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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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In his article entitled “Living among the Ghosts of Others: Urban Postmemory in Eastern Europe,” Uilleam Blacker observes that in most writing about places with resettled populations, the present-day residents are deprived of a voice by those who left that place or were expelled. Poles write about “their” Lwów, with little concern for the Ukrainians who live in today’s Lviv, and Jews remember the shtetls they left behind, rarely considering that Poles and Ukrainians have settled in those places. Blacker, however, argues that postmemory is also necessarily connected to the present-day inhabitants of those places, who have access to the traumatic experiences of the vanished Others through various media; thus, any serious attempt to study the urban postmemory of East-Central Europe must “confront the memory of the other, and others’ memories.”357 This study of local memory in Krzyż and Zhovkva arose from similar foundations: the memories and experiences of the people who have disappeared from a given society – Holocaust survivors, deportees and resettled persons – are important, but from the viewpoint of those specific communities, the memories and experiences of the people who took their place are more important. This book tries to give those people a voice and to accompany them in the reconstruction of the time when they made their new homes their own; this process was also often inseparable from the earlier loss of the old home and the associated trauma. It is for this reason that the greater part of the book is...

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