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New Projects Seminar Series: Comparative Analysis of the Hasidic Pilgrimage Effects upon the Local Frames of Memory in Ukraine and Poland

Alla Marchenko, GSSR PhD candidate

November 16, 2021, 13:00, Staszic Palace, Nowy Świat 72, Warsaw, room 232


In this presentation, I will discuss patterns of interactions between the official and vernacular memories in four towns connected to the Hasidic pilgrimage – Bobowa and Leżajsk in Poland, Belz and Uman in Ukraine. Results are based on the analysis of interviews with local memory keepers, observations, social media discussions, available archival documents, and surveys. Nisbet’s scheme of social interactions (Nisbet, 1970) was applied to cultural memory interactions (cooperation+exchange, competition, conflict and coercion). Concepts “memory regime” and “mnemonic actors” (Kubik & Bernhard, 2014) were applied to research of vernacular memories (surveys in Uman and Leżajsk). A pattern of memory cooperation prevails in all towns of my research; however, it is realized in different contexts and with different instruments. Hasidic pilgrimages play specific roles in each town, constructing different meanings for different audiences. In Uman, the Hasidic pilgrimages have become the object of social tensions – both with memory keepers and inhabitants of the town. Politicians play active role in keeping and developing existing situation. In Leżajsk, the Hasidic pilgrimages have become the object of interest in the official narratives (as a mean to attract tourists in the town) and dissatisfaction among the inhabitants of the town. In Belz, they have become the object of interest and, previously, some hope (investments in the town, etc.) among the memory keepers and inhabitants. That hope seems to be lost in recent years, while the Hasidim come irregularly. In Bobowa, the Hasidic pilgrimages have become the object of formal pride in the official narratives and memory keeping, and an object of social distance among the inhabitants of the town.

In all mentioned localities, Hasidic pilgrimages are visible for memory keepers, and they are formally included into the general narratives; however, on an interpretation level there is a significant distance between memories connected with the Hasidim or Jews, in general, and a dominant population of each locality (Ukrainians in Ukraine, Poles in Poland). The Hasidic pilgrimages shape peculiarity of each town, which is reflected in most frames of memory (monuments, plaques, local newspapers, maps, events, etc.).

Event supported by NAWA Welcome to Poland.