Monthly Publications Update, December 2020, PSA/H-Poland Member Submissions

Patrice Dabrowski Discussion

(5 entries:  book, articles, dissertation)




1.  Piotr Florczyk, From the Annals of Kraków.  Spokane, WA: Lynx House Press, 2020. ISBN: 9780899241739


Abstract:  Poetry based on the testimonies of Holocaust survivors. From the book jacket: “From the Annals of Kraków is a remarkable contribution to Holocaust literature. Based on survivors’ testimonies at the USC Shoah Foundation Visual Archive, this volume of poetry represents a unique insight into the impact of the survivors’ experiences of hiding, incarceration and coincidental survival upon post-Holocaust generations. Focusing on the geographic reality of Kraków as a common denominator that links the survivors of the city and himself as the city’s native son, Piotr Florczyk’s deeply moving collection of poems exhibits an uncommon extent of empathy. While the extraordinarily well-chosen images and metaphors reflect the emotional state of the survivors whose testimony returns them to the landscape of their ordeal, the familiarity with the landscape allows the poet to connect in cognitive and emotional way with the survivors’ experience. This cycle of poems constructs a particular lieu de mémoire—a testimonial to Holocaust memories whose continuing impact ‘keeps the world from falling apart.’” (Rachel F. Brenner)




2.  Patrice M. Dabrowski, “Reinforcing the border, reconfiguring identities: Polish initiatives in the Carpathians in the interwar period,” European Review of History: Revue européenne d'histoire 27, no. 6 (special issue:  The Dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy:  Border Making and Its Consequences) (December 2020): 847-865.

Keywords:  Poland (Second Republic), borderlands, Carpathian Mountains, highlanders, national indifference, regionalism


Abstract:  Established in the wake of the First World War, the multiethnic Polish Second Republic was determined to secure its long southern border, formed by the Carpathian Mountains, which prior to the war had been the internal (porous) Habsburg frontier separating the province of Galicia from Hungary. The article presents a series of initiatives essentially emanating from the state (here, primarily the military authorities) in the 1930s. The initiatives were designed to turn the Carpathian highlanders across the breadth of the interwar Polish frontier into loyal Polish citizens while encouraging them both to retain their own local identity (as Hutsuls, Górale, Lemkos and others) and to consider themselves part of a larger Carpathian brotherhood (the latter defined within the borders of the Polish state). In other words, the authorities sought to capitalize on what they perceived to be national indifference on the part of many highlanders by making room for their local identities within a more broadly conceived heterogeneous state of regions, one that would win the allegiance of the highlanders, in that sense reinforcing the border.



3.  Sławomir Łotysz, “Hot commodity: Designing, making and selling electric irons in post-war Poland,” ICON: Journal of the International Committee for the History of Technology 24 (2018/2019): 150–184.


Abstract:  The clothes iron is the most basic item of household equipment. It has been present in European homes for the last two hundred years; long enough to have become part of popular culture. The advent of electric irons in the first few decades of the 20th century was welcomed as a revolutionary change, making household duties less exhausting. Electric irons are believed to be the most persistent of household items in terms of the continuity of industrial design. According to Japanese designer Yokho Uga, it takes twenty-seven years before the design of an iron is morally worn out. However, until very recently, customers in Poland could buy an iron that has hardly changed since the late 1960s, when it was first marketed as the ‘model C-28’. Over time, particularly in the 1970s and 1980s, Polish designers and engineers worked on refining the immortal C-28, but none of its subsequent reincarnations were any better than the original. Nevertheless, the producer of the C-28, the Dezamet company, monopolized the domestic market for decades, selling millions of irons every year at home and abroad. And yet, they were unable to pioneer any new design trends or to catalyze any significant technological innovations. This paper uses a case study of the C-28 to reconstruct how innovation, quality, functionality and aesthetics were negotiated in a state-controlled economy. It also analyzes the relation between the communist party leaders, ministries, institutes of industrial design, management of factories and the customers.


4.  Machteld Venken, “The dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy: border making and its consequences,” European Review of History: Revue européenne d'histoire, 27, no. 6 (December 2020): 697-708.

Keywords:  Borders; Austro-Hungarian Monarchy; Europe

Abstract:  This special issue addresses practices of border-making and their consequences on the territory of the former Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. As the reality did not correspond to the peaceful Europe articulated in the Paris Treaties, a multitude of (un)foreseen complications followed the drawing of borders and states. Articles include new case studies on the creation, centralization or peripheralization of border regions, such as Subcarpathian Rus, Vojvodina, Banat and the Carpathian Mountains, on border zones such as the Czechoslovakian harbour in Germany, and on cross-border activities. The special issue shows how disputes over national identities and ethnic minorities, as well as other factors such as the economic consequences of the new state borders, appeared on the interwar political agenda and coloured the lives of borderland inhabitants. Adopting a bottom-up approach, the contributions demonstrate the agency of borderlands and their people in the establishment, functioning, disorganization or ultimate breakdown of some of the newly created interwar nation-states. 




5.  Andrey Shlyakhter, "Smuggler States: Poland, Latvia, Estonia, and Contraband Trade Across the Soviet Frontier, 1919-1924” (PhD dissertation, University of Chicago, 2020).  Contact:


Abstract:  What happens to an imperial economy after empire? How do economics, security, power, and ideology interact at the new state frontiers? Does trade always break down ideological barriers? 


The eastern borders of Poland, Latvia, and Estonia comprised much of the interwar Soviet state’s western frontier – the focus of Moscow’s revolutionary aspirations and security concerns. These young nations paid for their independence with the loss of the Imperial Russian market. Łódź, the “Polish Manchester,” had fashioned its textiles for Russian and Ukrainian consumers; Riga had been the Empire’s busiest commercial port; Tallinn had been one of the busiest – and Russians drank nine-tenths of the potato vodka distilled on Estonian estates. Eager to reclaim their traditional market, but stymied by the Soviet state monopoly on foreign trade and impatient with the slow grind of trade talks, these countries’ businessmen turned to the porous Soviet frontier. The dissertation reveals how, despite considerable misgivings, their governments actively abetted this traffic. The Polish and Baltic struggles to balance the heady profits of the “border trade” against a host of security concerns shaped everyday lives and government decisions on both sides of the Soviet frontier. 


Drawing on government archives, business records, and periodicals from seven countries, the dissertation uncovers the changing composition and scale of these “semi-contraband” (and fully-contraband) flows that Soviet authorities struggled to stem. It reveals the centrality of cross-border Jewish networks to this trade, and the implications of this centrality for Polish and Latvian Jews. It traces (and maps) the proliferation of hundreds of government-sanctioned “barter stations” along Poland’s, Latvia’s, and Estonia’s Soviet frontiers, and profiles their operators and visitors. While these bustling shops supplied smugglers with goods, they supplied the Bolsheviks with a tangible, everyday manifestation of hostile capitalist encirclement. In the end, the dissertation suggests that by linking Soviet consumers with the outside world against Moscow’s wishes, the ports and distilleries of Riga, Tallinn, and Tartu and the cloth factories of Łódź inadvertently fashioned the foundations of the interwar Iron Curtain.