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The Forced Relocation of Poland’s Ukrainians after World War II

Diana Howansky Reilly

Publication Year: 2013

Following World War II, the communist government of Poland forcibly relocated the country's Ukrainian minority by means of a Soviet-Polish population exchange and then a secretly planned action code-named Operation "Vistula." In Scattered, Diana Howansky Reilly recounts these events through the experiences of three siblings caught up in the conflict, during a turbulent period when compulsory resettlement was a common political tactic used against national minorities to create homogenous states. Born in the Lemko region of southeastern Poland, Petro, Melania, and Hania Pyrtej survived World War II only to be separated by political decisions over which they had no control. Petro relocated with his wife to Soviet Ukraine during the population exchange of 1944–46, while his sisters Melania and Hania were resettled to western Poland through Operation "Vistula" in 1947. As the Ukrainian Insurgent Army fought resettlement, the Polish government meanwhile imprisoned suspected sympathizers within the Jaworzno concentration camp. Melania, Reilly's maternal grandmother, eventually found her way to the United States during Poland's period of liberalization in the 1960s. Drawing on oral interviews and archival research, Reilly tells a fascinating, true story that provides a bottom-up perspective and illustrates the impact of extraordinary historical events on the lives of ordinary people. Tracing the story to the present, she describes survivors' efforts to receive compensation for the destruction of their homes and communities.

Published by: University of Wisconsin Press


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pp. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xiv

Although I begin the story of Scattered’s main characters, the Pyrtej family, at the moment when the Nazis invaded Poland in 1939, the Pyrtejs’ experience with forced relocation was primarily the result of a different conflict: the long-standing discord between Poles and Ukrainians in the region. ...

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Prologue: The Realization

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pp. 3-8

What do you mean, the Polish government kicked you out of your home?” I asked my mother when I was a teenager. I cannot recall exactly how old I was or how this conversation with my mother even started. But I remember standing in the kitchen of our comfortable suburban house in upscale Wilton, Connecticut, ...

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1. Caught on the Battlefield of World War II

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pp. 9-35

The German military convoy began to roll through the Lemko region in southern Poland during the first days of September 1939. Melania Pyrtej was watching over her family’s cows as they grazed in a nearby pasture when the brown-haired seventeen-year-old saw Nazis riding by her village. ...

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2. The Reality of the Soviet-Polish Population Exchange

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pp. 36-61

The Pyrtej household marked the holiday on December 25, 1944, with a quiet dinner—their Greek Catholic Christmas would be two weeks later, according to the Julian calendar—and then went to bed. A few hours later, their neighbor, Andriy Smereczniak, pounded on their door and woke them up, yelling that the Germans still stationed in Smerekowiec were retreating. ...


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pp. 62-80

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3. Operation Vistula: The Solution to the “Ukrainian Problem”

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pp. 81-105

Melania was sitting on the edge of her bed in Smerekowiec one warm August night in 1946, saying her evening prayers before climbing underneath the covers, when pounding on the window outside startled her. Almost three months pregnant with her second child, Melania was the only adult at home and was watching over baby Nadia and ten-year-old Hania. ...

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4. Prisoners in the Central Labor Camp in Jaworzno

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pp. 106-119

The Polish army and secret police had clear orders to arrest any Ukrainian civilians whom they suspected of assisting the UPA. General Mossor’s special operational group, GO Wisła, gave them detailed instructions to compile lists of any “hostile and uncertain elements” among the Ukrainians. ...

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5. A New Home in the Recovered Territories?

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pp. 120-140

Standing outside the Nowa Sól train station that July 1947, waiting to be led to their new village, the Pyrtej family learned that any relocated Ukrainians who did not own a horse-drawn wagon would be driven in army trucks. The Polish officials assigned two trucks to drive to Troska, where less than a dozen families from Smerekowiec, including the Pyrtej family, were being relocated. ...

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Epilogue: The “Compensation”

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pp. 141-148

More than fifty years after Operation Vistula, Hania began to hear talk about how Ukrainians in Poland could apply to the courts to reclaim ownership of the property from which their families had been evicted. Hania, already in her midsixties, was visiting a friend in Zielona Góra after church one Sunday ...

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pp. 149-152

I am grateful, first of all, to the staff of the Polish-U.S. Fulbright Commission and specifically to its executive director, Andrzej Dakowski, who believed in my project to interview the survivors of Operation Vistula, setting me on the path to ultimately write this book. ...


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pp. 153-170


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pp. 171-177

E-ISBN-13: 9780299293437
E-ISBN-10: 0299293432
Print-ISBN-13: 9780299293406
Print-ISBN-10: 0299293408

Page Count: 144
Illustrations: 37 b/w illus., 5 maps
Publication Year: 2013

OCLC Number: 843880892
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Scattered

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Ukrainians -- Poland -- History -- 20th century.
  • Lemky -- Poland -- History -- 20th century.
  • Lemky -- Poland -- Biography.
  • Forced migration -- Poland.
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- Lemkivshchyna (Poland and Slovakia).
  • Poland -- History -- 1945-1980.
  • Lemkivshchyna (Poland and Slovakia) -- History.
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