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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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6 Remembering the Absent: Jews and Jewish Heritage in Zhovkva251


6  Remembering  the Absent: Jews and Jewish Heritage in Zhovkva251

Life and Death Among Neighbors

Memories of the Jews who lived in Zhovkva before the war are clearly differentiated. The oldest generation born in the town remembers the Jews differently to the resettlers, whose memories are different again from the younger residents of various backgrounds. It is not surprising that the pre-war residents of Zhovkva remembered the Jews most often and in most detail – they were the only group for whom contacts with the town’s Jews had been part of their personal experience. These memories appeared fairly frequently in the first, free-speaking part of the interviews. In her study of memory in the previously multiethnic village of Jaśliska near Sanok in south-eastern Poland, Rosa Lehmann identifies three types of narratives about Jews before the Holocaust: “political” (dividing the speaker’s own group from the ethnic and religious other, marking borders, highlighting inter-group rivalries and the statuses of specific groups); “mythical” (prejudices and misunderstandings resulting from lack of knowledge, such as the myth of Christian children being kidnapped for matzo); and “positive” (describing concrete examples of positive relations with Jews).252 The testimonies of autochthonous residents of Zhovkva contained all three types of narrative, with minor modifications. Similarly to Lehmann’s study, “political” accounts appeared most frequently, i.e. those in which the speaker delineated the Jewish community from their own (Polish or Ukrainian) group whilst describing its size and status.

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