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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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5 Remembering the Absent: Germans and German Heritage in Krzyż219


5  Remembering  the Absent: Germans and German Heritage in Krzyż219

Settlers vs. Germans: Memories of the Oldest Generation

The first encounters between Poles and Germans in Krzyż were above all emotional, because the experience of the war was still fresh and painful for both sides. A man who arrived in Krzyż in one of the first transports of “repatriates” (K17Am) remembered that, when he came out of the station and walked into the town’s main street, a German woman leaned out of a nearby window and started to shout obscenities at him: “polnische Schweinerei” [“Polish scum.”] He still remembered the anger he felt at that moment, although for the most part his recollections of relations with local Germans were positive and filled with empathy. Closer contact with Germans occurred primarily at the moment when Poles moved into houses inhabited by Germans. For obvious reasons, these were difficult meetings:

I remember this sad, but at the same time kind of reconciliatory meeting with a German farmer, a Bauer. He came to us and proposed of his own accord that we take over his homestead. I remember the Bauer was called I., a nice man, elderly. […] But it was sad. I know he was suffering, he put on a brave face, but it was tough for him. We went into his house, and there was a group of women sitting there. Women are more emotional about things, they suffer more, and they didn’t want to...

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