Accepted paper:

"When the Orthodox went away" remembering and forgetting internal displacement on the Polish Belarussian border


Aimee Joyce (St Andrews University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper discusses the legacy of the 1947 Operation Vistula resettlement program in a Polish border town. Outright conflict is avoided but tensions between the Catholic majorities silence, and the Orthodox minorities need to remember are fixed in local spaces and practices

Paper long abstract:

As the current conservative Polish government focuses on a homogeneous idea of Polish heritage and culture, it seems timely to consider historiographical practices of silencing and remembering as they materialise in local settings. In the years directly following World War II the Polish state organised a number of resettlement programs. One such program, Operation Vistula, 1947, involved relocating large numbers of Ukrainian and Lemko communities from the eastern border to the Recovered Territories in the West of Poland. Families and individuals returned to the east of Poland many years later to find their homes and churches occupied and a lingering silence about the time the "Orthodox went away". In this paper, I will discuss the ongoing contention over this period of history in my fieldsite, a small town on the Polish Belarussian border. I will focus on tensions between the Catholic majorities silence and evasion, and the Eastern Orthodox Christian minorities need to remember and how this conflict is embedded in local spaces and practices. The stakes of remembering and forgetting are high in this region, advertised as a "full blooded borderland" by the EU funded tourist program. Forgetting and silence enables the bucolic idyll of easy-going rural pluralism, vital to the tourist program but is it also a way of managing unspeakable traumas. Disputes over untended cemeteries, the origins of church buildings and classroom posters brush against Operation Vistula constantly. The disagreements becoming more complex when considered alongside local silence around the demolished gravesites of the exterminated Jewish population.

panel P21
Europe and its silences