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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.

Third Team meeting in-person

On January 8-10, 2024, the third in person meeting of the entire Spectral Recycling Team took place. This time, we met in Warsaw. On Monday, we discussed our plans for the new year. Since we plan to continue our field and archival work this year, it was crucial to make some plans in advance. We had a chance to follow with our analyses, especially what “post-German” can mean in the context of post-displacement regions of Czechia, Poland and Slovakia. In the evening, we decided to see the illumination on the Royal Route, which refers to the Christmas decorations popular in the 1950s and 1960s. Such a way to make some more conversation on the meaning of things in Central European pasts!

The next day was an opportunity to present preliminary research results to a wider audience. The presentation took place during an open seminar of the Department of Literary and Cultural Studies of the Institute of Slavic Studies, Polish Academy of Sciences. It had a hybrid form. Karolina Ćwiek-Rogalska, Karina Hoření and Michal Korhel together gave a presentation entitled “Introduction to Ghost-Hunting. Spectral Objects, Recycling Strategies and Human-Nonhuman Relationships in Post-Displacement Regions of Czechia, Poland and Slovakia”. In the presentation, each of the theoretical concepts we work on was presented on the basis of one case study from each studied region. Thus, we talked about Czech ghosts, Polish recycling strategies and the role of non-human actors in the resettlement in Slovakia. Questions for the Team members concerned, among others: the layers of recycling that we investigate, whether we meet friendly or unfriendly ghosts, what emotions accompany the people we interview, what challenges we face and whether we have already had first successes and failures, regarding the original assumptions. 

The meeting was followed by a workshop with dr hab. Dobrochna Kałwa, from the Faculty of History at the University of Warsaw. Our conversation focused on oral history as the basis for conducting interviews (more information about our last workshop you can find here). This topic is constantly present in our considerations and we are planning further meetings with ethnologists and historians concerning that matter.

Wednesday we spent on summarizing three days of meetings and planning the new year. It was also an opportunity to determine how we want to follow with the knowledge acquired during workshops on using the MAXQDA program (more about our training here). We also had the opportunity to reflect on the current method of collecting materials, both field and archival. 

We are looking forward to new challenges and promise to share with you our discoveries, successes, but also the difficulties we encounter. We encourage you to follow our website and Facebook profile (link).

Fieldwork in Central Pomerania

Starting in September and finishing in early November – with a short break – our PI, Karolina Ćwiek-Rogalska, was carrying out another round of her fieldwork in Central Pomerania. Late summer and early autumn were a perfect time for looking closely at various forms of cultural recycling, as the falling leaves and dying grass revealed abandoned villages, such as Doderlage / Dudylany, or allowed her to examine formerly German cemeteries in the vicinity, as well as recycled monuments.

Karolina did various forms of participant observation, a fundamental ethnographic method. She was able to take part in official commemoration celebrations in the military cemetery in Bukowina, stroll through the woods, looking for abandoned lonely farms, only briefly inhabited after the war, together with her interview partners, as well as expand her research into some new areas. Among them were Borne Sulinowo, formerly German Gross Born, and later a Soviet military base, and Złotów, formerly German Flatow, where a robust Polish minority used to live before the war.

She also collected materials, stored at the state archive in Piła, formerly German Schneidemühl. In our project, we follow both ethnographic and archival sources, treating them not in comparison, but in connection, as they reveal various points of view and modes of telling the stories of the German ghosts in post-displacement regions.

Borne Sulinowo, a ruin of former officer casino

Spectral Landscapes: Michal Korhel at the Lecture Series “Was Sie schon immer über Polen wissen wollten (oder sollten)” at the Aleksander Brückner Center in Halle

The Aleksander Brückner Center for Polish Studies is a research center in Halle, Germany, which focuses on Polish history as well as the current issues related to the Polish politics, society, language, and culture. Aside from the research, carried out by its own research fellows, the Center offers Interdisciplinary Polish Studies Master’s programs for the students of the universities in Halle and Jena. A part of this programs is the lecture series entitled “Was Sie schon immer über Polen wissen wollten (oder sollten)” [Everything you always wanted (or should) know about Poland]. Our researcher Michal Korhel was invited to give a lecture about his research on German ghosts in West Pomerania.

In his presentation entitled “Geisterlandschaften? Deutsche Spuren in der Kulturlandschaft Ostmitteleuropas” [Spectral Landscapes? German Traces in the Cultural Landscape of East Central Europe] Michal introduced the theoretical concepts guiding his research, as well as sketched an overview of the West Pomerania region, where he conducts his fieldwork. Consequently, he presented the various categories of ghosts he encountered in the cultural landscape of the region of Goleniów and Nowogard. The following discussion with students and external participants focused predominantly on Michal’s findings during his fieldwork in Poland and Slovakia, but also on the general reception of this topic in Germany.

Film discussion: Sami swoi (All Friends Here)

Before the holidays, we decided to discuss another movie (here you can find link to the note about the previous one) – this time Karolina suggested a Polish classic, a popular comedy from the 1960s entitled “Sami swoi” (literally “Only our Own” but the English title was “All Friends Here” and the film was released in Czechoslovakia under the name “Ahoj, sousede”).

The movie (1967) directed by Sylwester Chęciński follows two quarreling families, the Pawlaks and the Karguls. The plot consists of a series of pranks, prepared mainly by the heads of the peasant families, Kazimierz and Władysław. Compared to other Central European productions, which denounced and ridiculed the “small nature” of these nations, the setting of “Sami Swoi” is specific. The two families were resettled from the eastern regions Poland lost after the war (so called Kresy) to the “Recovered Territories” (Ziemie Odzyskane), the regions it gained from Germany and from which the German-speaking inhabitants were expelled. Against the backdrop of a comedy, the film depicts phenomena we encountered in our research, such as abandoned German cemeteries, remaining German priests, and looting in towns that became “ghost towns” after the forced transfer of German-speaking inhabitants.

Radio interviews with Karolina Ćwiek-Rogalska (in Polish) 

Our PI, Karolina Ćwiek-Rogalska, recently gave a couple of radio interviews following the National Science Centre Award. We encourage you to listen to three of them, on the air on Radio TOK FM, Radio Kraków, and on Radio 357, where Karolina, alongside another laureate, Łukasz Opaliński, tells about her research, including the ghosts from our project, and the award.

If you are interested in the research of young scientists, do not hesitate to listen:

Radio Tok fm

Radio Kraków

Radio 357 

New blog post (in Polish). O lwie, który zniknął

The new blog post traces back the fate of the “lion monument”, erected as a war memorial in Deutsch Krone in 1925, and toppled down in the postwar Wałcz. The author asks the question of the meanings inscribed into the monument by both, prewar German inhabitants of the town and postwar Polish inhabitants. She delves into the question of what was the aim of erecting war memorials, and what happened to the German heritage in the years following the incorporation of Central Pomerania into Poland.  

Link to the text you can find here.