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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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4 Resettlement and Identity


Returning Home – the Last Stage of the Psychological Integration Process

It is difficult to grasp the exact moment in a migrant’s narrative when they have become fully integrated into the new place of residence. The description of this process is always intense, saturated, and many-sided. But the respondents’ testimonies were usually concerned with the social aspect of integration (the creation of a new community with new social bonds), rather than the psychological dimension.207 While the first visits to the “former homeland” acted as a coda for the first phase of integration – above all, in the material and everyday aspects – the later phase of social adaptation essentially has no temporal boundaries. Change is clearly visible at its peak, during the conflictual stage, but then gradually loses its sharpness, eventually disappearing completely from the section of the narrative about more recent times. We could see this as evidence of the successful completion of psychological integration; but at the same time, it may be possible to discern a resignation and surrender to the impossibility of changing a reality over which one has no influence, especially among older respondents. It is the former scenario that is observable in the majority of the autobiographical narratives of my respondents. Interestingly, whilst it was the first post-war visits to former homes that functioned as a closing coda, later visits after the fall of communism played a dual role. On the one hand, they allowed people to reprise a question that had ostensibly been...

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