UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University College London, 7th Annual International Postgraduate Conference
Thursday 16 February 4:30 – 6:00: Panel C4: Jewish Émigré Literature
Tomasz Łysak (Graduate School for Social Research, Warsaw): ‘Rediscovering Jewishness in Poland: Agata Tuszynska’s autobiography’
In the aftermath of the Holocaust many survivors left Poland for Israel, USA and Canada. Those who stayed adopted a number of strategies to cope with the burden of the past, one of the ways to deal with trauma was to deny and repress their Jewish roots. The secret was especially well-kept for the sake of children who were never meant to learn the truth. Agata Tuszynska learnt about her legacy upon reaching adulthood. Up till then she was completely oblivious as to her familial past. The moment of truth became a sort of ceasura in her life, from this point on she tried to mediate between her immersion in the Polish culture and the requirements of a newly discovered identity. The process of preparation of family saga was laborious, but it has to be mentioned that Tuszynska is a professional biographer having written Isaac Bashevis Singer’s biography.
The Familial History of Fear will be interpreted as an example of second generation writing, the first book of a kind in Poland. Second generation writers form a strong group in the USA whereas in Poland they failed to appear. My intention is to show the reasons why such writings were not written in Poland and in what ways Tuszynska’s book can be seen as part of the American phenomenon of mediated identity. Moreover, I would like to pinpoint the specificity of Polish-Jewish experience both during communism and afterwards.