9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN03 Biographical Perspectives on European Societies

2009-09-05 11:00:00 2009-09-05 12:30:00 Saturday, 5 September 11:00 - 12:30 The impact of the second world war on memory and generations Building II, C2.02

Returns to Places of Birth as biographical work supported by different family generations

Returns to Places of Birth as biographical work supported by different family generations.

If we are to refer to the history of post-war Poland, massive displacements were experienced by many nations and ethnic groups. Three of them: Poles, Jews and Germans (among many others) seem to be the most spectacular when we consider not only their human and individual but also political, historical, social and cultural meaning. The trauma of relocation, whether by choice or by force, affected many lives. In many cases spatial and temporal distance from homeland has lasted for decades. And it is not until recently that we can observe intensive travelling to birth places. Many of those who have decided to visit their homeland describe this experience as "a return". The idea of visiting homeland is the result of a long process and complicated biographical work undertaken in order to come to terms with one's biography. Biographical work on emotions, memory combines the past and present experiences. These general frames are then shaped by particular and unique individual biographical experiences. At the same time they are also formed by collective identity and memory since a return is a rather "mono-ethnic" experience influenced and strengthened by specific socio- cultural circumstances.
I concentrate on a case of Jewish returns to Poland. By returns I mean visiting place of birth after 40-50 years. This phenomenon refers to those Shoah survivors who left Poland after the war. On the basis of narrative interviews with those who have returned I analyze their biographical, identity and memory work. It is undertaken within the family context. Children and grandchildren give or doesn't give the support of this activity. In my paper I show different kinds of biographical work undertaken by survivors and their families in the process of returning.