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Project objective

dr Karolina Ćwiek-Rogalska
For years: 2022–2027
Project number: 101041946
ERC Starting Grant

Ghosts are often presented as the spirits of the dead haunting the living. But what if we understood them as material remains, bringing to light overlooked past and enabling us to grasp the experience of the otherness? We propose such an approach in research on displacement, on territories previously inhabited by one culture but after a forced migration resettled by another one.

The displacement comprises expulsion and resettlement. While the former is well-researched, much of the latter remains understudied: especially the settlers’ experiences with things previous inhabitants had left behind. Things act as “ghosts” of previous culture and force settlers to interact with the “spectral” presence of the expellees. Hence, we will operationalize the category of “post-displacement” as a form of afterlife, based on archival records and fieldwork, in 3 regions in Slavic Central Europe where the traces of previous German cultures remained visible, regardless of the efforts to remove them. With hauntology as the proposed research framework and introduction of the category of recycling, we will establish a novel approach in research on the post-displacement regions. Hauntology, a spectral theory of being, shows how the present is pervaded by the past and enables us to engage with unresolved questions, becoming a tool to investigate unexplained phenomena. Recycling is a mechanism of reintroducing the things that were left by expellees into the life of the settlers. Our approach will bring fresh insights into everyday life in the post-displacement regions by providing a more nuanced and coherent understanding of forced migration processes and their continuous reinterpretations in different political and ideological regimes. In understanding what post-displacement things are and the attitude of people towards them, the project presents a showcase study of what we can learn about the emergence of new cultures from the experiences of Central Europe.


dr Karolina Ćwiek-Rogalska
Principal Investigator in ERC StG
dr Angelika Zanki
Manager/research facilitator in ERC StG
mgr. Karina Hoření
Researcher in ERC StG
Michal Korhel, M. A.
Researcher in ERC StG
mgr Magdalena Bubík
PhD student/assistant


New article. When the mnemonic actors become storytellers: the lore of the ‘recovery’ in 1970s Poland

We are happy to announce that a new article by our principal investigator, Karolina Ćwiek-Rogalska, was published in the journal Acta Poloniae Historica.

The article delves into the memoirs of Polish soldiers who settled in the Recovered Territories after World War II, examining how they convey the stories of Poland’s acquisition of the formerly German lands in 1945. Karolina identifies two main forms of storytelling: myth and lore. The myth represents authoritative and obligatory stories, while lore involves flexible and optional storytelling. She also discusses how the myth of the ‘recovery’ evolved into lore over time, from the immediate post-war period to the 1970s. This analysis sheds light on the various ways in which personal and collective experiences shape the narratives of historical events.

The article is available in open access on the web page of Acta Poloniae Historica and our our website. We’d like to encourage you to check the whole issue of the journal as well.

New blog post (in Czech). Příběh kočovného vozu a zapomenutá historie libereckých Sintů

During her archival research in the local archive in Liberec, Karina Hoření found a document that connects the issue of property changes after the war with the history of the Holocaust of the Roma and Sinti. After the war, a nomadic wagon that was supposed to be sold was found in Liberec, but the rightful owner claimed it at the last minute. In her essay, Karina not only describes this story and object in detail but reflects on the role it can play in our understanding of the forgotten culture of the North Bohemian Sinti.

Link to the text you can find here.

New article. Haunted Vegetation: Formerly German Orchards in Polish Pomerania

We are pleased to share a new article by our principal investigator, Karolina Ćwiek-Rogalska, published in the journal of Environment & History. In this article, Karolina explores the complex and often invisible histories of two orchards left behind, Baberow (Bobrowo) and Rieselei (Porosty), located near Wałcz, a town in northwestern Poland that underwent drastic demographic and political changes after 1945.

Drawing on ethnographic and archival data, Karolina reveals how the orchards are not only sources of fruit but also sites of memory and belonging for different communities. Moreover, she argues that the orchards are multitemporal entanglements, where the past and the present, the human and the nonhuman are constantly interacting and influencing each other. She invites us to rethink our relationship with nature and history and acknowledge the orchards’ agency and resilience.

The article is available in open access on our website. We’d like to encourage you to check the whole issue of the journal as well.

New blog post (in Slovak). Prelomenie mlčania? Osud(y) karpatských Nemcov na Slovensku v divadelnom spracovaní. Recenzia divadelnej hry „Hauerland“

Hauerland. This is the name of the predominantly German speaking region in central Slovakia, but also the name of a new play in the J. G. Tajovský Theater in Zvolen, directed and written by Petr Palik. The play depicts the everyday life of a multi-ethnic community in central Slovakia and how it was largely negatively affected by the historical events of the 1930s and 1940s. In the following lines, you can learn about Michal Korhel’s impressions from the play he saw on December 13, but also about its significance in the context of the Slovak culture of remembrance with regard to the local German-speaking population.

Link to the text you can find here.