Dr. Joanna Wawrzyniak is a sociologist and historian at the University of Warsaw. She has published on collective and individual memory as well as social history in Poland in comparative context. Among her recent books are: (co-authored) Enemy on Display: The Second World War in Eastern European Museums (2015), (co-edited) Memory and Change in Europe: Eastern Perspectives (2016), and the monograph Veterans, Victims, and Memory: The Politics of the Second World War in Communist Poland (2015). Joanna Wawrzyniak was a visiting fellow at the New School for Social Research, the Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies, the Imre Kertész Kolleg Jena, and the Herder-Institut in Marburg. Currently she leads a Work Package on City Museums and Multiple Colonial Pasts of the ECHOES project, funded by the EU. In 2018-19 she will serve as a part-time Professor of History of 20th-century Central and Eastern Europe at the European University
Seen from both history and memory perspectives, the Polish 1968 has several facets. It started
with students’ demonstrations in March. Their suppression by the authorities was accompanied by an anti-Semitic campaign and forced emigration of thousands of Poles of Jewish origin. The background was filled with the haunting recollections of the WWII, internal struggles in the communist party, the reforms of Prague Spring in Czechoslovakia and the hopes for democratization of the communist system. The unrest terminated with the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia in August that year.
Debates on how to commemorate those events have lasted ever since. In 2018 the members of the
former democratic opposition – both the liberals and the conservative-right of the current political scene – saw in that year the beginning of what had taken them to the 1989 breakthrough. The young liberal-left concentrated on the aspect of human and civil rights and sought parallels with the present refugees’ crisis. Those who had emigrated in 1968 stressed that not all accounts had been settled. The so-called Holocaust law passed by the Polish parliament in January 2018 and the subsequent media debates, coinciding with the fiftieth anniversary of 1968, brought back the well-remembered patterns of anti-Semitism as well as stirred deep concerns about it. On the
whole, the fiftieth anniversary, with its various events and recollections, not only reflected a polarized Polish intellectual scene, but also turned out to be yet another factor contributing to the divergence of political and cultural identities.