Social Anthropology of the Void: Poland and Ukraine after Second World War

Institute of Philosophy and Sociology, Polish Academy of Sciences invites you to participate in the on-line seminar:

Social Anthropology of the Void: Poland and Ukraine after Second World War. Concluding Seminar

Warsaw, 15.06.2020, 10.00-16.00, CEST

Time: Jun 15, 2021 10:00 AM Warsaw

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  • Meeting ID: 813 1280 7279
  • Passcode: 305894

This seminar aims to sum up the results of a long-lasting project dedicated to the social and economic transformation in post-war Central and Eastern Europe. Implemented by a team of Polish and Ukrainian researchers, this interdisciplinary project focused on the borderland region of Galicia, now divided between Poland and Ukraine. In mid-20th century, ethnic cleansings and deportations, as well as political and social revolutions deprived this part of Europe of important ‘Others’, both in terms of class and ethnicity. The ‘Vanished Others’ were Jews and other national minorities, but also the gentry and bourgeoisie. As a result, in the immediate post-war period, Galicia faced a substantial void in various areas of society: economy, professional and social roles, everyday culture and tradition.

Using concepts of microhistory and microsociology, we analysed how small communities in Poland and Ukraine dealt with these social dysfunctions, and whether and how the emptiness was gradually overcome and the social structure rebuilt. What is more, the consequences of this change in the longue durée perspective and its significance for the present in the researched regions and communities were studied. This involved questions of how the change is remembered today individually and collectively, how history is employed in shaping local identity and what cultural consequences of psychological and social trauma the region experienced.

Our concluding seminar brings together scholars who were part of the project team on various stages of its implementation.  Please see the list of selected publications based on the materials gathered in the project at the end of this invitation.

10.00-12.00: Introduction and historical section

Chair: Natalia Aleksiun (Touro College New York)

Introduction: Anna Wylegała (Institute of Philosophy and Sociology, Polish Academy of Sciences)

Historical section

Karolina Panz (Institute of Slavic Studies, Polish Academy of Sciences/ Polish Center for Holocaust Research): Rabka 1945 – the microhistory of ethnic cleansing

Anna Wylegała (Institute of Philosophy and Sociology, Polish Academy of Sciences): Doctors, Craftsmen and Landlords: Postwar Professional and Economic Transformation in Galicia

12.30-14.00: Memory section

Chair: Anna Chebotarova (St. Gallen University)

Marta Duch-Dyngosz (Institute of Tourism, University of Physical Education in Kraków): Commemorative practices toward ‘vanished Others’ material heritage: case of Rymanow

Małgorzata Łukianow (Institute of Philosophy and Sociology, Polish Academy of Sciences), We, the perpetrators: remembering violence committed by one’s own group in the Polish-Ukrainian conflicts

14.30-16.00: Methodological section

Chair: Marta Kurkowska-Budzan (Jagiellonian University)

Marta Havryshko (I. Krypiakevych Institute of Ukrainian Studies of National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine/Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies): Studying Trauma: Oral history of Ethnic Violence and its Effects on Researchers

Dagmara Swałtek-Niewińska (Graduate School for Social Research, Institute of Philosophy and Sociology of the Polish Academy of Sciences): Triangulation of sources in the Holocaust Research. Case of Nowy Wiśnicz

Abstracts and bios

Karolina Panz (Institute of Slavic Studies, Polish Academy of Sciences/ Polish Center for Holocaust Research): Rabka 1945 – the Microhistory of Ethnic Cleansing

Bio: Karolina Panz holds a PhD in sociology and is a member of the Polish Center for Holocaust Research. She works at the Institute of Slavic Studies of the Polish Academy of Sciences as post-doc/co-investigator in the project “The Krakow Pogrom of 11 August 1945 Against the Comparative Background”, under the supervision of prof. dr hab. Joanna Tokarska-Bakir. Her research interests are: Jewish life and Holocaust in the Polish province, with special focus on the microhistory of Jews from the Podhale region (southern Poland) where she lives, and on the Polish-Jewish relations.

Abstract: Rabka is a small health resort in the picturesque, mountainous region of Podhale in the south of Poland. It is one of hundreds of localities where almost all Jewish inhabitants perished during the Holocaust. On August 30, 1942, on the exact day when Jews from that region were being deported to the extermination camp, Rabka saw a rally during which the words of gratitude to the Germans who “liberated Podhale from its biggest enemy: the Jew” were publicly outspoken. In the immediate post-war period, there were cows grazing around the graves of hundreds of Rabka Jews killed there. In the summer of 1945 Jewish children, mostly orphans, who stayed in the Jewish treatment centre in Rabka, were violently attacked three times. The perpetrators came from the local elite, and wanted to realise their desired vision of a “health resort without Jews”.

