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Remembering on Command: Autobiographical Narratives of the Officers of the Polish Security Forces, 1944–1956 (05.2023)

Open Access
Łukasz Bertram
Type of publication
Article / Artikel / Artykuł

The aim of this article is to analyse the archival collection of the memoirs of officers of the Polish security forces (Security Office and Citizens’ Militia) on their service in the Warsaw voivodeship in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Entangled in political violence, they were chief actors of the top-down “revolution in the county” and bottom-up “county revolution” that overlapped in Central Europe after the Second World War. This article presents their accounts as examples of fulfilment of a “narrative command” to present a vision of the past in line with the official ideological scripts of the Polish People’s Republic. At the same time, though, the approach employed here does not deprive the authors of their authorial subjectivity, and highlights their agency in attempting to express their individual agendas, interpretations, and emotions. This article distinguishes two types of accounts with reference to their perspective, structure, and language: “from a bird’s-eye view” and “a frog’s-eye” narrative, as well as one peculiar case of “an aspiring writer.” Then, in its main part, the article analyses how veterans reconstructed and interpreted various experiences related to their service in the 1940s and 1950s. The issues are the following: becoming an officer and transformation from “peasant” to “guardsman,” participation in violence and coercion, alcohol drinking, and possible fields of political criticism expressed by the officers.

From the publisher's website.

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