Poland, a Country of Refuge? Revisiting the Historiography on Patterns of Migration
Rather than regarding Poland as a shelter for refugees, academic scholars have generally imagined the country as one that produced refugee flows. Even though most Poles believe their nation to be hospitable and tolerant, and to have long provided religious minorities with a safe retreat, historians have not reflected with much sophistication on the accommodation of refugees in more recent Polish history. This essay not only offers a critical overview of the existing literature, but above all considers the causes and consequences of the low visibility of refugees in the historiography of the Polish lands. Among the paradigms that narrowed scholarly perspectives were those of Polish hospitality, victimhood, and the ostensible “athomeness” of Polish-identified migrants (and refugees) to Poland, which mitigated their disadvantages in the eyes of historians and thus reduced reflection on their refugee condition.
Central to the understanding of refugeeism in the literature has been the crossing of national borders by migrants, their cultural alienation, and exile status. This national methodological framing of the term “refugee” leaves a lot of room for questioning the semantic boundaries of the term and considering alternative conceptualisations of the different movements of internally displaced persons in Poland. Placing the individual experience of forced displacement at the center of the research can help to correct for nationalist perceptions of migration patterns and foster a more critical analysis of Poland’s history as a country of asylum.