Anna Wylegała (Institute of Philosophy and Sociology, Polish Academy of Sciences): Doctors, Craftsmen and Landlords: Post-War Economic Transformation in Galicia

Bio: Anna Wylegała is an Assistant Professor in Sociology at the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology of the Polish Academy of Sciences. Her research focuses on the social history and memory of the World War II and of the post-war period in Poland and Ukraine. She is the author of “Displaced Memories. Remembering and Forgetting in Post-War Poland and Ukraine” (2019) and the co-editor of “The Burden of the Past. History and Identity in Contemporary Ukraine” (2020).

Abstract: This paper deals with the changes in the professional structure in post-war Galicia resulting from genocide, ethnic cleansing, displacement and semi-voluntary migration. The Jews killed by the Nazi Germans and their local collaborators during the Holocaust were tailors, traders, doctors and pharmacists. The Poles deported by the Soviets from the eastern part of the region in 1939–41 were teachers, foresters, but also simple peasants. The pre-war landlords vanished from the countryside too, killed, arrested or deported by the Soviets in 1939, or expropriated by the Polish communists in 1944–45. All these professional roles either remained unfilled for shorter or longer periods of time, or were taken over by other people – among them the remaining population who acquired new skills, or various types of newcomers. This paper provides a comparative look at both parts of the region, analysing the impact of these changes on the local communities, the anatomy of destruction and the attempts to rebuild the social reality after the consecutive waves of different kinds of violence.

Marta Duch-Dyngosz (Institute of Tourism, University of Physical Education in Krakow): Commemorative Practices Towards the Material Heritage of the ‘Vanished Others’: the Case of Rymanow

Bio: Marta Duch-Dyngosz holds a PhD in sociology. Her fields of interest include: social theory, Jewish/non-Jewish relations, nation and nationalism, Jewish heritage, Holocaust studies, and memory studies.

Abstract: The democratisation of memory in the post-communist Poland has become a chance to come to terms with the difficult past of the Second World War and its aftermath. During more than three decades after year 1989, various individual and collective agents have recalled multi-ethnic past, indicating long-lasting economic, demographic and socio-cultural effects of the war. Additionally, in recent years, memory discourse has unveiled the importance of class differentiation within the pre-war Polish society regarding war and post-war experiences, and thus collective memory. On the example of local commemorative practices toward material heritage of the ‘Vanished Others’ (Wylegala 2020) – Jews, Ukrainians, or the Polish gentry – I will analyse whether and how those macro-social processes have contributed to the shaping of local identity today. How has the heritage been perceived? Who has been regarded as its owner? How have the social borders been constructed within the commemorative practices? Whether and how have the we-group and out-group perspectives been negotiated within social practices? I will analyse those issues on the example of Rymanow and the adjacent villages.

Małgorzata Łukianow (Institute of Philosophy and Sociology, Polish Academy of Sciences): We, the Perpetrators: Remembering Violence Committed by One’s Own Group in the Polish-Ukrainian Conflicts

Bio: Małgorzata Łukianow holds a PhD in sociology and works at the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology of the Polish Academy of Sciences. Her research interests include post-war resettlements, field theory, memory transmission and institutionalisation of memory.

Abstract: Any kind of violence committed by the representatives of one’s own group is an aspect of the past which the members of a given community tend to relegate to the domain of collective forgetting rather than transform into a significant element of group memory. Following Ricoeur’s statement that memory is a collective act of recollection, I will present different angles of how local communities deal with collective guilt.

In the centre of my attention are individuals whose interests in bringing memories to light are different and most often collide. These are the personal narratives of the descendants of those who committed crimes, the descendants of the victims, and those who were “in the middle” – the children of mixed marriages. The background of my analysis is based on the Polish-Ukrainian conflicts of both local and supra-local character that happened in 1945, represented by two cases. The first case covers the crimes committed against Poles in the village of Barysz, located in the former Buczacz poviat of the Tarnopol voivodship by Ukrainian nationalists, including a crime committed on the night of February 5, 1945. The second case gathers the crimes committed in the town of Łubno where armed gangs from nearby villages began to murder Ukrainians from Łubno under the leadership of local Poles in the summer of 1945.

Marta Havryshko (I. Krypiakevych Institute of Ukrainian Studies of National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine/Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies): Studying Trauma: Oral History of Ethnic Violence and Its Effects on Researchers

Bio: Marta Havryshko holds a PhD in history. She is a Research Associate at the I. Krypiakevych Institute of Ukrainian Studies of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine. Currently, Havryshko is also a Gerda Henkel Research Fellow at the Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies

Abstract: The positivist approach in the social sciences presupposes the objectivity of researchers. In this academic paradigm, the researcher’s emotions are undesirable and should be avoided because they are associated with bias and subjectivity. However, every study, especially one that deals with wars, Holocaust, genocide, mass murder, famine, forced deportations, and sexual violence, causes researchers to feel a wide range of emotions, which are not always possible to understand or reflect. This is especially true for researchers who use oral history techniques. While working with the topic of trauma survivors, researchers, such as therapists, could also experience trauma. This kind of impact could be referred to as “compassion fatigue”, secondary, vicarious, or intersectional traumatisation in literature. Based on the materials of the project “The social Anthropology of the Void: Poland and Ukraine After World War II”, the lecture will address the following questions: How does dealing with ethnic violence and the Holocaust influence all participants of the fieldwork? What techniques could be used by researchers to avoid the traumatisation of the respondent? How could the experience of researchers, including family history connected to the topic being explored, be a risk factor in developing the trauma of the researcher? Which institutional, social, and personal (‘self-care’) strategies could be used by researchers to deal with the negative influence of their research work?

