The Nation’s Pain and Women’s Shame: Polish Women and Wartime Violence

TitleThe Nation’s Pain and Women’s Shame: Polish Women and Wartime Violence
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2006
AuthorsJolluck, Katherine R.
EditorWingfield, Nancy M., and Maria Bucur-Deckard
Book TitleGender and War in Twentieth-Century Eastern Europe
Pagination193 - 219
PublisherIndiana University Press
CityBloomington, IN

This chapter examines one aspect of Polish women’s wartime experiences— forced exile to the USSR after the Red Army invasion in 1939. It investigates women’s use of the idea and ideals of the nation in coping with the physical adversity and violence they endured as a result of their conditions and treatment in exile. National identity provided a clear and poignant framework for women to understand and express some of the agony they experienced at the hands of their nation’s enemy. Connecting with the struggles of compatriots, past and present, and with Catholic and Polish notions of sacrifice, women could take solace in suffering in the name of the fatherland.... Nationality thus provided a meaningful and comforting way to objectify some of the physical traumas the women endured in Soviet exile. Other violations affected women so specifically, however, that they could not talk about them in terms of the nation; the more gendered the indignities and assaults, the less relevant the category of the nation for discussing them. Women found it easy to discuss violations they shared with men, which they could construe in national terms. Transgressions of social norms regarding the female body, though, seemed impermissible in the traditional story of the martyred nation, and therefore were largely silenced. [Author]

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