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Displaced Memories

Remembering and Forgetting in Post-War Poland and Ukraine

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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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1 Dramatis personae: History and Memory

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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...

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