively secure, yet murders of Poles by the UPA were taking place in the surrounding areas in broad daylight, with support from local Ukrainian civilians; sometimes, entire villages were razed. For this reason, many Polish families had evacuated the town towards the end of the German occupation. Most of them treated their departure as a temporary journey to the west, but none returned to Zhovkva permanently.

Those Poles who refused to leave the (“perennially”) “Ukrainian” lands were a secondary enemy for the UPA. The more important battles were being fought on other fronts. After an initial period of collaboration with the Germans, the UPA fought against both the Germans and the Soviets, enjoying the majority support ←47 | 48→of local Ukrainians.81 After the Soviets had taken Zhovkva, the insurgents carried out a successful assassination of an NKVD major. In the autumn of 1944 the areas surrounding Zhovkva were the scene of a heated battle between Ukrainian nationalists and the Soviet military.

Brave New World (1945–1953)

Thus, the turning point for both towns was their “liberation” by the Red Army (Zhovkva in July 1944, Kreuz in January 1945). Although it was not immediately obvious to residents at the time, this moment was the beginning of a completely new chapter in their histories. Relative to the pre-war period, everything was subject to change in a short period: the states to which the towns belonged, the political and economic systems, and above all, the composition of residents. If in Zhovkva the first Soviet occupation had given a taste of radical change and the town lost its pre-war residents gradually, in waves, in Kreuz the transformation was substantially more rapid and violent.

After the Red Army had been through Kreuz, there remained in the empty, burned out town a Soviet military headquarters and a handful of traumatized Germans. Before the first Polish railway workers arrived in February 1945, tasked with reviving the rail connections and restoring the hydroelectric power station that provided the town’s electricity, a wave of lootings went through Kreuz. Residents of surrounding Polish villages, often former forced laborers who had worked in the area, emptied the town of everything of any value; household equipment, clothes, fittings for shops and workshops, even tiles from dismantled stoves. Some of these people settled in newly renamed Krzyż, occupying the best and least destroyed buildings in the town; they set up a close-knit group of former “neighbors,” who experienced the fewest difficulties in adapting to the changed circumstances and therefore had a relatively easy start to their new lives in a new place. Soon after the looters and the railwaymen, the first “pioneers” from central ←48 | 49→Poland arrived, i.e. settlers moving to the so-called Recovered Territories as part of the repopulation operation organized by the Polish authorities; the idea behind this move was to consolidate the Polish presence and thereby “prove” the Polishness of these formerly German lands.

The “Centrals” arrived having been tempted by promises of German houses and homesteads being available for takeover. In central regions of Poland, which had been significantly damaged during the war, the promises made by the communist authorities fell on fertile pastures, especially in rural communities that were impoverished and overpopulated; people left for “the West” in search of a new life, and just as often as a matter of sheer survival. The settlement operation was directed by the State Repatriation Office [Państwowy Urząd Repatriacyjny, PUR],82 which was tasked with providing assistance to Poles returning from Germany and to those resettling from the former eastern territories of the pre-war Polish Republic. Whilst the former – of whom there were only a few dozen families in Krzyż – really were returning home in a sense, the situation among “repatriates”83 from the eastern territories was completely different. In theory, “repatriation” was voluntary everywhere in the former eastern lands, however in practice the Soviet authorities applied various forms of duress in an attempt to rid communist Lithuania, Belarus and Ukraine of Poles. In Ukraine, an additional complication was the threat from the Ukrainian nationalist underground, or simply from Ukrainian civilians, as was the case in Volhynia. Many families chose to relocate out of fear, of the Ukrainians rather than the Soviets.

A significant number of Poles did, however, leave “voluntarily:” faced with a choice between staying in the Soviet Union or leaving for the new Polish state, they chose the latter with a heavy heart. Because Krzyż was easily accessible for ←49 | 50→the trains that transported migrants, the first “repatriates” arrived on May 9, 1945; this transport brought 513 people.84 Trains most frequently brought people from the former Tarnopol, Stanisławów and Nowogródek voivodships; by the end of 1945 there were 2,433 “repatriates” living in Krzyż (a further 663 persons were classified as “resettlers” [przesiedleńcy], which meant that they came from the part of pre-war Poland that remained in the state borders after 1945).85

The “repatriates” often arrived in Krzyż to discover a somewhat surprising situation: between the front shifting westwards and the arrival of the first transports from the former Polish Eastern Borderlands, several hundred Germans had arrived back in the town (sources state that 670 Germans lived in the area as of May 1945).86 Since the main wave of Polish settlers had not yet arrived in Krzyż, many of the Germans had managed to set up home in the houses they originally owned, while others stayed with friends and acquaintances or simply started to live in unoccupied premises. All of them were of the belief that after the passing of the Red Army, the town would remain within the borders of the future German state. Their return to the by-then Polish Krzyż ended in misfortune for the majority. The Polish civilian administration and Soviet military command treated Germans as a source of free labor and drove them into conditions of slavery, and refused the men the right to immigrate to Germany. Germans were treated with disdain and – like the Poles in wartime Kreuz – they were forced to wear badges with the letter “N” [pl. Niemiec – a German] on their shoulder; they were stripped of their property and humiliated at every opportunity. There were still cases of rapes against German women as well as murders, although less frequently than in the weeks immediately following the arrival of the Red Army; in most cases, the perpetrators of these deeds were Soviet soldiers.

Many “repatriate” families were allocated houses or apartments that were inhabited by Germans. For weeks or even months on end, Poles who themselves had just been resettled from their own houses lived together with Germans who were waiting for a transport to the West. Relations between the two sides were varied: it happened that Poles were hostile to the Germans, but it was also possible that the two cohabiting families recognized the misfortunes suffered by the other side.

None of the population groups who were in Krzyż at this time had particularly easy lives: neither the “autochthonous” residents, nor the “Centrals,” nor the ←50 | 51→“repatriates.” Relations with the Red Army were particularly tense, as the military administration governed in Krzyż as over a conquered enemy territory. Whilst the majority of the Soviet military headquarters in the formerly German territories of Poland were liquidated in July 1945, they remained active in places with major railway connections for much longer, including Krzyż. Many transports from Berlin to Poland went through the station at Krzyż, as did trains to the USSR carrying war trophies obtained in Germany by Soviet soldiers. Krzyż itself was treated by the Soviets as a war trophy of sorts: equipment from the town’s factories and sawmill, destroyed in the winter of 1945, was dismantled and carried off to the East; Soviet soldiers even took apart a section of the railway. An atmosphere of war therefore remained for a long time after the formal cessation of hostilities. There was a police curfew in place, and people – especially women, and German women most of all – were afraid to be alone at home.

The situation normalized only after a Polish civilian administration took over the governance of the town. This event coincided with the end of the first phase of the creation of a new society in Polish Krzyż. In 1946 the expulsion operation against Germans was coming to an end; the last transport carrying Germans left Krzyż in October of that year. Deportation was often carried out in a violent manner: Germans were given a few hours to pack their belongings, whilst some had their meager property confiscated on their way to the station. One German family remained in Krzyż, as well as a few elderly Germans and a small number of individuals who married Poles either during or after the war. In 1947, a group of Lemkos deported from Ukraine arrived in Krzyż,87 settling in the villages furthest away from the town itself, Kuźnica Żelichowska and Przesieki. As the first wave of settlers consolidated their presence in Krzyż, another influx of economic migrants from various regions of Poland started to arrive, looking for work in ←51 | 52→the increasing stabilized town. Life thus continued to unfold, in a new town with new residents.

If the first post-war years were tough for the residents of Krzyż, in Zhovkva they were truly hellish. The Soviets declared the draft to be compulsory in Galicia in the autumn of 1944, and 700,000 men from the region were called up to the Red Army.88 After the conquest of Zhovkva, the Soviet authorities set about re-introducing Soviet ways in all spheres of life. In addition to a return to the political and economic mechanisms that were in place in the years 1939–1941, this entailed dealing with ideological enemies. The first to be identified and arrested were real or suspected Nazi collaborators: members of the Ukrainian auxiliary police and Volksdeutche. One of the Volksdeutsche detained by the Soviets had hidden 17 Jews during the German occupation; such cases show that some of the arrests were unjustified according to the Soviets’ own criteria.89 Shocked by the way things were developing, almost all of the Jewish survivors (of which there were only a handful in the town itself) and the majority of Poles left for Poland before the end of the official “repatriation” period ended, i.e. by 1947. In their place – sometimes in the most literal sense of occupying their homes – came Ukrainians deported from southwestern Poland in the years 1944–1946. Some of them, especially in the latter stages of the population transfers, arrived in Zhovkva directly, usually with little property to their name; the majority, however, came through eastern Ukraine, where the Soviet authorities had initially sent all transports. Due to prevailing conditions of famine and forced membership in collective farms, Ukrainians deserted their designated new places of residence en masse, escaping to the western part of the country with the intention of returning home. When they reached Galicia, it transpired that the border with Poland was already closed. Thus, many resettlers remained in the border regions, including Zhovkva region. Because of their status as illegal fugitives from ←52 | 53→collective farms, these resettlers could not rely on any state financial support, and were socially marginalized for a long time.90

A second group that gradually filled the gaps left by the Jews and Poles was the stratum of teachers, librarians, skilled workers and party functionaries chosen to head village councils and collective farms. This group of new arrivals was not great in number, but it was very specific in its composition: most of these people were born or at least grew up in the Soviet Union, they had been educated in the Soviet mould, but they also often had personal experience of Stalinist Terror or the Holodomor (i.e. the Great Famine of 1932–1933 in Soviet Ukraine), events that were incomparably harsher than the experiences of Galicians during the short Soviet occupation of 1939–1941. Moreover the demographic structure of the region was altered by the fact that Soviet military units were permanently stationed in Zhovkva and the neighboring village of Volia Vysots’ka, tasked with guarding the western border of the USSR. Not many of these servicemen had moved to Zhovkva voluntarily; the majority had been sent to Galicia as part of Soviet modernization policy in the newly acquired territories. Many of these soldiers had been afraid to go to western Ukraine, with its reputation as a hotbed of ethnic nationalism. Officially, this modernization project was designed to facilitate economic advancement and industrialization, but in practice the Soviet authorities wanted to ensure control over this unruly territory with the help of people loyal to the system.91

The task of the “Easterners” [Ukr. skhidniaky] – as they were called in Zhovkva and as I will call them in this book for ease of reference – was to engage the local population in the building of communism. Their efforts were met with fierce ←53 | 54→resistance from the Ukrainian nationalist underground. A bloody and attritional battle was fought in Zhovkva and surroundings until the beginning of the 1950s between the Ukrainian Insurgent Army and the Soviet government; the local population was frequently drawn into this conflict, sometimes against its will. The Ukrainian partisans, who were mostly active in the villages, attacked Red Army units, the Soviet police and the NKVD; they executed Soviet civil servants and other representatives of power. They also killed settlers from the East, whom they saw as agents sent by the authorities: victims included teachers, collective farm directors, and workers. Their deaths were supposed to frighten off new settlers and to show them that they were not welcome. The best-known UPA operation was the shooting of Ilia Dovhanyk, a communist from the Zhovkva region, whom the Soviets turned into a “martyr of the revolution.”92

The terror conducted by the UPA also affected locals – individuals who, for various reasons, supported the new regime or simply had no means of resisting it. In 1947, the UPA hanged two collective farm workers in Zhovkva. In 1948 they burned down an entire collective farm that had been established in the town. The following year, in the nearby village of Mokrotyn, they shot dead a seventy-year-old man whose son was working with the Soviet police, and in the neighboring village of Nova Skvariava, they hanged a woman suspected of working with the security services. Sentences passed by the UPA on “traitors to the Ukrainian cause” resulted in fear becoming widespread among civilians, no less so than the fear they felt at the equivalent actions of the NKVD. The most violent action by the UPA was the burning of the village club in Vynnyky, a suburb of Zhovkva, where the Soviet authorities showed propaganda films. Several children were killed in the fire.

