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Sympathy for the Unfamiliar Ghosts: Karolina Ćwiek-Rogalska at the Kolloquium Public History und Erinnerungskultur, University of Regensburg

On July 12, 2023, Karolina Ćwiek-Rogalska gave a lecture entitled “Sympathy for the Unfamiliar Ghosts. Why did Polish Settlers Care for Tombs of Ancestors of Expelled Germans?” at the Zentrum Erinnerungskultur (Centre for Memory Culture) at the University of Regensburg. The lecture was part of the Kolloquium Public History & Erinnerungskultur (Colloquium Public History & Memory Culture), a series of presentations and discussions on current research and projects in the field of public history and memory culture, organized by Prof. Dr. Juliane Tomann.

Karolina presented the main objectives and methods of the Spectral Recycling project, which aims to explore how the objects left behind by the German-speaking population after their forced migration from Poland, Czechia and Slovakia after 1945, were used. This time, she focused on a particular case on how the new settlers recycled the German cemeteries and individual burial places into the places of their own commemoration. She argued that these places can be seen as “ghosts” that haunt the new inhabitants, challenging their sense of belonging and identity, but also opening up possibilities for dialogue and reconciliation.

The lecture sparked an engaging discussion with the audience, who asked questions about various aspects of the topic. Some of the issues they raised were the role of religion, the cultural significance of cemeteries, and the transformation of formerly German spaces after 1945. They also wanted to know more about the broader context and implications of displacement and resettlement in Polish-German postwar history, and how the SpectralRecycling project could offer a new perspective on these issues.

Karolina would like to express her sincere gratitude to the organizers of this event for inviting her to share her insights on the topic of memory culture. It was a wonderful opportunity to engage in a lively and stimulating discussion with the audience. For more information about the Zentrum Erinnerungskultur, please visit their website.

Video interview (in Polish)

Spectral Recycling team helps with a local project in Goleniów (Goleniowskie Fotohistorie, link to webpage is here) contributing to the local post-war history through the prism of photography and family histories. They have already managed to identify some of the people on the more than 300 glass negatives that they have published in their online gallery. The next step are the interviews about the life stories of those identified persons. While doing his fieldwork in Goleniów Michal Korhel conducted video interviews as a part of this project as well. Even though he has a lot of experiences conducting oral history interviews, this was his first 𝐯𝐢𝐝𝐞𝐨 𝐢𝐧𝐭𝐞𝐫𝐯𝐢𝐞𝐰. Link to the interview on You Tube you can find here.

Ghosts as Material Traces: Presentation at the Centre for Arts, Memory and Communities at Coventry University

On Thursday, June 22, 2023, Karolina Ćwiek-Rogalska took part in the Cultural Memory seminar series at the Centre for Arts, Memory and Communities at Coventry University. She presented a lecture titled “Ghosts as Material Traces: A Spectral Perspective on Displacement and Resettlement in Slavic Central Europe” online via Teams. The seminar was organized by Nóra Veszprémi, and Ben Dew, a historian at Coventry University specialising in Polish-British relations, was a discussant.

In her lecture, Karolina proposed an alternative perspective on ghosts, regarding them as material traces that reveal hidden histories and enable comprehension of alterity, rather than the conventional view of the souls of the deceased haunting the living. She advocated for such a perspective in the study of displacement, focusing on territories that were formerly inhabited by one culture but were resettled by another one after a forced migration, especially the settlers’ encounters with the objects that the previous inhabitants had left behind. She argued that these objects can be seen as ghosts that haunt the new inhabitants, challenging their sense of belonging and identity, but also opening up possibilities for dialogue and reconciliation.

The lecture was followed by a lively discussion with the audience, who raised questions about the theoretical and methodological implications of Karolina’s approach, as well as its applicability to other cases of displacement and resettlement in different regions and historical periods. The seminar was part of a series that aims to explore how cultural memory is shaped by various factors, such as art, media, politics, and emotions.

New blog post (in Polish)! O cmentarzach „poniemieckich” i (nie)pamięci historycznej „Ziem Odzyskanych”

After the so-called “Recovered Territories”, i.e. lands that were formerly German, became a part of the newly established Polish state in the aftermath of World War II the traces of the previous German culture had to be removed or recycled in a way fitting the new Polish historical narrative. Within this context, Michal Korhel provides an overview of how Polish authorities as well as the new population of the “Recovered Territories“ treated the formerly German cemeteries in Western Pomerania in Goleniów / Gollnow and surroundings. Were they destroyed or preserved? What do those places look like nowadays? He is especially interested in what happened to the German gravestones of the cemeteries located in the region.

