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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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3 The Creation of a New Community and Social Integration

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Relations with the Authorities and the New Political System

The post-war residents of Zhovkva and Krzyż were confronted not only with a new material and cultural reality, but also with a political and social one. This meant, above all, that they had to adapt to a new political system. Attitudes to the communist authorities were most clearly expressed in conversations with Poles who migrated to Krzyż from the pre-war eastern provinces; they were quick to notice that the political reality of the new Poland would have much in common with the Soviet system they had escaped. Many of them had sensed this danger before they arrived, but had hoped that the communist regime in nominally their “own” country would be somehow different. Their illusions were dispersed once they arrived in the “Recovered Territories.” Apparently the “repatriated” eastern Poles, who had experienced Soviet occupation in 1939–41, were better prepared for the realities of communist Poland than others – the only surprise they experienced was positive, when life under this regime later turned out to be less brutal than the Soviet system. People who came to Krzyż from central and western areas of Poland remembered their reactions to the political change as a time of disorientation and insecurity; they were afraid of political persecution. All of the interviewees in Krzyż perceived the communist authorities as a foreign imposition. They reconciled themselves to the idea of life under a communist regime because they had no other choice, but they...

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