I have recently started working at the Newberry Library as an intern, helping out with a project related to genealogy and local history. As was noted before on this blog, the Newberry has been lucky to obtain a large body of resourceful materials from the Polish Women’s Alliance of America, which, starting in 1903, provided Polish women residing in the United States with life insurance coverage. Today, these insurance documents provide generous genealogical data on late 19th and 20th century female migrants.
Even though my job at Newberry focused primarily on creating a name index to the records, it prompted me to do a little research of my own to expand on my already heightened interest of Polish migration. As anyone interested in the topic of migration in general knows, it has always been rather controversial. Most recently it became especially so in the context of the European Union and its Eastern enlargement, making the topic of Central and Eastern European migration rather paramount in the international community.
Looking back at the history of Poland’s migration we can distinguish four general periods and types of migration in Poland: 1) economically motivated emigration in the 19th century until 1939; 2) forced displacement of people during WWII; 3) repatriation of Poles from the USSR and ethnic Germans to the West in the 1940s; and 4) emigration to the West and later immigration from the East from the 1950s to the 1990s, which I will mainly focus on in my series of articles on this blog.
For the purpose of this blog series, I want to discuss the most recent and, therefore, most currently relevant type of migration. For that reason, I took a closer look at an interesting book by migration policy expert Krystyna Iglicka entitled Poland’s Post-War Dynamic of Migration. I was curious to see how the author views the political transformation of the Central and Eastern European region that enabled hundreds of thousands of people to emigrate, leading to some 1.2 million people leaving the former Warsaw Pack area in 1989 alone.
In this series, I will share some of Iglicka’s findings and hopefully ignite an interest in Poland’s rather interesting history of changing migration patterns. In the next post, I will discuss in more detail the patterns and history of Poland’s migration between 1950 and 1990.
by Katarzyna Koos, M.A. Political Science-International Relations