Exile and Identity

Polish Women in the Soviet Union during World War II

Exile and Identity carries out a vital historical mission, resurrecting and coherently shaping the testimonies of long repressed victims—the Polish women (and men) who were arrested and deported by Soviet forces during the so-called 'phony war' in the west. Jolluck's valuable retelling of their stories is at once compassionate and analytical, commemorating their terrible pain and loss and critically reflecting on their remarkably consistent ideal of matki-polki, of the good Polish woman. Jolluck has produced a missing chapter of the history of World War II that must be read.
Beth Holmgren, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Using firsthand, personal accounts, and focusing on the experiences of women, Katherine R. Jolluck relates and examines the experiences of thousands of civilians deported to the USSR following the Soviet annexation of eastern Poland in 1939.

Upon arrival in remote areas of the Soviet Union, they were deposited in prisons, labor camps, special settlements, and collective farms, and subjected to tremendous hardships and oppressive conditions. In 1942, some 115,000 Polish citizens—only a portion of those initially exiled from their homeland—were evacuated to Iran. There they were asked to complete extensive questionnaires about their experiences.

Having read and reviewed hundreds of these documents, Jolluck reveals not only the harsh treatment these women experienced, but also how they maintained their identities as respectable women and patriotic Poles. She finds that for those exiled, the ways in which they strove to recreate home in a foreign and hostile environment became a key means of their survival.

Both a harrowing account of brutality and suffering and a clear analysis of civilian experiences in wartime, Exile and Identity expands the history of war far beyond the military battlefield.

about the author

Katherine R. Jolluck

Katherine R. Jolluck is a senior lecturer in the department of history at Stanford University.

learn more
Katherine R. Jolluck