ESR Jakub Gałęziowski completes his doctorate!

Many congratulations to Jakub Gałęziowski on achieving his PhD!

In 2016-2021 Jakub conducted research on Polish children born of war (CBOW), continuing the work of one of his supervisors, Prof. Dr. Maren Röger, who, while researching intimate relations of Polish women with German occupiers, came across the topic of their offspring and did a pilot study. From 2016-2019 he was affiliated to the University of Augsburg (under the supervision of Prof. Röger), and later at the University of Warsaw (under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Hab. Jerzy Kochanowski) within the framework of the co-tutelle programme. His doctoral dissertation, “Entangled Biographies of Children Born of War in Poland”, reviewed by Prof. Dr. Hab. Machteld Venken and Dr. Hab. Barbara Klich-Kluczewska, was defended at the University of Augsburg on 26 May 2021 and accepted by the University of Warsaw on 9 June 2021. Jakub's defence took place online due to Covid-19 restrictions while his family waited patiently in the next room. They exploded with excitement and joy upon his success. The final phase of writing was challenging, especially with four children, but happily, it ended very well. From 1st July Jakub started his postdoctorate at the University of Warsaw.


The subject of Jakub’s doctoral dissertation focused on the fate of Polish children born of WW II. These individuals have one parent, usually the mother, who was a member of the invaded/occupied local community and one, often the father, who was an invader/occupier. He placed this issue in the context of global studies on CBOW. For the purposes of Jakub’s research in Poland he adopted a slightly broader definition of the group. He included both children born in situations marked by warfare, occupation, forced labour and captivity (whose parents came from enemy sides), as well as foetuses who, due to being conceived in war, were never born. Among them he distinguished individuals conceived through sexual violence (as war strategy and/or as a consequence of conflict) as well as those resulting from sexual relationships with varying degrees of consent. Circumstances of war and occupation make it difficult to precisely define the nature of individual relationships.

This is the first study on different groups of CBOW in Poland. The topic has not been analysed comprehensively before. His approach to the phenomenon was defined by individuals willing to tell of their experiences being children born of war, as well as hitherto little-known historical sources. In addition to children of German soldiers (born largely of consensual relationships) and children of Soviet soldiers (largely conceived through rape), he also analysed the fate of children born to Polish female forced laborers, concentration camp prisoners and prisoners of war (from the Warsaw Uprising) whose fathers were German, and children of Polish displaced persons (DPs), whose fathers were allied soldiers. Jakub also raised the issue of children of prisoners of war (POW). As many children were fathered by Soviet soldiers in Poland, the question of abortion became of central political importance. It was legalised in 1945 to deal with unwanted pregnancies produced through rape. Furthermore, he dealt with other topics that concerned Polish CBOW. For example, single motherhood in post-war Poland and the issue of "stolen children", among whom he identified a considerable number of Polish CBOW.

The research was based on archival sources that provided insight into the actions and attitudes of various political and social actors (above all, the communist Polish state authorities, and the Catholic Church) towards the group under study, as well as on biographical materials which made it possible to explore individual, deeper dimensions of the phenomenon. Jakub’s research is unique as the topic, often regarded as taboo in Poland, has not been explored in depth by its historians.

The aim of the doctoral project was, on the one hand, an attempt at a comprehensive description of this phenomenon in the light of the obtained sources, both written and oral, and, on the other, the empowerment of a hitherto non-existent group of people in the master narrative about WW II and its consequences. The results of this research can be interpreted in at least two ways: as historical (a gap in Polish and European historiography has been filled) and social, as various topics discussed in this work can be included in public debate and raise awareness about CBOW and their families in Polish society. At the same time, Jakub’s aim was to broaden the knowledge in the international CBOW research field and participate in methodological discussions. For this reason, he decided to include an extensive theoretical chapter at the beginning of his thesis. He also wished to contribute to theoretical reflections on the role of the historian in the research process, his/her toolkit, and approach to ethics in historical research.

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