Dilemmas of Polish Memory
Anna Wylegała - Between Biographical Experience and Social Construction of Memory: The Oldest Generation of Poles on the Soviet Occupation and the Soviets
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Between Biographical Experience and Social Construction of Memory: The Oldest Generation of Poles on the Soviet Occupation and the Soviets1
The Soviet occupation and the Red Army hold a particular place in the Polish collective memory for several reasons. First of all, although the Soviet occupation from 1939 to 1941 was experienced only by a part of Polish society – roughly speaking, the part that found itself east of the Bug and the San rivers after 1939 – it is considered a significant event for the whole national community in the collective consciousness as well as in official discourse. The biographical experiences of the oldest generation of contemporary Poles are very different in this respect. Poles who had lived in the Kresy2 before the war first experienced the Soviet occupation of 1939–1941, then the re-invasion of the Red Army in 1944, followed by the outwardly voluntary ‘repatriation’ to the current Polish state and finally they began a new life under Soviet command, often on the so-called ‘Recovered Territories.’3 The residents of Central Poland or Wielkopolska, on the other hand, encountered the Soviets only when the Red Army entered these regions in 1944 or 1945, while their dominant war experience was the five-year German occupation. These two types of biographical experience resulted in two types of biographical memory, which have been slowly fusing into one – employing motives, themes and elements of the experiences of both groups to create a...
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