“Dzięki temu, ja jestem”: Memories and narratives of trauma and national identity
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This paper analyzes the ways in which post-memory is manifested in these works and compares these to a series of interviews conducted by the author. It begins with a contemplation of Lawrence Langer's Holocaust Testimonies and a discussion of the ways in which Holocaust memory as a field can inform other post-memory and oral history studies. I then apply insights from Langer and from Ewa Hoffman's After Such Knowledge to the interviews which form the core of my research. These conversations about the experience of emigration and resettlement from the Kresy ("lost" regions of Poland after World War Two) offer insights into women's identities, personal and national. I also use Ewa Hoffman's Lost in Translation, a memoir about language, identity, place, and family. The author explores life and identity in postwar Poland and America questioning the larger forces which shaped her family's lives and revealing the inner forces which compelled her to integrate past generational traumas into her intellectual and social existences. I am particularly interested in how Hoffman addresses personal identity alongside ethnic and linguistic adaptations. In my interviews, I have asked a series of questions in order to determine the family experience of moving from the Kresy to the "tri-city" of Gdańsk/Gdynia/Sopot, what elements of the story are consistent in each generation, and the extent to which each generation self-identifies as Polish, as Gdańszczanin (Gdańsk residents), or as being from Wilno/Vilnius, Lwów/L'viv, or Pinsk, all regions from which families fled in the postwar era. This paper investigates the conflicts and the costs of emigration and expulsion, not just in immediate suffering, but in the playing-out of national, cultural, regional ethnic and personal identities. All the cases studied involve generational and post-memory elements. I am interested in exploring how families remain Polish, even after having to adopt a new, potentially non-Polish, regional home while losing the former home under traumatic circumstances. The undercurrent of the stories told by mothers and daughters, whether autobiographical or fictional, reveals the important role women play in maintaining family history and, by extension, national history and identity.
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