You can find mentioned blog post here.

A Study of Spectral Transformation Presented at the University of Oxford’s Narratives of Migration Conference

Karolina Ćwiek-Rogalska presented a paper at the “Narratives of Migration” conference, which took place at the University of Oxford on June 16, 2023. The conference brought together scholars from different disciplines, such as the humanities and the social sciences, and creative professionals who work on migration issues. The conference was organized by Isavella Vouza from the Faculty of English Language and Literature and Professor Emma Bond from the Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages, with the facilitation of Migration Oxford. The conference showcased diverse and innovative works from academic and creative fields, spanning different cultures and media. The organizers wanted to demonstrate how cultural representation can enrich, question, or create new possibilities for integrating a humanities perspective within migration studies through the conference.

Karolina Ćwiek-Rogalska’s paper was titled “How Polish Migrants Reshaped Memories of Things Left Behind: A Study of Spectral Transformation”. She used qualitative content analysis of diaries preserved in Szczecin, Koszalin, and Poznań archives. She investigated how Polish migrants to the Recovered Territories modified their memories of things left behind by Germans. They did so in accordance with the state narrative of recovery and its attempts to eradicate signs of Germanness in the newly acquired lands. She introduced the concept of spectral transformation in this study, which her analysis was based on.

The organizers are planning to publish the conference proceedings in the near future. Stay tuned to read more about this concept and other fascinating topics!

Spectral Recycling Team on 16th congress of International Society for Ethnology and Folklore (SIEF) in Brno 

In the second week of June, 16th congress of International Society for Ethnology and Folklore (SIEF) was held in Brno, this year with the subtitle Ĺiving Uncertainty. Our project was represented at the conference twice. Since our research also deals with the visuality of post-displacement regions and landscapes, we created a poster for a dedicated session.


The hauntological framework of our research was symbolized by the dollhouse, which is the main motif of our poster. In this house we placed several objects that we encountered during field work in Poland, Slovakia and Czechia and interested people could learn their stories and the ways in which we work.

Our researcher, Karina Hoření, also gave a specific presentation at the conference entitled Ethnography of Things Left Behind: “Unsettling Memories of Post-War Displacement in Northern Bohemia”. This presentation was part of the session “Small and Uncertain: Remembering and Forgetting Uncertain Times in a Small Town”, which included other presentations of case studies from other post-socialist countries. In addition to the Czech Republic (Barbora Vacková and Nina Batrošová on Baťa company towns and their memory) and Slovakia (Monika Metyková on the memory of the Red Army on the Slovak-Hungarian border), the panel also included a presentation on the ambiguity of identity in Lithuania (Vidmantas Vyšniauskas). 

Karina presented the results of her research in a district of Liberec characterized by villas built by German industrialists (you can see pictures of villas here – Liberec – villas). In their narratives, the current residents reflect on the removal of the German inhabitants as violent and unjust, but use various rhetorical strategies to exclude their families from the narrative. They may thus include formerly-German objects into their households and everyday lives.

The presentation was well received and there was a lively discussion bringing also the topic of Jewish heritage into the conversation and overall the conference was a great opportunity to introduce our project to a relevant audience. 

Spectral Recycling Team at the poster session on 16th Congress of the International Society for Ethnology and Folklore (SIEF)

The so-called poster sessions are already an integral part of every bigger academic congress. The academic poster is an exciting way how one can present their research. But it can be also very tricky. How much text is too much? Is the graphic eye-catching? Will the recipients understand our concept? These are just a few of the many questions we discussed while working on our poster for the 16th Congress of the International Society for Ethnology and Folklore (SIEF).


Let us shortly introduce you how we dealt with them:

We tried to use as little text as possible, as a poster is primarily a graphic presentation. At the same time, however, you should also learn about our project. That is why we added a short paragraph with some basic information.

The main part of the poster is the graphic of a doll house. It represents not only the formerly German houses, but at the same time also an object – a children’s toy. Inside you can find additional objects that were left behind by Germans and reused by settlers in post-displacement regions in Czechia, Poland and Slovakia. Further objects can be found in the „landscape“ around the house.

More information about our poster you can see here.