Dagmara Swałtek-Niewińska (Graduate School for Social Research, Institute of Philosophy and Sociology, Polish Academy of Sciences): Triangulation of Sources in the Holocaust Research: the Case of Nowy Wiśnicz

Bio: Dagmara Swałtek-Niewińska holds an MA in cultural studies. She is a PhD student in the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology of the Polish Academy of Science, where she writes a thesis on Social Networks and Strategies of Survival of Jews in Kreis Krakau-Land in 1939-1945, under the supervision of prof. Dariusz Libionka. She has been studying the Holocaust on the microhistorical level for many years, focusing on the city of Krakow and its surroundings. She wrote a chapter on Bochnia county published in the book “Dalej jest noc. Losy Żydów w wybranych powiatach okupowanej Polski”, ed. by B. Engelking and J. Grabowski (2018).

Abstract: The comparison of data from various sources forms a part of the triangulation method in sociology. In history, it is one of the essential tools of a critical approach to a historical source. It is required to build a comprehensive picture of the past events and verify the authenticity of the circumstances described in various sources. It can be a basis for analysing what was omitted in historical sources and why. A particular case of triangulation occurs when we use archival, documentary sources and collate them with oral history interviews carried many years after a specific event took place. When discussing the case of Nowy Wiśnicz, I will explain in which areas the oral history interviews proved to be a good, in some cases indispensable, source of information on the past events. In some areas, a clash between memory and archival sources is evident. I will focus on two issues: the numbers of participants of certain events and the question of agency.

Selected publications based on the results of this research project:


Special Issue of the “Rocznik Antropologii Historii” (, edited by Wiktoria Kudela-Świątek

No Neighbours’ Land in Post-war Europe: Vanishing ‘Others, edited by Anna Wylegała, Sabine Rutar and Małgorzata Łukianow, Palgrave Macmillan, 2022


Anna Wylegała, Peasants and Landlords: Memory of the Post-War Gentry’s Expropriation in Poland, “Slavonic and East European Review”, (2021) 99, 2, pp. 256-286

Anna Wylegała, The Void Communities: towards a new approach to the early Post-war in Poland and Ukraine, “East European Politics and Societies” (2020),

Anna Wylegała, Operation „Reinhardt” in the District of Galicia: three levels of the narrative about the Holocaust, “Holocaust and Genocide Studies” (2020),

Марта Гавришко, Жінки під час антиєврейських погромах у Галичині літа 1941 року: жертви, винуватиці, захисниці: Міжнаціональні відносини в Україні у ХХ – поч. ХХІ ст.: Західні землі / відп. ред. І. Соляр; НАН України, Інститут українознавства ім. І. Крип’якевича (Львів, 2020): 204–231.

Anna Wylegała, A Post-War Landscape: An Anatomy of the Breakdown of the Social World in Poland during World War II, in:  Ends of War. Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Past and New Polish Regions after 1944, ed. P. Gulińska-Jurgiel, Y. Kleinmann, M. Řezník and D. Warneck, Göttingen: Wallstein Verlag, 2019, pp. 41-66

Marta Havryshko, Love and Sex in Wartime: Controlling Women’s Sexuality in the Ukrainian Nationalist Underground, “Aspasia”, vol. 12 (2018), pp. 35-67

Anna Wylegała, Nasza i (nie)wasza sprawa. O ziemiańskich i chłopskich narracjach o reformie rolnej, „Kultura i Społeczeństwo” 1 (2018), pp. 19-48

Karolina Panz, “They did now want any more Jews there” The Fate of Jewish Orphans in Podhale, 1945-1946, ss. 93-104, in: “International Tracing Service Yearbook”, vol 6, Freilegungen, Rebuilding Lives – Child Survivors and DP Chlidren in the Aftermath of the Holocaust and Forced Labor, ed. Henning Borggrafe, Akim Jah, Nina Ritz and Steffen Jost in collaboration with Elisabeth Schwabauer, Gottingen: Wallstein Verlag, 2017

Anna Wylegała, About “Jewish Things”: Jewish Property in Eastern Galicia During World War II, “Yad Vashem Studies” 44(2) (2016), pp. 83-119

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