The Soviets replied to terror with terror. Insurgent units were hunted down to the last man, and hideouts destroyed. Those who were captured alive were tortured for information, sentenced to long terms of hard labor, and sent to the camps.93 It was common practice to display the mutilated bodies of captured and killed combatants in front of the Zhovkva prison: the families would then be able ←54 | 55→to identify the bodies (and made to suffer the consequences of their kinship), and town residents would be deterred from taking up resistance. Relatives were sent to Siberia together with captured fighters; sometimes, if they managed to escape before deportation, they would all flee to the forest, reinforcing the partisan detachments in turn; the cycle of resistance and repression thus continued.94 The Soviet authorities also punished people who provided assistance to the UPA, which was a fairly significant portion of the population. Often, the charge of “helping the insurgents” served as a mere pretext for expelling people whom the Soviets considered suspicious, i.e. Kulaks.95 The Soviets’ struggle against the UPA and the deportation of “enemies of the people” continued in the Zhovkva region until the mid-1950s, when state policy was made less brutal in the aftermath of Stalin’s death. That is also when the first rehabilitated Gulag prisoners and expellees started to return – if, of course, they had survived. During the Soviet Thaw, laws concerning registration and settlement in towns were relaxed, and a wave of economic migrants arrived in Zhovkva from surrounding villages.


Neither in Krzyż nor in Zhovkva was the construction of a “brave new world” an easy task. This was in part because the new, post-war residents of both towns had arrived with their own specific experiential baggage, which could not help but affect their adaptation to a new place: their attitudes to the people who had lived there previously, as well as to the material culture they found and the new socio-political order. Interestingly, the majority of these residents can be understood through the prism of their collective biographies – although, of course, the sum total of individual stories does not fit into any kind of overall scheme. Both towns in the post-war period had groups of “voluntary returnees:” Poles from the eastern provinces in the case of Krzyż and Ukrainians from Poland in Zhovkva. Old “neighbors” were also present in both towns: in Krzyż, locals from the other side of the border at the River Noteć, and in Zhovkva, economic migrants from the Galician villages and smaller towns. Finally, both towns were ←55 | 56→the destinations of “pioneers” traveling to the Wild West: eastern Ukrainians in Zhovkva and Poles from central regions in Krzyż. All of these groups had to come to terms with their new lives, and with the post-war culture of (non-)remembrance.

The Post-war Culture of (Non-)Remembrance (1953–1989/1991)

In the new Zhovkva and Krzyż the authorities were faced with a difficult task: they had to legitimize the presence of the new residents in the town, which of course was a component of the wider problem of justifying the Polishness of the “Recovered Territories” and the Ukrainianness of formerly Polish Galicia. In both towns, the task was connected to the targeted, top-down construction of memory.

Zhovkva was replete with material traces of the past, and it was difficult to completely marginalize the town’s history. The authorities therefore approached it selectively. In general, Soviet-Ukrainian version of the heroic canon included only these figures from the pre-1939 period, who did not challenge the idea of the Ukrainian-Russian unity.96 The early history was framed in terms of the development of Ukrainian culture, especially folk culture, whilst the Polish presence in the region was treated as a centuries-long foreign occupation. Events that could confirm the town’s Ukrainian roots were especially emphasized, for example the supposed birth and upbringing of Bohdan Khmelnytsky in the locality. Polish-Ukrainian relations were rendered as a class war: the Polish lord [pan] and the Jesuit had oppressed the Ukrainian peasant and worker. The Soviet ideologists treated the historical presence of other ethnic groups as an ethnographic supplement bearing witness to the tolerance of the historical (and also, indirectly, the present-day) population of Zhovkva. In relation to the inter-war period, the activities of the communist underground were given primacy (although, in reality, they were marginal compared to the OUN): this narrative was designed to “prove” the long-term striving of the residents of Zhovkva and Galicia to be “united” with Soviet Ukraine and the “fraternal” Russian nation.97 The year 1939 was represented as the crowning moment of success of these efforts: the town ←56 | 57→had thrown off the shackles of bourgeois Polish rule and joyfully embarked on the construction of a socially just community in union with their kin from Soviet Ukraine. However, this lustrous process had been stopped in its tracks by the German invasion.

The Second World War, known as the Great Patriotic War in the USSR, became the dominant historical myth both in Zhovkva and throughout the Soviet Union, where efforts to construct a coherent pan-Soviet identity and memory before 1941 had been unsuccessful. The situation changed after the victory in 1945, an event that pushed even the October Revolution into the shadows.98 The construction of a foundation myth entailed the universalization and selective deployment of narratives that fit the ideological mould. These included the heroic resistance of the civilian population, and the liberation of Zhovkva by the Red Army. In turn, UPA insurgents and all other supporters of the Ukrainian independence movement were made into unequivocal villains, as “Ukrainian-German bourgeois nationalists” who collaborated with the Nazis and used bandit methods to fight against Soviet power. People deported to Germany for forced labor were also condemned as collaborators.99 Besides a binary division into heroes and villains, the official memory of Zhovkva was also characterized by its silences. The centuries-long presence of Poles was eradicated from the history of the town, along with their influence in forming its spiritual and material culture; their role was limited to that of occupants oppressing the autochthonous Ukrainian population. Their disappearance from the post-war town was also shrouded in mystery. The wartime years were cleansed of any accounts of the repressions that were carried out against various groups of residents during the first Soviet occupation, such as the murder of prisoners in June 1941 and the deportations to Siberia that carried on into the post-war period.

The most significant forgotten tragedy was, however, the Holocaust. In a town where nearly half the pre-war population was Jewish, the authorities simply pretended that these people had never existed. After the end of the war, not a single memorial plaque was placed to commemorate the Zhovkva Jews. The destroyed ←57 | 58→synagogue was sealed off and served as a storage house for the entire post-war period, first for salt and later for various industrial products. The Jewish cemetery, which had been partially destroyed by the Germans (headstones had been used to pave the road to Lviv), was converted into a market place in the 1960s, and all traces of the space’s original function had been removed. Schools did not teach about the local Jews, guidebooks did not mention them, and popular scientific works on the history of Zhovkva omitted them entirely. This silence was in tune with a broader Soviet policy, under which Jews were at most commemorated as “Soviet civilians murdered by the Nazis.” A separate category of Jewish victims of the Holocaust could not be admitted, as such a move would reduce the significance of Soviet victims of the war, which would threaten the myth of the USSR as both the main victor of the war and the principal victim.100 The Holocaust did feature in Soviet historiography, but only as a historical event fully removed from Soviet wartime reality: its symbols were the camps in Auschwitz and Majdanek, both in Poland and both liberated by the Red Army. Eastern European Jews, including those of Zhovkva, were thus robbed of their memory.101

The official version of history was reflected in public space. Whilst Jewish victimhood was erased, it was far from the only form of forgetting. Plaques and crosses commemorating the people murdered by the NKVD in the town prison in 1941 were removed from the cemetery and market square. Polish monuments to Jan Sobieski and Stanisław Żółkiewski, as well as many other traces of pre-war Polish culture and religious symbols (such as the figure of Mary in front of the castle) were dismantled. A giant statue of Lenin replaced Sobieski’s statue. Soon, other Soviet monuments and symbols of memory were erected: for example, the town cemetery was furnished with a special area for Red Army soldiers who died ←58 | 59→whilst liberating Zhovkva. The central site for Soviet ceremonies of all kinds, of which Victory Day (9 May) had pride of place, was the so-called Eternal Flame: an expressive sculptural composition representing a soldier dying for the Fatherland, placed opposite the eighteenth-century wooden church of the Holy Trinity.

The town’s new elites and local authorities acted as guardians of the official version of events. New arrivals from eastern Ukraine led the line: Party members, civil servants, teachers and the so-called technical intelligentsia. They took up residence in the best houses and apartments (which had usually belonged to murdered Jews or deported Poles and Ukrainians), occupied positions of power, and set the tone for community life. With their privileged positions came responsibilities as protectors of the new order: during religious holidays, teachers from the East would ensure that children did not attend church, and Komsomol activists had to prove that they were making progress in “political work” with the local population. The residents of Zhovkva’s barracks, in which more than 10,000 soldiers and officers were stationed at any time, were assigned a special role as guardians. Many of the officers had arrived with their families, and a Russian-language school had been established for the children. The Komsomol and the organization of Pioneers (i.e. scouts) facilitated the indoctrination of the young generation, but the school played the most important role, often inciting conflicts between generations in its efforts to create a new Soviet citizen.

Official memory was thus sustained by state authorities: the Party, the Komsomol, the school, places of work, as well as the Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, which after the forced “union” of the Orthodox and Greek Catholic Churches in 1946 had become the only legal religious institution in Zhovkva, taking over the building of the Basilian church. As everywhere in western Ukraine, local memories of the war were formed in two distinct streams: official memory on the one hand, and private, family-based memories that were not always voiced and were difficult to situate, but nonetheless created alternative heroes and anti-heroes. An important role in the preservation of this alternative memory in Zhovkva was played by the underground Greek Catholic Church, which continued to operate until Perestroika. The last Roman Catholic Church in Zhovkva was closed shortly after the war, after the last priest had left the town, following in the footsteps of his Polish parishioners.

As a symbolic sealing of the new face of Zhovkva, the town’s name was changed in 1952. It was renamed Nesterov in honor of a Russian pilot who had crash-landed and died in Volia Vysotska, a village near Zhovkva, while executing a complicated maneuver during the First World War.

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Whilst the past was handled selectively in Zhovkva, in Krzyż it was fully discarded. The town had become Polish, thereby returning to its “roots,” and the task facing its residents was the construction of socialism in the “Recovered Territories.” Remembering the German past was not a component of this project, and in any case, the official narrative had it that the German presence in the region’s history was only a thin layer superimposed on a Slavic base. If the past was evoked, both in Krzyż and in the wider region, it was the very distant time of the Piast dynasty,102 which could be called Polish with few complications. The typical temporal axis drawn by a state ideologist for the “Recovered Territories” in this period would have had a large gap in the middle: the Piast era in the distant, murky middle ages; then nothing for a long six centuries; then triumphant liberation by the Red Army and return to the Polish womb.103 This middle hiatus was given some color by patches of autochthonous Polish folk culture and struggles for cultural autonomy – primarily in Upper Silesia, Warmia and Masuria. The town of Krzyż, however, did not quite fit into this scheme. Finding a Piast-era past in a town founded as a German railway settlement in the middle of the nineteenth century was not easy. The surrounding villages, which had been founded by Dutch and German Protestants, were equally bad candidates as evidence of the region’s age-old Polishness. For this reason, the authorities in Krzyż concentrated not on the risky business of “proving” the town’s Polishness, but on broadly screening out the memory of the German past.

The operation of “de-Germanization” (also sometimes known as “re-Polonization”) was carried out in Krzyż in accordance with patterns that were applied to the entire stretch of the “Recovered Territories.”104 There were ←60 | 61→two planes to this process: the human and the material. The re-Polonization of the urban and rural landscape consisted in the removal of German-language inscriptions from public spaces and the Polish renaming of places. German monuments and memorials were also removed, especially those commemorating Wehrmacht soldiers who had died in the First World War and historical figures whom the Poles would associate with anti-Polish activities during the Partition period. In Krzyż itself, two monuments to Wehrmacht servicemen were destroyed. “The fight against Germanness” also involved the reconstruction or refurbishment of buildings whose appearance was considered typically German: red-brick houses and timber-framed buildings were thus plastered over, “Polish-style” wooden porches were added to houses, and neo-Gothic reliefs were removed.

The two churches in Krzyż were stylistically converted: the Roman Catholic one had its choir seating and chancel repositioned, and all the furnishings changed; the Protestant church was completely revamped (e.g. the balconies typical of Evangelical churches were dismantled, and the cockerel-shaped wind vane, considered German in style, was removed),105 and then it was re-consecrated as Catholic. Churches in the neighboring villages met similar fates: Lubcz, Kuźnica Żelichowska and Huta Szklana. The eighteenth-century church in Huta Szklana (Glasshütte before the war), a valuable example of wattle and daub architecture, was so thoroughly transformed by the villagers, new arrivals from the East, that it was completely unrecognizable from the original. A lot of these alterations were made spontaneously, without prior planning. The Polish settlers had no ←61 | 62→attachment to the German heritage sites; instead, they wanted their places of worship to resemble the churches they had left behind in the East. Sometimes the “familiarization” of a given building or site turned out to be impossible; sources from this period attest, for example, to “repatriates” from the East wandering from one German village to another because the houses they found seemed to them excessively “lordly and rich.”106 On the other hand, settlers succeeded in making the cultural space look more like “home” by placing wayside crosses and shrines. The areas surrounding Krzyż were dotted with several such artifacts; one of them, on the road leading into the village of Lubcz Mały, funded by one of my interviewees, bore the inscription “Mother of God, bless us on this recovered Polish land.”

De-Germanization sometimes bordered on absurdity. The authorities went on the hunt for German inscriptions on towels, ashtrays and tiles; a precedent was set by the punishment in 1947 of the Voivodeship office in Olsztyn for retaining the words “frei” and “besetzt” (“free”/“occupied”) on their lavatory doors.107 That these efforts were largely unsuccessful – and that residents were guided often by practical common sense rather than ideology – is shown by the fact that many households in Krzyż use German items to this day. Such practices were often pragmatic in nature: it was, after all, difficult to dispose of German kitchenware if you had none of your own.

It was not only space that was Polonized; people were, too. One of the steps of the “re-Polonization operation” was the forced alteration of the spelling of names deemed too German. Very often – also in Krzyż – this affected people who had nothing to do with German culture or identity. If it was not only the name that was in doubt, but the individual personally, then that individual could be sent to “Polonization classes.”108 In areas with a relatively large number of so-called native residents, educational summer camps and regular classes were organized; in Krzyż, Polish language lessons for autochthonous residents took place in the House of Culture.

All of these activities were, needless to say, backed up by propaganda. Like in Galicia, the new post-war authorities in the “Recovered Territories” created ←62 | 63→a pantheon of heroes and villains.109 The heroes included, above all, the Red Army (and the Polish People’s Army), which had “liberated” the eastern territories of the Third Reich. Soldiers killed during the war were usually buried in town cemeteries, or simply in the center of the village or town; these hastily arranged tombstones were often the first non-German memorials in the locality. This was the case in Krzyż: Polish and Soviet soldiers were buried in the middle of the market square, and a plaque commemorating their deeds was placed on the former German memorial stone honoring Wehrmacht soldiers active in the First World War. Later, the graves were transferred to the communal cemetery, but the plaque that was added in the 1960s mentions only Polish soldiers.110 The monument functioned for some time as a “Freedom Memorial,”111 but it was later dismantled (the middle of the market square was incorporated into a section of the freeway).

Another set of heroes, who had no statues dedicated to them but were equally lionized by propaganda, were the migrant “pioneers;” this group was also much closer to the average Pole in Krzyż than wartime soldiers. Socialist propaganda portrayed these resettlers as competent and brave individuals who, spurred by patriotism, arrived in the “Recovered Territories” to help these “perennially Polish” regions to flourish; despite hardships, they had dedicated themselves to People’s Poland.112 The archetypal “pioneer” was a native of central Poland ←63 | 64→and a worker or peasant, who was devoted to the socialist project. If he (in the symbolic paradigm, he was usually male) had arrived from the pre-war eastern regions, his official image included no indication of why he had to leave those territories.113 The pioneer was therefore the ideal man of work, with no sentimental attachment to the family home left behind in the East, and no difficulty in adapting to the new conditions.

The primary villain of post-war propaganda was the German revisionist. For obvious reasons, there was no need to stoke the flames of anti-German sentiment in Poland after the war, but in the “Recovered Territories” the authorities made additional efforts to create a threat of German revanchism. The irrational fear of Germans that they manufactured through propaganda, education and popular culture had a specific and clear function: the pioneer would be grateful to his socialist homeland for the opportunity to resettle in the newly acquired territories, but would also link the safety of his new home and existence to unconditional support for the Polish regime, which was fighting the external enemy on his behalf.

This situation changed somewhat in the 1970s, after the Polish People’s Republic and the German Democratic Republic (GDR) had established diplomatic relations. From this time, the official discourse in Poland operated with two images of Germany: a positive one for the GDR, which had previously been duped by its leaders but was now back on the righteous road to socialism; and a negative one for the revisionist-capitalist Federal Republic, which was constantly laying claim to Wrocław, Gdańsk and Szczecin.114 Besides a modification in the official narrative, the transformation of Polish-German relations entailed another important change for the residents of Krzyż: the border with the GDR was opened, and former residents of Kreuz were able to travel to the now-Polish town. This was an unprecedented phenomenon, which sets Krzyż apart from Zhovkva. In the 1970s, visits by East Germans were a common phenomenon in Krzyż, and led to intensive contact at the individual level between residents past and present.

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The individual opening up of contacts did not, however, lead to any substantial change in the official memory policy concerning the region’s German past. It was still forbidden to memorialize the German period of the “Recovered Territories.” In Krzyż, both the German origins of the town and the fate of the Germans who had lived there before the war were suppressed. The experiences of settlers from the East were also subject to erasure: it was possible to discuss in private their wartime experiences (including the period of Soviet occupation) and the territories they had left behind; but in public, it was impossible.

The inculcation of a unitary vision of the past was above all the task of schooling, as was the case in Zhovkva. The new Polish school in Krzyż could not measure up to the Russian one in terms of the scale of its indoctrination, but its education model was still radically different to pre-war norms.115 It was officially secular, and its aim was to produce citizens devoted to the socialist state who would not be overly curious about the past. Unlike the school in Zhovkva, however, the success of these objectives depended to a significant extent on the ideological convictions of individual teachers; the teachers, meanwhile, had a range of legally operating allies if their aims were relatively seditious. The most important was, without doubt, the Catholic Church, which – in addition to its religious function – was in Krzyż the largest and most prominent social structure other than the state. It was, of its very nature, interested in the cultivation of an alternative form of memory. The most valuable religious artifact in the local parish church was a heraldic flag transported from Drohobycz, a formerly Polish town in Galicia transferred to Ukraine after the war. After the practical liquidation of the scouts’ movement in Stalinist times,116 the Polish Scouting and Guiding Association (Związek Harcerstwa Polskiego, ZHP) became a major pillar in local efforts to educate youth independently of the state’s ideological missives; especially at the local level, the organization maintained a substantial level of autonomy.

The state was, of course, not only concerned with the opinions of the youth, although it did direct the majority of its efforts towards this segment of the population. Adults were also the target of propaganda: in workplaces, through special ←65 | 66→meetings (e.g. to encourage people to join collective farms or co-operatives),117 and in the obligatory celebration of state holidays such as Labor Day (1 May), Victory Day (9 May), and Independence Day (22 July).118 Nonetheless, the ideological pressure in socialist Krzyż paled in comparison to Soviet Nesterov (Zhovkva).

After the Fall of Communism: New Beginnings? (1989/1991-present)

The fall of state socialism meant, in both Krzyż and Zhovkva, a radical political and economic transformation, the opening of borders – a very significant fact for borderland towns – and the return of hitherto suppressed memories. The taboo on previously hushed up experiences of individuals and groups was lifted almost overnight, and people could publicly question the dominant versions of history. Unlike in previous decades, the situations in Krzyż and Zhovkva developed in completely different ways.

Up to 2009 the events in Krzyż can be described under the overarching theme of “public silence.” In the first two post-socialist decades, only two memorials were installed in the town. The first was in 1995, in the market square – a busy space crisscrossed by trucks and other vehicles on weekdays, a venue for processions and public events on holidays. A boulder was placed in front of the ←66 | 67→town hall, on the initiative of the town council, with a plaque bearing the inscription “On the 50th anniversary of the Return of the Krzyż Lands to Poland” (at the time, two history teachers of the elder generation were members of the council; the idea was theirs). In 2005, in a small park in front of the secondary school, a similar, smaller rock memorial was installed in honor of Pope John Paul II. Not a single memorial was placed to commemorate the Poles who had been transported from the East, nor to the Germans who had been deported from Krzyż; no commemorative sign whatsoever mentioned the town’s German past. Indeed, traces of the German past were physically removed: in 2008, a major portion of the derelict German cemetery was razed to the ground. This cemetery had bordered with the (new post-war) Polish one, separated by a wall, and had become completely covered by a forest that grew over it. The area was annexed to the Polish cemetery, and is used to this day as a burial site.

Moreover, in the years 1989–2016 only one street name was changed – the main thoroughfare previously named after the Polish Stalinist leader Bolesław Bierut (1892–1956) was dedicated to the Polish Armed Forces (ulica Wojska Polskiego). Nonetheless there remained streets in Krzyż named after communists such as Julian Marchlewski and Karol Świerczewski; these were given more “neutral” names only in the nationwide decommunization wave of 2017.119 Meanwhile, Polish national history remained the dominant memory paradigm. The biggest public celebration in the town is Constitution Day, 3 May, perhaps because the celebrations coincide with a religious holiday, a national fest of the Virgin Mary (during which processions take place from church to church). In 2008, as usual, the main ceremony took place in front of the monument in the market square. The guard of honor by the memorial rock was conducted by four schoolboys dressed in the military uniform of the Wielkopolska Insurgents,120 ←67 | 68→and the culmination of the event was the collective singing of the patriotic song Rota [The Oath], an early twentieth century piece composed in protest against Prussian rule. At the same time, the speech delivered by the chairman of the town council was largely devoid of any references to the past – he spoke of development opportunities within the European Union and the prospects for cooperation with Germany.

Thus, whereas one would expect a process of “reimmersion” into history in the aftermath of systemic transformation, the first two decades were characterized by the opposite process: on the one hand, an absence of public interest in the formerly censored elements of the past (including both Poles’ “own” history, understood as the experiences of specific groups of people, and the ethnically “other” past of the Germans who had lived there previously); on the other hand, the ideology of the fallen regime was conserved to a great extent, with the monument to the “Polishness” of Krzyż in the town square the exemplary expression of this mnemonic continuity. The historical vision of the town’s present-day authorities is also on display in the “History” section of the municipality’s official website121 as well as the historical sketches published in the town’s regular information bulletins. The website text gives a detailed outline of the foundation and development of the town as a railway junction, but without mentioning even one word about it being a German settlement called Kreuz (Ostbahn), rather than Krzyż Wielkopolski; the year 1945 is described euphemistically as “a difficult time,” and the Red Army’s conquest of Kreuz in 1945 is referred to as a “liberation.” Neither the deportation of German residents nor the reasons for the emergence of a Polish town are mentioned. A similar history is presented in a 2010 special issue of the town council’s information bulletin, Wieści gminne, published to mark the 300th anniversary of the founding of the village of Huta Szklana; the years of war are summarized in a single sentence, “a new division of Europe ensues in 1945, and Huta Szklana, alongside the other lands of western Poland, is joined to its ancient homeland.”122

Nonetheless, an analysis of unofficial, informal initiatives in Krzyż shows a somewhat different picture. Towards the end of the 1990s, a small brochure on the history of the village of Łokacz Mały (before 1945 Busch-Lukatz) appeared, thanks to the efforts of a local history enthusiast. Here, the German past is not emphasized, but it is not openly negated: the history of the settlements before ←68 | 69→1945 is presented without reference to ethnonational categories, as the story of the Olędrzy, the lord Sapieha who founded the village, and the railwaymen who develop the station and town as a whole. A substantial portion of the book is devoted to the individual biographies of the oldest residents of Łokacz, describing their experiences before arriving in Krzyż and in the first years after resettlement. In 2005, on the initiative of the same individual in conjunction with a local cycling club, and in cooperation with the local forestry authority and the town council, a cycle path named in honor of Hans Paasche was opened on the outskirts of the Drawa National Park just north of Krzyż. Hans Paasche was the owner of a now-vanished manor called Waldfrieden, located a few dozen kilometers to the north of Kreuz (the place’s post-war Polish name is Zacisze). He was a locally renowned pacifist who, in 1920, was shot dead by German soldiers stationed in Wiesenthal (now Przesieki). Alongside the construction of the bike path, the organizers of this initiative distributed information leaflets about Hans Paasche in the material promoting the new route. The cycle path is used, for example, for regular outings by the local scouts’ association, which also pays close attention to the story of Paasche; they even use pre-war German maps of the area to plan their trips, and set assignments involving searching for traces of German monuments and buildings. Besides such initiatives with a social benefit, there are individuals and interest groups who collect local German artifacts: postage stamps, newspapers, decorations and other everyday items (porcelain, cutlery, bottles, hangers, etc.). Moreover, in Huta Szklana, the owners of an organic farm have revived local German methods of dairy production, selling cheeses made using old German recipes; the most popular is called “Kreuzer,” and pictures of pre-war dairies in Glasshütte are on display on the shop walls. All of these activities combine to reveal a cultural tendency that aims to (re)discover the area’s German heritage, though of course on a small scale relative to the official Polonocentrism. The best-known example in Poland of an organization promoting the complex heritage of the “Recovered Territories” is the “Borussia” cultural association in Olsztyn.123

Another important part of the new mnemonic landscape in Krzyż are the activities of the KARTA Centre, a non-governmental institution that documents and publicizes history, in the years 2008–2012; in turn, the reception of these efforts in the town shows that KARTA effectively responded to the needs of residents. Before the research project of which this book is a product had been ←69 | 70→conceived, I was part of a pilot project that collected oral testimonies among the oldest residents of Krzyż. A follow-up project involved, inter alia, educational activities: we carried out workshops for secondary school students, organized a meeting for residents to present some of the gathered testimonies, and published a brochure entitled From Kreuz to Krzyż: Polish and German residents of Krzyż in the Twentieth Century [Od Kreuz do Krzyża: losy polskich i niemieckich mieszkańców Krzyża w XX wieku.] A website was also launched, where it was possible to access fragments of oral history interviews, as well as archival photographs.124 For a short time, therefore, I was not only an observer, but also a practitioner of local memory in Krzyż. The response to the activities of KARTA easily exceeded our expectations. The project presentation in the town cultural center attracted enough people to fill the hall, including the mayor, the chairman of the town council and the heads of all the schools. Through the municipal library, over 100 copies of the brochure From Kreuz to Krzyż were distributed to local residents. At its peak, the website was visited by several dozen people a day, most of them from Krzyż itself.

It would be possible to diagnose of the state of commemoration in Krzyż as “public forgetting, private fascination,” if it were not for events that took place in 2009 and 2010. In 2009, burials began to take place in the part of the municipal cemetery that had been converted from the old German graveyard. As graves were dug, the remains of people buried in the same spots before the war were found. A scandal broke out in Krzyż: residents objected to laying their loved ones to rest in plots where other corpses already lay. The matter was brought to the town authorities, and a heated discussion broke out on the pages of the local newspaper Tygodnik Notecki. Many people only then discovered that the cemetery had been expanded on the site of the pre-war German burial ground. Public pressure led the authorities to conduct reburials, in consultation with the Protestant Church based in Poznań, and a modest memorial to the Germans formerly buried there was erected in spring 2010. A black granite plaque bears the bilingual dedication. It stated in Polish: Pamięci zmarłych tej ziemi [In Memory of the Dead of this Land]; in German: Ruhe sanft in eurer Gruft [Rest in Peace in your Graves]. A similar memorial inscription was put up on the wall of the cemetery chapel. At roughly the same time, the town council of Krzyż instigated the publication of an album of old postcards from Kreuz. The 85-page book is entitled Krzyż Wielkopolski: A History Written in Postcards [Krzyż Wielkopolski: historia ←70 | 71→pocztówką pisana], and features more than one hundred German images of the town and surroundings. The subtitles to the images provide information about the postcards, always featuring the old German name of the building or place next to the present-day Polish one. However, the book’s introduction somewhat dampens the impression of an opening up to the past on the part of local officialdom. A text that could have been written in communist times tells readers that: “in 1772 – during the first Partition of Poland – these lands were conquered by the Prussians, but the area remained largely inhabited by Poles, who were mostly farmers;” “[in the interwar period] Krzyż unfortunately did not return to Polish territory;” “the town was liberated after intense fighting on January 27, 1945.”125 For someone with no knowledge of the region’s history, it may be difficult to understand why the pictures on these postcards have German text at all.

Meanwhile, Polish-German contacts flourished in Krzyż at several levels. At the beginning of the 1990s, Germans who had previously lived in Kreuz started to travel to the town, the second such wave in recent decades. This time, it was people from former West Germany who came, i.e. those who had been previously labeled by communist-era propaganda as threatening revisionists. In the new political situation, the Polish residents of Krzyż perceived these tourists differently to the East Germans who had visited 20–30 years previously. The Germans also had different preconceptions of Poland and Poles, and behaved differently to their compatriots from the GDR; in many cases, their self-confidence led the locals to feel threatened. Fear of the Germans reached a zenith during the campaigning period before the European Union membership referendum in 2003, when conservative and populist parties stirred anxiety in western regions of Poland by arguing that Germans would try and reclaim pre-war homes and plots of land by legal means. However, campaigning ended, Poland joined the EU, and no Germans arrived. As time passed, their visits became increasingly rare; at present, the majority of Germans who travel through the region are ordinary tourists with no sentimental attachment to the area. Many agrotourism companies cater to Germans, with promotional material printed primarily in German. Partnerships are also developing at the level of educational and cultural institutions. The secondary school in Krzyż has for several years arranged exchanges through the EU’s “Comenius” program, and the Polish Scouting and Guiding Association organized a joint scouting camp for young Poles from Krzyż and scouts from Germany in 2007. Informal contacts have also played ←71 | 72→a role. Krzyż is located just 100 km from the border, with good transport links to Germany, and many families in the 1990s subsisted by means of (more or less legal) cross-border trade. Many residents of Krzyż also work, whether permanently or seasonally, in Germany.

At first glance, the situation in Zhovkva after 1991 looks to have been the exact opposite. Whereas the post-transformation years were fairly calm in Krzyż, Zhovkva was mired in conflicts over the meaning of the past. In order to understand these disputes, it is necessary to consider nationwide debates about the past in Ukraine.126 The official vision of the country’s history had begun to change during Perestroika, and radical alterations were introduced after Ukraine gained independence in 1991. The Soviet memory narrative was gradually discredited, although not without difficulty, and a new, national history gained primacy. A new state requires new heroes, and in addition to the Cossacks and the leaders of medieval Kievan Rus’, the UPA was elevated to the status of collective hero. Meanwhile, a dominant tendency in Ukrainian historiography promoted a victimhood narrative, whereby Russia and the Soviet Union had oppressed the Ukrainian people for centuries. However, the new paradigm was not accepted by all Ukrainians, the biggest controversies arising in the eastern regions of the country, where the UPA was seen as a criminal organization that collaborated with the Nazis, and the Red Army remembered as genuine liberators. Nevertheless, the proponents of UPA mythology made significant gains, succeeding in instating their version of events into school textbooks.127 Disputes about the UPA are ongoing – many observers argue that this problem divides Ukrainian society more than any other. Debates also cause divisions within the nationalist camp, which struggles to come to terms with issues such as the massacres of Poles in Volhynia (1943–44) or collaboration with the Nazis (both ←72 | 73→military collaboration by the SS Galizien division and civilian participation in the auxiliary police, including collaboration in the Holocaust).128 The controversy of the theme also affects pragmatic questions: it was only in 2015, as part of the decommunization laws passed that year, that the UPA’s soldiers were officially recognized as “fighters for Ukrainian independence,” thus gaining a status alongside Red Army veterans and a range of benefits and privileges that, often, meant a substantial economic benefit for the individuals concerned.129 It should also be noted that, for all the dominance of nationalist memory in Ukraine, there are many different narratives that coexist, even in the western regions; these are often mutually contradictory. The Soviet commemorative canon was not completely dismantled, as can be seen in statues that are still standing in Galician towns and in the fact that in Galicia – unlike in, say, Estonia – there were no acts of vandalism after 1991 against Soviet-era monuments; usually only Lenin monuments were toppled in isolated cases.130 This changed after the Euromaidan ←73 | 74→revolution of 2014, when Soviet monuments were dismantled en masse across Ukraine.131

How does Zhovkva fit into this national context? After 1991, the official representation of the town’s past was completely changed: the “Soviet” interpretation that had dominated until then was rendered “incorrect,” and a national memory took its place. The mnemonic paradigm shift can be seen above all in the symbolic furnishing of public space: Zhovkva became a symbolic domain132 in which nationally minded Ukrainians, for whom the OUN and UPA were model patriots, gained supremacy. From the beginning of the 1990s, several new monuments were erected. The most prominent are the monument-shrine to the victims of the NKVD massacre in 1941, placed in front of the town hall, the statue of the OUN leader Yevhen Konovalets (on the spot where the monument to Piotr Nesterov had previously stood), and the monument to the victims of the Great Famine of 1932–1933. Graves of the Sich Riflemen were renovated in the town cemetery, and commemorative plaques were installed to those victims of Stalinist Terror in Zhovkva whose bodies were never found and to the human remains discovered in the crypt of the Basilian church.

Besides the three memorials connected to the Holocaust (to which I shall return below), only three of the new monuments do not have an anti-Soviet thrust: the statue of Mary in front of the castle, the “family monument” (which features as woman and man leaning over a child) and the monument to soldiers who died in Afghanistan, which appeared in 2000. All of the memorials were installed with the active participation of local residents, some on their initiative. Zhovkva’s community engagement is also visible in a range of other projects: in 1990 the Svitlo kultury [Light of Culture] association, which restored old buildings in Zhovkva, was founded; then, a community museum was opened (although it closed after a few years); and in 2007 the local Tourist Information Centre was established. The naming of streets was revised in many instances: streets dedicated to communists such as Kirov and Dovhanyk disappeared, alongside those commemorating Russian authors and artists, such as Lermontov and Pushkin. They were replaced by streets named after the Warriors of the UPA, Stepan Bandera, ←74 | 75→Yevhen Konovalets, the Sich Riflemen, Oleksa Hasyn (UPA commander in the “Western” district), and other nationalists.

The fall of state socialism also enabled a religious revival, which had important consequences for the culture of remembrance in Zhovkva. Greek Catholics in the town had started to demand that the Orthodox Church return the Basilian church to them in the late 1980s. A heated dispute broke out between the faithful and clergy of the two confessions, with exchanges not only confined to words: for example, Greek Catholics chained themselves to the church door, and an Orthodox priest attempted to sneak out some of the relics of a saint. Eventually the Basilians returned to the church and monastery, and the Orthodox hierarchy commissioned a new, enormous temple on the edge of the town on the road to Lviv. Alongside the Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate in Zhovkva, there is also a small church of the autocephalous branch of the Orthodox faith,133 located in the former chapel of the Felician convent next to St. Lazar’s Hospital, while Greek Catholic services are conducted in three other churches. The Basilians have great cultural authority in Zhovkva, being associated with patriotic virtues. They symbolize the pre-war tradition of Ukrainian culture and the post-war resistance to the imposition of communism. They therefore act as patrons to many local events that commemorate the past. However, relations with the Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate remain strained, although this has been true of all of the confessions in Zhovkva – none of them retains friendly relations with the Moscow branch.

Social divisions in Zhovkva quickly spread to the linguistic, national and political spheres, although the boundaries between them were often difficult to identify.134 On one side of the barricades were nationally-minded Ukrainians who supported the Ukrainian cultural and linguistic rebirth as well as a nationalist approach to memory; on the other side were ethnic Russians and Russian-speaking Ukrainians who preferred Soviet models of identity and culture to the Ukrainian national ones. The former accused the latter of disloyalty to the Ukrainian state; the latter reciprocated with charges of national chauvinism. Language was the issue that caused particularly heated clashes: the first group argued that the Russian-speakers were purposefully demonstrating a lack of ←75 | 76→respect for Ukrainian; the second group countered by accusing the Ukrainian-speaking majority of denying them their right to use their minority language in public. Open conflicts sometimes broke out – partly facilitated by the closure of the military garrison in Zhovkva.

The Roman Catholic Church was reopened in Zhovkva shortly after the fall of communism; Polish conservation officers have continually refurbished it with financial backing from the Polish state. The Roman Catholic congregation is small in number, and mass is celebrated once a week. Most of the faithful here are Ukrainians, with a relatively low number of ethnic Poles. Services are held partly in Polish and partly in Ukrainian. Despite the existence of a Polish community in Zhovkva, no commemorative plaque to the Poles who lived in the town has appeared since 1991: neither to those who contributed to the culture of the town historically, nor to the victims of Soviet repressions or UPA atrocities. The only Polish memorial is a cross in the town cemetery commemorating Polish soldiers who died in war against the Soviets in 1920; it was placed in the interwar period and renovated after 1991 on the initiative of the Polish community. The local museum, situated in the castle, presents the town’s history through the prism of its architecture – the castle, churches of different Christian denominations, synagogue and other building reveal different layers of the past. Characteristically for western Ukraine (and also for western Poland), the texts in the display avoid any reference to the ethnicity of the people who designed and built these artifacts. Stories about Ukrainian heroes: Bohdan Khmelnytsky (born in Zhovkva) and Ivan Mazepa (who visited the town) are the principal additions to the architectural descriptions. Meanwhile, a temporary exhibition from 2010 departed from this nationalizing paradigm. It presented several dozen photographic portraits of historical residents of Zhovkva (most of them Ukrainians and Poles), based on a collection of glass plates made by the town’s last Polish photographer, Emil Domański. The exhibition attracted a great deal of interest from the local population, especially those whose families had roots in the locality; according to the curator, museum visitors spent a long time studying the photographs and looking for their relatives and acquaintances. Another of the museum’s initiatives is highly reminiscent of the book of old postcards published in Krzyż: in 2010, a calendar featuring Polish images of Zhovkva townscapes was issued, with bilingual inscriptions in Polish and Ukrainian. However, similarly to the case of the Krzyż album, the publication contains no information as to why the Poles and Jews who created much of the material culture featured in the images are no longer present in the town.

Finally, memory about the town’s Jews is also largely absent. In theory, in contrast to the (non-)commemoration of the Poles, we cannot say that there have ←76 | 77→been no public memory projects in Zhovkva whatsoever. In the early 1990s, a symbolic grave in memory of the Jews who died here during the liquidation of the Zhovkva ghetto (1943) was placed in the town cemetery. The inscription reads:

Here are buried the remains of Jewish residents of Zhovkva, the victims of the genocide carried out by Nazi Germany, shot to death during the liquidation of the ghetto on 25 March 1943. Your integrity, rectitude and virtue remain in our hearts. In eternal memory. We ask for prayers. From the residents of Zhovkva.

Nonetheless, although the plaque purported to be “from the residents of Zhovkva,” in reality it was the result of individual efforts by the town’s last living Holocaust survivor. The second Holocaust memorial in the locality was also created independently of the town authorities, with funding from former residents of Zhovkva now living in Israel. Situated approximately 2km outside the town at a site of wartime mass executions, the large memorial was erected towards the end of the 1990s and bears the bilingual (Ukrainian-Yiddish) inscription: “In Blessed Memory of the 3,500 Victims of the Zhovkva Ghetto. 25.03.1943” in Ukrainian; and “In Blessed Memory of the 3,500 Victims of the Zhovkva Ghetto. May their Souls be United by the Bonds of Life” in Yiddish. When the monument was unveiled, numerous members of the Jewish diaspora, as well as representatives of the local authorities and Zhovkva residents attended the ceremony. At present, after the death of the town’s last Holocaust survivor in 1999, the memorial stands neglected and has been vandalized several times: for example, the decorative bronze elements were removed by thieves. The Zhovkva synagogue is in no better state. After the fall of communism, restoration works were started (the building is owned by the state), but only after 2001, thanks to the support of the World Monuments Fund’s Jewish Heritage Programme, the synagogue received a new copper roof. The restoration is still in progress in 2018. A site of Jewish memory that was until very recently completely removed from the symbolic space of Zhovkva is the ohel (ornate burial house) of Aleksander Sender Schor, local rabbi and Talmudist (died 1737), built by his descendants on the former site of the Jewish cemetery, which now functions as a marketplace. The building is closed with a padlock. A piece of paper hung in the window tells readers, in Hebrew only, that the key is kept in a house nearby.

Thus, whilst there is no shortage of memorials representing diverse memories and narratives in Zhovkva, their prominence and state of repair are very different. Newly erected monuments to heroes of the Ukrainian underground stand alongside memorials to murdered Jews and religious sites of memory. With the exception of the Lenin statue that was pulled down before the official collapse of the USSR, all but one (the Nesterov statue) of the Soviet monuments ←77 | 78→are still standing: the figure of the soldier-liberator and the designated segment for Red Army soldiers in the municipal cemetery, and the monument to the heroes of the “Great Patriotic War.” Flowers are occasionally laid at the feet of these memorials (especially on Victory Day, 9 May), but in general it is difficult to conclude that anyone is maintaining them regularly: the graves are overgrown and the monuments neglected.

Like in Krzyż, the opening of borders gave Zhovkva opportunities to increase contacts with Poland. Many Poles traveling to see Lviv visit the town, and in high season at least one coach full of Polish tourists stops by daily. Information material sold in the Tourist Centre is printed primarily in Polish and Ukrainian, and local guides are mostly conversant in Polish. Zhovkva is also visited by actual former residents and their descendants, although less frequently than Krzyż. Jewish tour groups also visit the town and leave a lasting impression in the memories of locals due to the characteristic religious clothing worn by some; however, in the course of my visits I did not come across any such groups. There are, however, no Polish-Ukrainian cooperation projects aimed at the wider population. Zhovkva has an official twin town in Poland, museums run joint projects, but there are no school exchanges or contacts between local NGOs. Economic networks are significantly more developed. Zhovkva being just 30km from the Polish border, many residents trade with Poland, not necessarily legally. Many Ukrainians in Zhovkva – as well as almost all of the Poles – work in Poland, on either a permanent or a seasonal basis.

Zhovkva had its origin name restored in 1992.135

←78 | 79→

60 I present the histories of Krzyż and Zhovkva on the basis of scholarly histories and document publications, as well as oral and written accounts preserved in archives, and statements made by present-day citizens of both towns during the fieldwork (archival materials were found in the Oral History Archive and Eastern Archive of the History Meeting House and KARTA Centre, Warsaw; the Archive of the Jewish Historical Institute, Warsaw; and the Visual History Archive).

61 Bohdan Khmelnytsky (1595–1657) – Polish-Lithuanian nobleman, Hetman of the Zaporozhian Host, leader of the Cossack Uprising against the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in the years 1648–1654; Khmelnytsky is considered a national hero in Ukraine, a historical figure who fought for Ukrainian statehood.

62 See: Timothy Snyder, The Reconstruction of Nations. Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus, 1569–1999 (Yale: Yale University Press, 2003).

63 On competing visions of Ukrainian-ness in nineteenth-century Galicia, see: Danuta Sosnowska, Inna Galicja (Warszawa: Elipsa, 2009).

64 Tarbut was a network of secular, Hebrew-language and Zionist schools in inter-war Poland and other countries of the region.

65 “Drugi powszechny spis ludności z dn. 9.XII.1931 r. Mieszkania i gospodarstwa domowe, ludność, stosunki zawodowe. Województwo lwowskie bez miasta Lwowa,” Statystyka Polski – Główny Urząd Statystyczny, Series C, Vol. 68 (Warszawa: 1938), pp. 32–38.

66 Andrii Turchyn, “Administratyvno-statystychnyi ohliad 1880–1979.” In: Zhovkivshchyna. Istoryko-memuarnyi zbirnyk Vol. 2, ed. Yaroslav Kalika (Zhovkva–Lviv–Baltimore: Instytut Krypiakevycha NAN Ukrainy, 1995), p. 94.

67 Gerszon Taffet, Zagłada Żydów żółkiewskich (Łódź: Centralna Żydowska Komisja Historyczna, 1946).

68 The census itself was not free of controversy. Already in the inter-war period, criticisms were raised against the methods of data collection, and it was argued that state authorities had intentionally inflated the number of Polish-speakers on many occasions, see: Grzegorz Siudut, “Pochodzenie wyznaniowo-narodowościowe ludności Małopolski Wschodniej i Lwowa wedle spisu ludności z 1931 r.,” in: Lwów. Miasto – społeczeństwo – kultura, Vol. 2, ed. Henryk Żaliński and Kazimierz Karolczak (Kraków: Wydawnictwo Naukowe WSP, 1998), pp. 261–280; Piotr Trojański, “Liczba, rozmieszczenie oraz struktura wewnętrzna ludności wyznania mojżeszowego,” in: Lwów. Miasto – społeczeństwo – kultura, Vol. 2 (1998), pp. 243–260.

69 Yaroslav Hrytsak, “Strasti po Lvovu,” Krytyka, Vol. 7/8 (2002), pp. 2–7.

70 See: Tomasz Molenda, “Zmiany ludnościowe w Krzyżu Wielkopolskim i okolicy w latach 1945–1950,” unpublished MA dissertation (Poznań, 2008), pp. 14–15.

71 The Wielkopolska Uprising was an armed insurgency by Poles in the Province of Posen in 1918 and 1919, against the German Reich and aimed at joining the lands of the former Prussian partition to the newly formed Polish state. It is one of the very few Polish national uprisings to have ended in success.

72 Cf. Jan T. Gross, Revolution from Abroad. The Soviet Conquest of Poland’s Western Ukraine and Western Belorussia (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1998), p. 51.

73 In the 1990s, the remains of several dozen corpses were discovered in the ground under of the Basilian church; it was established that they belonged to men, women and children. Initial examinations suggested that these people died during the Soviet occupation, but these findings were never confirmed. The investigation was never finished, and the remains were buried in the town cemetery.

74 For an overview of the Soviet killings of the prisoners in June 1941, see: Oleh Romaniv and Inna Fedushchak, eds., Zakhidnioukrainska trahediia 1941 (Lviv-New York: Naukove Tovarystvo im. Shevchenka, 2002).

75 It is believed that around 400,000 people were deported from Galicia to work as forced laborers, see: David R. Marples, Stalinism in Ukraine in the 1940s (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 1993), p. 59.

76 No study exists analyzing the Holocaust in Zhovkva. The most comprehensive history of the Holocaust in Galicia remains the book by German historian Dieter Pohl: Dieter Pohl, Nationalsozialistische Judenverfolgung in Ostgalizien 1941–1944: Organisation und Durchfiihrung eines staatlichen Massenverbrechens (Munich: R. Oldenbourg Verlag, 1997). A multi-perspectival study of the Holocaust in Ukraine is available in the edited volume: Ray Brandon and Wendy Lower, eds., The Shoah in Ukraine. History, Testimony and Memorialization (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2008).

77 I have adopted this timeline of events during the Holocaust in Zhovkva in whole from: Taffet, Zagłada Żydów żółkiewskich.

78 The Janowski camp in Lviv was a German concentration camp located near the Lviv ghetto. To begin with (in autumn 1941) it functioned mainly as a labor camp for Jewish prisoners; later, political prisoners and Soviet PoWs were also brought there. From the spring of 1942 it also functioned as a transit camp for Jews being transported to the death camp in Bełżec. It was destroyed in November 1943 after a mass murder of its prisoners. It is estimated thar approximately 200,000 people were killed in total during the war at this site.

79 According to the book Zhovkivshchyna. Istorychnyi narys, approximately 1,700 people lived in the town as of the autumn of 1944, see: Mykola Lytvyn, ed. Zhovkivshchyna. Istorychnyi narys, Vol. 1 (Zhovkva–Lviv–Baltimore: Instytut Krypiakevycha NAN Ukrainy, 1994), p. 240.

80 The most comprehensive and also objective studies on this topic are the works of the Polish historian Grzegorz Motyka. E.g.: Grzegorz Motyka, Od rzezi wołyńskiej do akcji “Wisła.” Konflikt polsko-ukraiński 1943–1947 (Kraków: Wydawnictwo Literackie, 2011). In Ukraine, one of the few scholars considering this theme with scholarly objectivity is Ihor Iliushyn, see e.g.: Ihor Iliushyn, Ukraiinska Povstanska Armiia i Armiia Kraiova. Protystoiania v Zakhidnii Ukraiini (1939–1945 rr.) (Kyiv: Vydavnychyi Dim “Kyievo-Mohylianska Akademiia,” 2009). On the collaboration of local Ukrainian civilians in the murders, see: Jared McBride, “Peasants into Perpetrators: The OUN-UPA and the Ethnic Cleansing of Volhynia, 1943–1944,” Slavic Review, Vol. 75, No. 3, (Fall 2016), pp. 630–654.

81 At this time there were already some individuals among the Ukrainians who were sceptical of the UPA. If they voiced their views, however, they were likely to be killed by the insurgents as traitors. The most tragic known example of such a death was the 1943 murder of the parents of a man originally from Zhovkva, now living in Poland, with whom I conducted an interview (on condition of anonymity). His father was Ukrainian and his mother Polish (she was heavily pregnant at the time of the incident), and they were shot to death as they rode on a horse-drawn carriage during a village wedding ceremony. Their children survived because they were sitting on the floor of the carriage.

82 The State Repatriation Office [PUR] was a Polish state department founded as a result of a decree by the Polish Committee of National Liberation [Polski Komitet Wyzwolenia Narodowego, PKWN] in October 1944. Its initial remit was to supervise the resettlement of Poles from the eastern territories that were ceded to the USSR as a result of the post-war settlement formalized at the Yalta and Potsdam Conferences. Later, its sphere of responsibilities was expanded to include all migration to and within the Polish state.

83 The word “repatriates” [repatrianci] has been common in both scholarly and everyday usage in Poland, meaning people who “returned” to Poland from the former eastern territories that were ceded to the USSR after the war. I employ it in this book in quotations throughout, to acknowledge its ideological colouring. On the problems associated with the term, see: Małgorzata Głowacka-Grajper, “Społeczna i indywidualna kontynuacja pamięci ojczyzn kresowych,” in: Pamięć utraconych ojczyzn, ed. Ewa Nowicka and Aleksandra Bilewicz (Warszawa: Wydawnictwa Uniwersytetu Warszawskiego, 2012), pp. 155–182.

84 Molenda, “Zmiany ludnościowe,” p. 90.

85 Molenda, “Zmiany ludnościowe,” p. 97.

86 Molenda, “Zmiany ludnościowe,” p. 65.

87 Lemkos are an ethnic group that lived until 1947 on the borderland of what is now Poland, Ukraine and Slovakia. In 1947, the Polish communist government deported most of the Lemkos (ca. 140,000 civilians) living in South-east of Poland to the western and northern parts of the country. The operation was called “Vistula” and was part of the wider operation aimed at destroying the UPA in Poland. However, most historians today argue that its goal was also to assimilate the deported Lemkos and Ukrainians. For an overview of the “Vistula” Operation see: Motyka, Od rzezi wołyńskiej; Marek Jasiak, “Overcoming Ukrainian Resistance: The Deportation of Ukrainians within Poland in 1947,” in: Redrawing Nations: Ethnic Cleansing in East-Central Europe, 1944–1948, ed. Philipp Ther and Ana Siljak (Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield, 2001), pp. 173–194.

88 Cf. Marples, Stalinism in Ukraine, p. 59.

89 This story is recounted in the memoir of one of the Jews saved by the person in question. The author was a teenage girl at the time. The original diary (written in Polish) is held in the Holocaust Memorial Museum, and it was published in 2017 by the Polish Centre for Holocaust Research of the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology, Polish Academy of Sciences: Clara Kramer, Tyleśmy już przeszli. Dziennik pisany w bunkrze (Żółkiew 1942–1944) (Warszawa: Stowarzyszenie Centrum Badań nad Zagładą, 2017). A video testimony by Klara Schwarz (now Clara Kramer) is available in the archive of the Shoah Foundation Institute under catalogue number 37123.

90 The transfer of Ukrainians from Poland to the Ukrainian SSR (1944–1946) has recently been studied in some detail by Ukrainian historians, such as Volodymyr Kitsak, Tamara Hontar, Stepan Makarchuk and others. Nonetheless, research on the social adaptation of resettlers and the effects of deportation on their identity are still scarce. One of the few available studies is by Halyna Bodnar, who uses an oral history approach, see: Halyna Bodnar, “‘Tam bulo dobre i tut ye nepokhano zhyty:’ osoblyvosti istorychnoi pamiati ukraintsiv, pereselenykh iz Polshchi,” in: Ukraina-Polshcha: istorychna spadshchyna i suspilna svidomist, Vol 2: Deportatsii 1944–1951 (Lviv: Instytut Ukrainoznavstva im. Krypiakevycha, 2007), pp. 20–36; Subtelny, “Expulsion, Resettlement, Civil Strife.”

91 On the social and political effects of the Soviet modernization project in Ukraine, see e.g. Martin Åberg, “Paradox of Change: Soviet Modernization and Ethno-Linguistic Differentiation in Lviv, 1945–1989,” Harvard Ukrainian Studies, Vol. 24: Lviv. A City in the Crosscurrents of Cultures, ed. John Czaplicka (2002), pp. 285–302; Yaroslav Bilinsky, The Second Soviet Republic: The Ukraine after World War II (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1964); Amar, The Paradox of Ukrainian Lviv.

92 It is not exactly clear who killed Dovhanyk. Communists claim to this day that it was the UPA, while a clear majority of my interviewees (including people who were critical of the UPA) were of the opinion that the Soviets themselves had shot their own comrade: in order to gain a highly ranked martyr for their cause, and to blacken the reputation of the UPA.

93 Ukrainians deported from Zhovkva during this period started to return after the death of Stalin in 1953; the final amnesty for political prisoners of this category was granted in 1965, the twentieth anniversary of the end of the year, see: Amir Weiner, Making Sense of War. The Second World War and the Fate of the Bolshevik Revolution (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001), p. 233.

94 One of the most thorough studies of Soviet deportations from western Ukrainian in the years 1944–1953 is the book by Tamara Vronska: Upokorennia strakhom: simeine zaruchnytstvo u karalnii praktytsi radianskoii vlady (1917–1953) (Kyiv: Tempora, 2013).

95 The Soviet authorities used a wider definition of the “Kulak” in Western Ukraine after the war than they did in other Soviet republics. Here, a Kulak was not just a person who owned more than 10ha of land, but anyone who was opposed to collectivization, was against the Soviet order as such, or was recognized by the Soviets as a nationalist, see: Marples, Stanilism in Ukraine.

96 See: Zbigniew Wojnowski, The Near Abroad: Socialist Eastern Europe and Soviet Patriotism in Ukraine, 1956–1985 (Toronto: Toronto University Press, 2017), pp. 165–168.

97 On post-war Soviet memory policy in the area, see: Serhy Yekelchyk, Stalin’s Empire of Memory. Russian-Ukrainian Relations in the Soviet Historical Imagination (Toronto-Buffalo-London: Toronto University Press, 2004); Iulia Kysla, “Konstruiuvaniia ukrainskoi istorychnoi pamiati w URSR vprodovzh stalinskoho periodu (1930-ti–1950-ti rr.),” Mizhkulturnyi dialog, Vol. 1: Identychnist (2009), pp. 221–244.

98 Cf. Vladyslav Hrynevych, “Mit viiny ta viina mitiv,” Krytyka, Vol. 5, No.91, (2005), pp. 2–8. The construction of a new Soviet identity was under way already during the war, as shown in: Karel Berkhoff, Motherland in Danger (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 2013).

99 On the fate of Ukrainians who returned to the USSR from the West, see: Dyczok, The Grand Alliance.

100 Cf. Anataolii Podolskyi, “Ukraiinske suspilstvo i pamiat pro holokost: sproba analizu deiakykh aspektiv,” Holokost i suchasnist. Studii w Ukriini i sviti, Vol. 1, No. 5, (2009), pp. 47–59; John-Paul Himka, “The Reception of the Holocaust in Postcommunist Ukraine,” in: Bringing the Dark Past to Light: The Reception of the Holocaust in Postcommunist Europe, ed. Joanna Michlic and John-Paul Himka (Lincoln & London: University of Nebraska Press, 2013), pp. 627–661; Tarik Cyril Amar, “A Disturbed Silence. Discourse on the Holocaust in the Soviet West as an Anti-Site of Memory,” in: The Holocaust in the East. Local perpetrators and Soviet Responses, ed. Michael David-Fox, Peter Holquist and Alexander M. Martin (Pitsburgh: University of Pitsburgh Press, 2014), pp. 158–184.

101 Cf. Timothy Snyder, “Holocaust: The Ignored Reality,” The New York Review of Books 56, No. 12 (16 July 2009), http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2009/07/16/holocaust-the-ignored-reality/, last accessed 15.02.2019.

102 The Piast dynasty ruled in Poland in the Middle Ages, from the mid-ninth century until 1370. In the early period of their rule, the borders of the Polish state coincided in many ways with the Poland that emerged after 1945, including a large part of Silesia and Pomerania (i.e. the lands that post-war Poland gained from Germany). In communist propaganda (as well as in Polish political thought of the interwar period) the fact that these “Recovered Territories” had been part of the Piast kingdom was the principal justification of their “perennial” Polishness.

103 On the construction of memory by local authorities in this region, see: Zenon Romanow, “Pamięć historyczna mieszkańców Ziem Zachodnich i Północnych w latach 1945–89 na przykładzie Pomorza Zachodniego,” in: Ziemie Odzyskane 1945–2005. 60 lat w granicach państwa polskiego, ed. Andrzej Sakson (Poznań: Instytut Zachodni, 2006), pp. 201–218.

104 Cf. Bernadetta Nitschke, “Repolonizacja czy polonizacja? Polityka władz polskich wobec byłych kresów wschodnich III Rzeszy,” in: Polacy–Niemcy–Pogranicze, ed. Grzegorz Wyder and Tomasz Nodzyński (Zielona Góra: Oficyna Wyd. Uniwersytetu Zielonogórskiego, 2006), pp. 275–290. Beata Halicka has also recently published an excellent work on the cultural and social changes of this period in the “Recovered Territories:” Beata Halicka, Polski Dziki Zachód. Przymusowe migracje i kulturowe oswajanie Nadodrza 1945–1948 (Kraków: Universitas, 2015). The Polonization of the “Recovered Territories” is also analyzed in: Hugo Service, Germans to Poles. Communism, Nationalism and Ethnic Cleansing after the Second World War (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013). Another example of the work studying cultural polonization of the German city is: Gregor Thum, Uprooted: How Breslau Became Wrocław during the Century of Expulsion (Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2011).

105 Andrzej Brencz examines examples of similar activities in other towns of this region, in his: “Oswajanie niemieckiego dziedzictwa kulturowego. Z badań etnologicznych na Środkowym Nadodrzu,” in: Wokół niemieckiego dziedzictwa kulturowego na Ziemiach Północnych i Zachodnich, ed. Zbigniew Mazur (Poznań: Instytut Zachodni, 1997), pp. 191–216. On the Polonization of Silesia, see: Andriy Demshuk, “Reinscribing Schlesien as Śląsk: Memory and Mythology in a Postwar German-Polish Borderland,” History and Memory, Vol. 24, No. 1, (2012), pp. 47–53.

106 Cf. Zbigniew Czarnuch, “Oswajanie krajobrazu. Polscy osadnicy w dorzeczu dolnej Warty,” in: Wokół niemieckiego dziedzictwa kulturowego na Ziemiach Północnych i Zachodnich, ed. Zbigniew Mazur (Poznań: Instytut Zachodni, 1997), pp. 169–190.

107 Cf. Nitschke, “Repolonizacja czy polonizacja?”

108 This process begun after the formal end of the verification operation, after which only people who could prove their Polish ethnicity were permitted to stay.

109 On the formation of the heroic canon for educational purposes, see: Marta Brodala, “Propaganda dla najmłodszych w latach 1948–1956. Instrument stalinowskiego wychowania,” in: Przebudować człowieka. Komunistyczne wysiłki zmiany mentalności, ed. Marta Brodala, Anna Lisiecka and Tadeusz Ruzikowski (Warszawa: Trio, 2001), pp. 123–179. More broadly on the communist-era politics of memory surrounding the Second World War, see: Bartosz Korzeniowski, “World War II in the Politics of Memory of the Polish People’s Republic 1944–1970,” in: World War II and Two Occupations. Dilemmas of Polish Memory, ed. Anna Wolff-Powęska and Piotr Forecki (Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 2016), pp. 61–80.

110 The remains of the Soviet soldiers were exhumed and transferred to the military cemetery in nearby Piła (the regional capital in the years 1975–1998).

111 “Freedom Memorial” is the caption found on a postcard of Krzyż produced in 1948 by a company called J. Grablis (one of a series); the image is a low-quality reprint of a pre-war German postcard. In all of the landscapes depicted in the series, elements have been visibly retouched: all German inscriptions have been removed from signs, street names, etc., and replaced with Polish-language toponyms.

112 Cf. Maria Tomczak, “Obraz osadników w prasie i publicystyce polskiej,” in: Ziemie Odzyskane 19452005. 60 lat w granicach państwa polskiego, ed. Andrzej Sakson (Poznań: Instytut Zachodni, 2006), pp. 45–58.

113 This observation applies to the early post-war years. In later decades, the censorship of biographies of people from the former eastern borderlands abated considerably; an iconic example is the classic film All Friends Here [Sami swoi, 1967, dir. by Sylwester Chęciński], which tells the story of two feuding families, both resettled in the “Recovered Territories” from eastern regions after the war.

114 Cf. Andrzej Sakson, “Niemcy w świadomości społecznej Polaków,” in: Polacy wobec Niemców. Z dziejów kultury politycznej Polski 1945–1989, ed. Anna Wolff-Powęska (Poznań: Instytut Zachodni, 1993), pp. 408–429.

115 Cf. Krzysztof Kosiński, O nową mentalność. Życie codzienne w szkołach 1945–56 (Warszawa: Trio, 2002).

116 From the very beginning of communist rule, the authorities made numerous efforts to influence the activities of the Polish Scouting and Guiding Association and to co-opt its power structures. Thus, in 1950 it was merged with the Union of Polish Youth (i.e. the equivalent of the Soviet Komsomol). The Polish Scouting and Guiding Association was reactivated as a separate organization during the Thaw of 1956.

117 Collective farms [Państwowe Gospodarstwo Rolne, PGR] were created in Poland from 1949 on the Soviet model. In the present-day administrative region of Krzyż, one PGR was formed: in a village somewhat distant from the town itself called Żelichowo (at the time located in the administrative district of Kuźnica Żelichowska); its residents were mostly repatriates from Ukraine. The agricultural co-operative was in operation for a short time only in Huta Szklana. The post-war collectivization of agriculture in Poland has been discussed in a rich body of scholarly literature; see: Tomasz Skonieczny, Postawy chłopów wobec koncepcji i poczynań PPR (PZPR) w początkowej fazie kolektywizacji polskiego rolnictwa (1948–1949) (Słupsk: Akademia Pomorska w Słupsku, 2009); Antoni Kura, Aparat bezpieczeństwa i wymiar sprawiedliwości wobec kolektywizacji wsi polskiej 1948–1956 (Warszawa: IPN, 2006); and numerous other studies that focus on specific regions.

118 The National Day of the Rebirth of Poland [Narodowe Święto Odrodzenia Polski] was celebrated on 22 July during communist times, on the anniversary of the declaration of the manifesto of the Soviet-sponsored Polish Committee of National Liberation [Polski Komitet Wyzwolenia Narodowego, PKWN] in 1944. Since 1989, Independence Day has been celebrated on 11 November, the anniversary of the declaration of Polish independence in 1918.

119 Julian Marchlewski (1866–1925): activist of the workers’ movement, communist, opponent of the independence of the interwar Polish republic; in 1920, on the recommendation of Lenin, was appointed the head of the Provisional Revolutionary Committee of Poland in Białystok. Karol Świerczewski (nom de guerre “Walter;” 1897–1947): Polish serviceman, general of the Red Army and the Polish Armed Forces, member of the Polish Workers’ Party; was killed fighting against the UPA in the Bieszczady mountains. Marchlewski Street became Western Street (ulica Zachodnia); Świerczewski Street was renamed after Józef Wybicki (1747–1822), a Polish writer and politician, and the author of the words of the Polish national anthem. The residents of the town proposed the new names.

120 For the Wielkopolska Uprising, see: footnote 71 in Chapter 1: “Dramatis personae: History and Memory.”

121 http://www.krzyz.pl/historia-1.html, last accessed 19.12.2018.

122 Huta Szklana. Jubileuszowy biuletyn z okazji 300-lecia istnienia wsi (Krzyż: Urząd Miejski w Krzyżu, August 2010), p. 4.

123 On “Borussia” and similar initiatives, see: Robert Traba, Kraina tysiąca granic. Szkice o historii i pamięci (Olsztyn: Borussia, 2003).

124 The website stopped working due to the technical problems of its administrator, the KARTA Centre, in 2017.

125 Bronisław Sudnik, ed., Krzyż Wielkopolski – historia pocztówką pisana (Piła: Wydawnictwo Media, 2010), p. 7.

126 This is such a large topic that there is neither room for detailed analysis here, nor are there many scholarly works that consider it in its totality. Older publications remain the best complex analyses, see: David R. Marples, Heroes and Villains. Creating National History in Contemporary Ukraine (Budapest–New York: CEU Press, New York 2008); Tomasz Stryjek, Jakiej przeszłości potrzebuje przyszłość? Interpretacje dziejów narodowych w historiografii i debacie publicznej na Ukrainie 1991–2004 (Warszawa: ISP PAN, Rytm, 2007). One of the most recent overviews is: Georgiy Kasianov, “History, Politics and Memory (Ukraine 1990s–2000s),” in: Memory and Change in Europe. Eastern Perspectives, ed. Małgorzata Pakier and Joanna Wawrzyniak (New York-Oxford: Berhahn Books, 2016), pp. 193–211.

127 Many analyses of Ukrainian histories have been published. See works by scholars including Viktoria Sereda, Nancy Popson and Leonid Zashkilniak.

128 For an example of the discussions thereof, see a volume published in 2010 that compiles topical essays written by various opinion-makers: Tarik C. Amar, Ihor Balynskyi and Yaroslav Hrytsak, eds., Strasti za Banderoiu (Kyiv: Hrani-T, 2010). An interesting analysis of the memories of members of the SS Galizien division and the politics of memory in Ukraine is: Olesya Khromeychuk, “Undetermined” Ukrainians. Post-War Narratives of the Waffen SS “Galicia” Division (Oxford–Bern–Berlin–Bruxelles–Frankfurt am Main–New York, New York–Wien: Peter Lang, 2013). Also see: Grzegorz Rossoliński-Liebe, “Debating, obfuscating and disciplining the Holocaust: post-Soviet historical discourses on the OUN–UPA and other nationalist movements,” East European Jewish Affairs, Vol. 3, No. 42, (2012), pp. 199–241.

129 Former president Viktor Yushchenko made attempts to change this situation during his tenure (2005–2010); in 2005, he invited UPA veterans and former Red Army soldiers to a joint ceremony commemorating the end of the Second World War, whilst one of his last acts in 2010 was the granting of the title of “Hero of Ukraine” to Stepan Bandera. In April 2010, a Donetsk court overturned this decision. Radical changes were only introduced after the overthrow of the presidency of Viktor Yanukovych and the Euromaidan. For consistent analysis of the Yushchenko’s politics of memory, see: Per Anders Rudling, “Memories of ‘Holodomor’ and National Socialism in Ukrainian Political Culture,” in: Rekonstruktion des Nationalmythos? Frankreich, Deutschland und die Ukraine im Vergleich, ed. Yves Bizeul (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht Unipress, 2013), pp. 227–258. On the decommunization laws, see: John-Paul Himka, Legislating Historical Truth: Ukraine’s Laws of 9 April 2015, https://www.academia.edu/12056628/Legislating_Historical_Truth_Ukraines_Laws_of_9_April_2015, last accessed 15.02.2019.

130 Cf. Andrij Portnow, “‘Wielka Wojna Ojczyźniana’ w polityce pamięci Białorusi, Mołdawii i Ukrainy,” Res Publica Nowa, Vol. 7 (2009), pp. 24–35.

131 Cf. Tadeusz Olszański, Wielka dekomunizacja. Ukraińska polityka historyczna czasu wojny (Warszawa: Ośrodek Studiów Wschodnich, 2017).

132 Lech M. Nijakowski developed the concept of the symbolic domain – understood as a space in which a given group realizes its historical policy – in his book Domeny symboliczne.

133 At the time of the writing of this book, three separate branches of the Orthodox Church operated in Ukraine: the Moscow Patriarchate, the Kyiv Patriarchate, and the Autocephalous Church.

134 On the linguistic divisions in Ukraine at this time, see: Lada Bilaniuk, Contested Tongues: Language Politics and Cultural Correction in Ukraine (Itaca & London: Cornell University Press, 2005).

135 After the publication of the Polish version of this book, the state of commemoration in Zhovkva changed somewhat. In 2013, a group of local activists took part in a project financed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the American Jewish Committee, and carried out by the Ukrainian Centre for Holocaust Studies in Kyiv: “Preserving and Memorializing the Holocaust Mass Graves of Eastern Europe.” Two books about the history of Zhovkva’s Jewry, aimed at a wider audience, were published as a result of this project. Moreover, in 2017 a memorial plaque was unveiled on the site of the former Jewish cemetery, now a marketplace. Three information boards about the castle, synagogue and Basilian church were produced, as well as a fourth one about the Holocaust in Zhovkva. There is no space here for a detailed analysis of these new forms of memory, but the very fact of their emergence is significant, as is the fact that teachers and young people from Zhovkva schools took part in their creation.

2  Resettlement  and the First Phase of Adaptation136

The Journey: Autobiographical Memory and its Transmission

One of the most important factors that affected the adaptation of the new inhabitants of Krzyż and Zhovkva to their surroundings was the extent to which their migration was voluntary or forced.137 Forced migrants differed from voluntary ones not just in terms of access to various resources, but also in their mindsets when they arrived at their new places of residence. The more forced the migration, the more negatively inclined people are to their new surroundings; the more free will was exercised in the decision to leave one’s old home, the greater the readiness to accept a new one. This first categorization shows from the outset that many different aspects of the adaptation process,138 which will be discussed in the following two chapters, affected different groups of residents in different ways.

The first such element that occupies divergent places in the accounts of different groups of respondents is resettlement itself – an experience that was constitutive for two groups of forced migrants: “repatriates” from the former eastern provinces of interwar Poland, and Ukrainians resettled from eastern Poland to Ukraine. Their stories share a common theme of highly emotive remembrance of ←79 | 80→the journey: each of the interviewees described it as a long, arduous experience that was made difficult by the poor sanitary conditions and lack of food.