Presentation at the conference Commemoration and Heritage: First World War Memorials and Cemeteries

From June 1st to 3rd, 2023, the Jagiellonian University in Kraków hosted an international scientific conference titled “Commemoration and Heritage: First World War Memorials and Cemeteries”. The conference aimed to explore the diverse and complex ways that the First World War was remembered and memorialized across Europe, both in the past and in the present. The conference brought together researchers from more than 20 institutions representing several countries including the USA, France, United Kingdom, Belgium, Austria, Poland, Croatia, Slovenia, Serbia, Italy, Estonia, Lithuania, Bulgaria, and the Czech Republic.


The conference was organized by the research group “Heritage of War 1914-1918” with Kamil Ruszała as the Principal Investigator and Research Group coordinator. The event was part of the Critical Heritage Studies Hub’s Flagship Project, which is funded by the Research University – Excellence Initiative.

The keynote lectures were delivered by Professor Jay Winter from Yale University and Professor Aaron J. Cohen from California State University, Sacramento. The conference consisted of several thematic panels that covered various aspects of commemoration and heritage related to the First World War. As part of the conference, a roundtable discussion that involved representatives from several museums took place that dealt with the heritage of the First World War. They shared their experiences and challenges in presenting and interpreting this complex and contested topic for different audiences.

The conference was a chance to show how the afterlife of the memorials in the post-displacement regions look like. To this end, Karolina Ćwiek-Rogalska, presented her paper entitled “Sleeping German Soldier or a Virgin Mary? Recycling of the German Great War Memorials in Post-Displacement Slavic Central Europe” in which she proposed to work within the paradigm of recycling, and applied it to various forms of how the German war memorials were reused and reinterpreted in the region of Central Pomerania.

The conference was a valuable opportunity for scholars from different disciplines and backgrounds to share their research and insights on the commemoration and heritage of the First World War.

You can read more about the whole event here.

Presentation during Poland: migrants’ perspectives and experiences conference

On June 5-6, 2023, Karolina Ćwiek-Rogalska had the opportunity to participate in the SSEES Polish Migration Conference, organized by Anne White, Professor of Polish Studies at University College London. The conference focused on the integration policies and experiences of migrants living in Poland and Poles living abroad, in the context of recent political and social changes. The conference was held at the Masaryk Room of the UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies, but it was also streamed online for those who could not attend in person. Karolina was among the on-line participants.

She presented a paper titled “Coming Back Home? Narratives on the Recovery in Post-Displacement Poland”. In her paper, she explored local discourses about the “recovery”. In Poland, newly established within the changed borders post-1945, the simultaneous process of expulsion and resettlement took place. After the so-called Recovered Territories, i.e. the formerly German regions were incorporated into Poland, Germans were to be expelled while new settlers were coming from various regions, including the so-called Borderlands, now to be a part of the USSR. These processes were backed up by propaganda, rooted in the interwar vision of Poland shifted westwards and later adopted by the communists. Thus, the idea of “recovery” of inherently Polish lands after years of Germanization was forced upon the individual stories of the settlers.

Based on the archival research in Central Pomerania, she showed how migrants to the Recovered Territories negotiated with the centrally imposed notions, focusing not on the policies which were to incline them to the only possible ideological narration, but on their life stories and how they attempt at justifying their presence in the region. As well, she analyzed the tensions present in these narrations and show how they changed through time, comparing various written sources—memoirs left by the first settlers.

The conference was a great occasion to exchange ideas and insights with other scholars working on Polish migration issues. Karolina enjoyed listening to the presentations of her colleagues and engaging in lively discussions with them. Some of the topics that were covered included: the impact of Covid-19 on migration processes, the role of civil society organizations in supporting refugees and asylum seekers, the experiences of Polish return migrants and their children, and literary works on Polish migration.

If you are interested in learning more about the conference, you can find the book of abstracts here.

Seminar Josef Scheybal, hlavní osobnost záchrany movitých památek z konfiskovaných německých domácnosti with Kristina Uhlíková (Institute of Art History, Czech Academy of Sciences)

In May our series of seminars continued with a meeting with Dr. Kristina Uhlíková from Institute of Art History, Czech Academy of Sciences. Together with her colleagues Kristina Uhlíková recently finished a project ”Searching for Provenance of Movable Cultural Assets Nationalised in 1945 from the Citizens of German Nationality in the Region of Northern Bohemia” which dealt with the ways in which Czechoslovakia processed antiquities confiscated from German-speaking citizens. As a main focus of her presentation, our guest speaker chose the personality of Josef Scheybal, who was the organizer of the process in northern Bohemia. Since  our team member, Karina Hoření, conducts her field research in the same region, the seminar ended with a lively discussion.