Unwilling Immigrants: Transnational Identities of East Central European Exiles During the Cold War
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While many definitions of “political exile” exist across disciplines, they tend to focus on three areas: the social and psychological experience of exiles before leaving their homeland, the causes, motivations, means of departure, and the adjustment, assimilation of exiles in the country of asylum. None of these address the question of what the exiles actually do abroad politically in an attempt to return to their home country. My research begins where these assumptions stop. In my paper I define a political exile as a person compelled to leave his homeland whose material and psychological status is a dynamic one. Furthermore, a political exile wishes to contribute to the host society, share his assets (knowledge, skills) in exchange for support of his cause. A political exile is engaged in a collective project usually originating in the homeland which is realized in the host country, unwaveringly determined to return. “Unwilling” to fully assimilate, a political exile claims legitimacy in representing his compatriots abroad while adaptation and integration with the host society are in progress. I propose that the legacy of the political exile activities in the West during the Cold War be considered in the context in which they were created: being influenced by transnational and multiethnic spaces. Formed, pressed and spelled out in the conditions that are multifaceted, rather than simply transmitted from the pre-Soviet traditions, or resulting from the contacts with the “captive” compatriots.
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