Documenting Refugees from Eastern Europe

Conferences and Workshops

The 20th century was a period of evacuation, escape, expulsion, wandering and planned resettlement of the population, all due to wars, economic crises, and political changes, such as the collapse of empires. It was also the period when the legal foundations establishing international war refugee status were laid (Geneva Convention, 1951). Previously, refugee issues were governed by common law, precedent, and ad hoc legal solutions. In recent years, there have been numerous migration crises in Europe (2011, 2015, 2021). The war in Ukraine, which has been going on since February 2022, had yet again brought to the forefront the challenge connected with refugee reception (e.g., securing provisions, providing accommodation and medical assistance, cultural integration, access to the labour market and social services). 

The aim of the conference was to compare refugee crises that have occurred in the past, especially analyze ways of managing and solving these crises such as organizing institutionalized assistance and integrating of refugees with the societies of the host countries. The organizers invited experts representing various research centers in Europe to participate in the debate. The conference was opened by an introductory lecture by Philipp Ther, discussing the exile of yesterday and today, with particular emphasis on the contemporary situation. The lecture was followed by three thematic panels: 1) discussing migration during both world wars in Europe; 2) presenting the Ukrainian experience of refugee dom, both in the past and present; 3) presenting projects documenting contemporary wars and refugee dom. 


09:00 – 09:30 Opening Session & Keynote
Philipp Ther (University of Vienna): The Multiple Flight of Millions from and in Ukraine: Old Experiences and New Perspectives for a European Refugee and Migration History


09:30 – 11:00 Panel I: Flight and Migration in Two World Wars
Piotr Szlanta (Polish Academy of Sciences/University of Warsaw): War Refugees in the Great War. An East-Central European perspective
Jochen Böhler (Wiener Wiesenthal Institut für Holocaust-Studien): Displaced Persons and Statelessness in the Second World War
Michal Frankl (Czech Academy of Sciences): Emigration Fantasies: Citizenship and Imagination of Mass Refugee Migration During the Holocaust
Chair: Katarzyna Nowak (Central European University)


11:30 – 13:30 Panel II: Ukraine in Focus: Refugees in Past and Present
Kamil Ruszała (Jagiellonian University): Ukrainian Refugees and the First World War Refugee Camps
Peter Ruggenthaler (Ludwig-Boltzmann-Institut für Kriegsfolgenforschung), The deportation of Ukrainian Forced Labourers during the Second World War
Dieter Bacher (Ludwig-Boltzmann-Institut für Kriegsfolgenforschung), Ukrainian DP´s and Refugees from Eastern Europe as Persons of Interest for Western Intelligence in the Early Cold War
Malwina Talik (Institut für den Donauraum und Mitteleuropa): Ukrainian refugees after 24 February 2022
Chair: Christoph Augustynowicz (University of Vienna)


14:30 – 16:30 Panel III: Documenting Displacement and War
Katherine Younger (Institut für die Wissenschaften vom Menschen): Documenting Ukraine
Sofia Dyak (Center for Urban History in Lviv): Documenting Experiences of War
Anne von Oswald (Minor – Projektkontor für Bildung und Forschung): We Refugees Archive
Chair: Kamil Ruszała (Jagiellonian University)


16:30 – 17:00 Closing Remarks