In Transit: Postwar Journeys of Jewish and Catholic Refugees from Poland (1940s–50s)

Anna Cichopek-Gajraj | Associate Professor, School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies 

This book project examines the postwar displacement of Polish Catholics and Polish Jews. It traces their journeys out of Poland through Africa, Europe and Latin America in the first 15 years after World War II. Although many Polish-Catholic and Polish-Jewish refugees ended up in the United States, their destination was often a matter of chance, family connections, economic opportunities and last-minute decisions.

The project explores the temporariness and permanence of life “in transit” and the ways in which Polish refugees made their decisions and coped with day-to-day challenges (housing, employment, family and social life) as they navigated an uncertain future.

It examines how encounters with the local population as well as communal and family networks, ethnic aid organizations and state institutions played a part in shaping refugees’ decisions and coping mechanisms.

Finally, it investigates the role of refugees’ knowledge and experiences from their past in Poland to illustrate the particularity of the Polish experience in the first months and years after departure.

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