When I arrived in Poland in the Fall 2011 to begin my Fulbright Research Fellowship I was full of enthusiasm to live in the country for the year, explore it, interact with locals, and conduct research for my dissertation. That feeling only intensified throughout my stay in this utterly captivating country. I was also fortunate to return to Poland in winter 2014 after having received a renewal of my Fulbright grant. Being a Fulbright Fellow in Poland has affected my personal and academic life in many exciting and lasting ways.
I came to Poland as a Ph.D. candidate at the Strassler Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Clark University. My affiliation was the prestigious Center for Holocaust Research at the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology of the Polish Academy of Sciences. Being a Fulbright Fellow and an affiliate of my host institution opened numerous doors for me. I accessed key sources in state, international, religious, and private archives that shed new light on Polish-Jewish relations during World War II.
Doing research for my dissertation, which examines daily life and interethnic relations in Krakow during the Holocaust through the lens of Jewish children’s experiences, required that I split my time between Warsaw and Krakow. This turned out to be an ideal way for me not only to gather sources for my project, but also to experience living in both cities, and make connections and friendships that I continue to cherish.
The list of highlights from my Fulbright term in Poland is endless. One of them occurred before I had finished my initial term, in summer 2012. I was invited to offer remarks at the residence of the U.S. Ambassador after President Obama awarded (posthumously) the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Jan Karski.
My experiences as a Fulbright Fellow strengthened my understanding of Poland and allowed me to become a better historian of Polish, Polish-Jewish, and East Central European history. It also reinforced my involvement in fostering Polish-American and Polish-Jewish dialogue, especially through education. It has been a few years since my Fellowship ended, but my immersion in Polish language, culture, and daily life has had a durable and meaningful effect on me as a person, educator, and scholar.
Joanna was a 2012-13 Fulbright U.S. Student Researcher at the Center for Holocaust Research at the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology of the Polish Academy of Sciences.