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Justyna Beinek
Center for Russian, East European & Eurasian Studies

Lecture: 'If the Walls Could Speak: Inside a Women's Prison in Communist Poland'

Fri, 02/08/2019

LAWRENCE — A University of Michigan-Dearborn scholar and author will present “If the Walls Could Speak: Inside a Women's Prison in Communist Poland” for the Spring 2019 Oswald P. Backus/Anna Cienciała Memorial Lecture. The event will take place at 5 p.m. Feb. 11 in the Centennial Room of the Kansas Union.

Anna Müller will discuss female prisoners in Poland under communism after World War II, most of whom were jailed for either collaboration with the Nazis during the war or anti-state activities after 1945. Many of the prisoners were falsely accused and sentenced. Müller will discuss the lives of these female political prisoners — arrests, interrogations and confinement — via analysis of original interviews, autobiographical writings, interrogation protocols and cell spy reports.

By focusing both on the women’s individual and collective experiences, as well their emotions and processes of growth, creativity and identity transformations, Müller’s investigation contributes to a greater understanding of coercion and resistance under totalitarian regimes through the lens of gender studies.

Müller is assistant professor of history and the Frank and Mary Padzieski Endowed Professor in Polish/Polish American/Eastern European Studies at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. Her highly acclaimed book on the life of women in prison cells in post-war Poland, “If the Walls Could Speak: Inside a Women's Prison in Communist Poland”, was published in 2017 with Oxford University Press. Since 2010 she has worked for Poland’s Museum of the Second World War as a curator responsible for the sections on concentration camps, the Holocaust and eugenics.

This lecture is sponsored by the University of Kansas Center for Russian, East European & Eurasian Studies. It has been made possible by the Oswald P. Backus and Anna Cienciała Memorial Fund.

The Backus/Cienciała Lecture is dedicated to the memory of Professors Oswald P. Backus III (1921-72) and Anna Cienciała (1929-2014). Backus was one of the early driving forces behind the development of KU as a nationally known center for the study of Russia and Eastern Europe. In the 1960s, these efforts led to the formation of the Slavic and Soviet Area Studies program, now known as the Center for Russian, East European & Eurasian Studies.

Cienciała was a longtime professor in history and Russian & East European studies at KU. She was an expert in Polish, European, Soviet and American diplomacy of the interwar period and an inspired teacher of East Central European history. Over the course of her career she wrote two books and edited five. She was the recipient of a number of honors, including the Polish Cross of Merit and the Commander’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland with Star.

Müller will also present a lecture at noon Tuesday, Feb. 12, titled “Politics and Poetics: The Museum of the Second World War in Gdańsk, