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Displaced Memories

Remembering and Forgetting in Post-War Poland and Ukraine


Anna Wylegała

The book is a comparative case study of collective memory in two small communities situated on two Central-European borderlands. Despite different pre-war histories, Ukrainian Zhovkva (before 1939 Polish Żółkiew) and Polish Krzyż (before 1945 German Kreuz) were to share a common fate of many European localities, destroyed and rebuilt in a completely new shape. As a result of war, and post-war ethnic cleansing and displacement, they lost almost all of their pre-war inhabitants and were repopulated by new people. Based on more than 150 oral history interviews, the book describes the process of reconstruction of social microcosm, involving the reader in a journey through the lives of real people entangled in the dramatic historical events of the 20th century.

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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...

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