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War, resettlement, rooting and ageing : An oral history study of Polish emigres in Britain

Winslow, Michelle (2001) War, resettlement, rooting and ageing : An oral history study of Polish emigres in Britain. PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

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Abstract

The aim of this research has been to draw attention to the extent to which the Second World War has exerted a major influence over the lives of Polish emigres living in Britain. Memories of war trauma, loss of homeland, families and friends, and the struggle to adapt and cope in an alien environment, when most Poles longed to return to Poland, has affected everyday lives from the initial period of settlement until the present day. This thesis is an exercise in oral history. The life stories of Polish emigres, collected using oral methods, are the focus of this study, and the narratives reveal that processes of remembering have influenced attitudes and shaped identities. These memories, supported here by definitive archival studies of other scholars, contribute to our understanding of historical and sociological issues regarding the settlement of Poles in Britain. Further, in the context of mental health, oral testimonies emphasise the especial problems that are affecting many Polish emigres. A particular problem amongst ageing Polish emigres is that of feeling like a foreigner again in later life, since their language skills have tended to deteriorate at the same time as age-related immobility has increased. Hence, many emigres have become withdrawn from British society; isolated in their homes, with traumatic memories. Perceptions of difference have also emerged as important to the Polish experience of living in Britain. Generally, Poles have reported that a cultural distinction has not been made between themselves, as white Europeans, and white British people, which in certain circumstances has been detrimental to their health and welfare. Later Polish migrants, and many of the `second generation', have also found the Polish community to be dominated by first generation culture, which has prevented them from developing a strong sense of belonging to it. As a consequence, with only a minority of younger people interested in maintaining Polish organisations, the future of the Polish community in Britain looks uncertain.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Arts and Humanities (Sheffield) > History (Sheffield)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.504473
Depositing User: EThOS Import Sheffield
Date Deposited: 17 Jun 2014 14:45
Last Modified: 17 Jun 2014 14:45
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/6127

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