Greek Refugees in Poland

Topics: Communism, Soviet Union, World War II Pages: 9 (3807 words) Published: May 25, 2014
Greek Refugees in Poland

The 2011 census in Poland showed that only 0.15 % of the country's 39 million people are foreigners; 1,5% are representants of other nationalities but holding a Polish passport (www.stat.gov.pl). Polish people constituted 65% of the population of the country before World War II. This situation changed dramatically after WW II. Firstly, as a result of the war, Poland lost its Jewish population (before the war: 10%); under the terms of the Congress in Potsdam, 2.5 million Germans were resettled to Germany. Then the new communist government sought to make the Polish country nationally uniform. In 1946 Poland conducted the so-called 'Operation Vistula': almost 0.5 million Ukrainians and 40 thousand Belarusians were forced to leave Poland. Studying the maps showing the major areas of distribution of the national minorities in Poland, we can see that the German minority (the largest) lives in areas formerly belonging to Germany and the Ukrainians are scattered across Poland (as a consequence of Operation Vistula displacement and the breakdown of the Ukrainian minority seeking to establish an independent state). One of the next minorities on the map is .... the Greek minority, concentrated in the north, the south-west and south-east of the country. The question then arises: how did this happen? Looking for information on this topic, we can find references to the fact that immediately after WW II, during the Greek Civil War, Poland received 30 thousand refugees from Greece. And this at the same time as the powers of the communist regime sought to make Poland nationally uniform? The issue is complicated and still shrouded in many mysteries.

This essay is an attempt to explain the suddenly appearance of a large Greek minority in Poland at the turn of the 40s and the 50s, as well as an attempt to look into the functioning of the Greek minority in Poland from the communist regime to the present time. The literature in the Polish language about the Greek minority in Poland is quite rich. There are anthropological publications that focus on the research carried out on the identity of the Greeks living in Poland. One of the newer books on this topic is one written by Ewa Nowicka, who researched the community of Greek refugees who still live in Poland and those who returned to Greece. There is also an interesting publication ("Szpital grecki na wyspie Wolin" – "The Greek Hospital on Wolin Island") that presents the memories of Władysław Barcikowski, a military doctor, a lieutenant and later a captain who talks about his life and work in a hospital for Greek refugees on the island of Wolin. The hospital in Wolin was, at that time, the largest existing hospital in Poland – with a thousand beds (Środoń 2011).

The emergence of the Greeks in Poland is closely connected to the history of the Civil War in Greece. It is necessary to stretch much further back in order to understand the deep divisions that led to the outbreak of the Civil War in Greece. Already, during the war for independence, divisions had appeared between the military fraction, representing the people, and ''civilian'' party, reflecting the interests of the Peloponnesian notables, the island shipowners and the small group of Phanariots (Clogg 1997: 39). At the beginning of the twentieth century there was the first national schism as a result of the conflict between the monarchy supporters and its opponents. The monarchy was introduced in Greece after the restoration of independence.

For over 400 years Greece was under Turkish occupation. As a result of the War of Independence (1821-1832) Greece again became an independent state. However, this Greek War became the European question. In October 1827 the Ottomans were defeated in Battle of the Navarin by the combined British, French and Russian fleets. These three countries, called The Protecting Powers, later determined the fate of Greece: the new state should be a monrachy and the king could not...
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