We set off for Ukraine. It was 1946, towards the end of February or the beginning of March. It was very cold. They gave us all two carts each, two for each family, so that we could get in them, and we got in them. […] At that time there was no railway station in Berezhany, there was a siding about two or three kilometers away. That was where we arrived, a whole trainload of people, with animals if some had taken them, with small children, with everything, horses, the livestock. […] I was still a small boy then, but I remember how my mother wrapped me in a shawl, because it was very cold, there was such a wind, such terrible weather (Z15Am).

We sang “Go to Sleep Jesus” [a Christmas carrol “Lulajże Jezuniu”] in the cattle cars at Lubań Śląski. […] We learned at Lubań that my father’s family was living in Legnica. There was nothing to eat, nor, well… there was water to drink, but no food. Frozen potatoes and onions on Christmas Eve, because we had nothing when we arrived from Russia, you know, we had no clothes and we were cheerful. That was real life, there was no relaxing here (K24Am).

The accounts of Poles who traveled from the eastern territories are also abundant in tales of the makeshift organization of everyday life, forced by the circumstance of several weeks spent traveling by rail: they cooked under the open sky during stopovers and gathered food supplies in diverse ways. The Polish interviews differ from the Ukrainian ones in that they contain, as a rule, elaborate accounts of the journey to Krzyż. Such stories were told in almost every interview, with certain variations; they differ only in the narrative competence of the respondent and the level of emotional involvement. In Ukrainian accounts, there were a number of longer narratives, but usually the process of deportation was told in a more restrained way:

What was it like? Well they gave us carts, and in Lubaczów there was a train, and we got on the train… They took us to the train in the carts, packed us into the train, and we went. We stopped at… how far was it from Rava [Ruska], not far, about 30km. We stopped, my father was already here, and he kind of came out to get us, and we stayed here (Z4Af).

This laconicism is easy to understand when we take into account that most Ukrainian resettlers from Poland traveled to Zhovkva over a distance of 100km at most; the Poles traveling in the other direction had several hundred kilometers to cover before arriving in the new western territories. The objectively greater distance is conducive to a more elaborate narration in the Polish interviews: longer, more detailed, and with more different threads. Many of these threads do not feature at all in the Ukrainian interviews. There are several explanations to this observation: first, the journey undertaken by the ←80 | 81→Polish “repatriates” was not only longer, but was richer in various incidents and adventures. Also, awareness of the great distance led to a keener appreciation of the liminality of their situation and a greater sense of threat. The overwhelming sense of pity at abandoning their homes (“we lost everything, everything we had, the entire livelihood of my father and mother” (K2Af)) was made worse for the Krzyż “repatriates” by the fact that Poles in central Poland, whom they encountered during stopovers, treated them with disdain:

A few curious types came over and asked “where, where are you going? Where are you going?” “Well, they’re repatriating us, because over there it will be Ukraine now.” “You’re lying, you’re going to hunt for German fortunes. Throw them under the wheels, under the wheels!” That is how they talked to us. It was a terrible experience, because it’s not enough that you’ve lost your house […] now it turns out that you’re traveling in search of a gold rush (K35Af).

A further factor that differentiates Polish accounts from Ukrainian ones is the social formation of narrative models, which are distinct in each language and culture and which form a basic grounding for remembrance.139 In Poland, a societal working through of the memory of resettlement was to an extent carried out as a result of the easing of state censorship from the 1970s onwards; this fact has an observable effect on the accounts of Poles resettled from the East, which is absent in the Ukrainian testimonies. It was at this time that the classic film All Friends Here [Sami swoi, dir. by Sylwester Chęciński, 1967] was released, introducing an account of the resettlement to official discourse in comedic form. Although the film’s plot concentrates on the lives of “repatriates” only after their arrival in the “Recovered Territories,” it was significant that a certain taboo was broken. Unlike in Ukraine, where the ideological regime was part of everyday life until the late 1980s, the Polish “Little Stabilization”140 allowed at least a partial release of memories about resettlement. This explains why accounts of Krzyż residents resettled from the East sometimes contain elements of humor, indicating that years of ←81 | 82→“working through” have enabled a certain emotional distance to be gained from past traumatic experiences; for example, they told stories about chasing after departing trains.

The fact that some of the Krzyż interviews contained direct references to All Friends Here shows the extent to which autobiographical memory is formed not just by individual experience, but also through interaction with other social agents and under the influence of factors such as the media. As one of the respondents said

And then they transported us across, just like that, in those cattle cars of course. Three… three weeks we spent traveling to the west. Like in… like the Karguls and Pawlaks [the main characters of Sami swoi] in the film, that was how we went, with those cows (K4Af).

In order to describe their own individual experiences, narrators reach for images memorized from the film; it can only be assumed that in some ways, the image from the film acquires in their memories the status of something that was actually lived through. Similar mechanisms of memory have been discussed on several occasions in the scholarly literature. Thus, Christopher R. Browning, in his analysis of the testimonies of Holocaust survivors, discusses ways in which so-called later accounts of the Holocaust included themes that witnesses had borrowed from other testimonies, popular iconography, and other sources – for example, fear of gas being emitted from showers instead of water, or recollections of shootings above mass graves.141 Harald Welzer et al., in turn, write about the phenomenon of Germans of the “Günter Grass generation” inscribing events from the film The Bridge [Die Brücke, dir. by Bernhard Wicki, 1959] into their autobiographical memory; in the film, set in the closing days of the Second World War, a division of young army recruits desperately defends a bridge that has little strategic significance. Welzer et al. call this phenomenon a “source amnesia.”142 As David Lowenthal has rightly noted, the mechanisms of memory convert macro-scale history into individual remembrance, and the experiences of others into personal recollection; the more often such a memory is verbalized, the more it becomes one’s “own.”143

←82 | 83→

Accounts of resettlement are usually accompanied by retrospective evaluation and reflection on the themes of guilt and responsibility. Among Ukrainian resettlers, the assessment tends to depend on whether they left Poland in the first population transfer operation (which was de facto still voluntary) or the second (which was fully forced). People who departed in 1944–1945 spoke of a relative voluntariness of their decision, noting only that the reality of the move did not correspond to the propaganda (“It was meant to be voluntary, and it wasn’t forced. […] It was just that they lied to us. We arrived at the station in Odessa, and what did we find… Some marshes, a couple horses, two cows, and that was it” [Z13Am]). Later resettlers, however, claimed that they were coerced into moving to Ukraine, and more frequently complained of the brutality of the resettlement operation itself.144

The most important thing was that the Poles forced us to leave. First they said we should leave, and there was a Soviet commission organized for us. But people didn’t go, because how were they supposed to leave what they had, their households, and go who knows where. […] Later, when they started killing people, that was the worst, and people had to leave (Z6Am).

Both groups blame the Poles and the Soviets in similar measure for the loss of their homes. For a large portion of people, the fault does not lie directly with either of these sides, and is not an essential category for the experience of deportation. Their testimonies are characterized by the use of impersonal constructions. Also, on several occasions, interviewees were unable to select vocabulary appropriate to what they had experienced; they either did not have the words, or still struggled to sufficiently understand what had happened so as to describe it properly, e.g.: “They resettled us. [When was it, still during the war?] In 1945. When the war finished, because Poland was what it was then… I don’t know how to describe it. Things happened, and [people] left” (Z4Af). The formulation “voluntary forced resettlement” appears in many accounts, suggesting helplessness of memory against the extremity of experience, and defenselessness of memory that is not equipped with suitable social frames to provide concepts and terminology.

The Poles spoke more of a voluntary “repatriation operation,” although they also frequently underlined the illusoriness of the free choice being exercised. Among the factors that diminished the voluntariness were: the threat of new political persecutions; the threat from the Ukrainians; and simple patriotism ←83 | 84→which demanded that they go to the territory that would now be Poland. This last factor in particular is completely absent from Ukrainian accounts. It is clear that the fact of having lived in the interwar Polish republic, in their own state, had a significant influence on the formation of civic and patriotic values among the migrating Poles. The Ukrainians had had no such experience, and the idea of “Great [i.e. reunited] Ukraine” was for them a much bigger abstraction than the new Polish state was for the Poles coming from the East.

The eastern lands of Poland were annexed to the USSR and we were given a choice – signing up for Soviet citizenship or leaving. Of course, we didn’t even have to think about it – we chose the second option. […] Of course on the one hand it was a pity, it was difficult, we were being evicted from our homelands – and we were evicted, it wasn’t a deal, it might have been a deal on paper, but people were deported. […] So were we supposed to sign up as Russian citizens, even though we were Poles? (K17Am).

Besides patriotic sentiment, people also remembered coercion – whether direct or indirect. Words such as “order,” “evacuation,” “deportation” feature in the interviews. Nonetheless, such statements are much less common, and in most cases a political context lies in the background. In addition, the very common use of the expression “repatriation” suggests that post-war propaganda had a substantial effect; this was the phrase coined by official memory to describe the resettlement operation from the “Eastern Borderlands” to the “Recovered Territories.”

A common feature among the Polish interviewees is a conviction that the Russians were responsible for the loss of their homelands. The names used by them varied: from the “Russkies” (i.e. Ruscy, a mild pejorative distinct from the neutral Rosjanie, Russians) and “Soviets,” to the “Reds” or “communists.” Sometimes, a fellow group of perpetrators is named: the Ukrainians, in cases where interviewees moved from Ukraine; more politically aware respondents named the Allies, who had “sold” Poland. Interestingly, unlike in Ukraine, there were no instances of an inability to verbally place oneself as an individual in the wider context of resettlement as a macro-scale political process – even among the least educated interviewees originally from rural areas. It is clear that in Poland, the many years of active memory work related to this specific historical experience – in the family, in local communities, and later (especially after 1989) in wider public discourse – have enabled resettlers to come to terms with their plight. Polish respondents had no difficulties in clearly assessing and articulating the events they had lived through, because they had done so many times previously. Ukrainian interviewees, on the other hand, had had no such opportunity, ←84 | 85→and they came across in comparison as people who were lost and helpless with regard to their own unprocessed traumas.

Details are what is most readily lost in the intergenerational transmission of memory. This was especially visible in the interviews from Zhovkva, where I only heard a detailed account of the resettlement process from younger respondents a handful of times. Much more frequent were generalized statements, encapsulating in a few sentences what the respondent wanted or was able to say about the experiences of their parents or grandparents.

Well, what I know about Granny’s history is that she was, what do you call it, a participant of that “Operation Vistula,”145 that’s all I know. And that she lived in Poland to start with, and then they moved her over here. And Granny told me that when they arrived here, they chose this house because it had windows. […] What else is there to say? (Z4Dm).

In Krzyż, more young people gave detailed accounts of the resettlements, and their ability and willingness to do so was directly correlated to the declared intensiveness of the preservation of memory within the family and a general interest in history. Piotr T. Kwiatkowski has described such dependence on the basis of qualitative data.146 In these extended stretches of interviews about the resettlement process, powerful themes from the tales of grandparents recur, such as the tough sanitary conditions or the lack of food in the “cattle cars;” Welzer et al. have coined the term “topoi of memory” to describe such ideas that traverse intergenerational narratives.147

[Granny] always used to tell us about how they were transported, in what conditions. She always said that they were transported in those, in these wagons for animals, that there was one hole that served as a toilet. There were lots of people in the wagon and it was incredibly stuffy (K29Df).


ISBN (Book)
Open Access
Publication date
2019 (August)
Deportation and resettlement Politics of memory Holocaust and ethnic cleansing Polish-Ukrainian conflict Second World War Collective Identity
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2019. 380 pp.

Biographical notes

Anna Wylegała (Author)

Anna Wylegała is Assistant Professor at the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology, Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw. Sociologist by training, she works at the intersection of sociology of culture, history and anthropology, with a special focus on memory in Poland and Ukraine.


Title: Displaced Memories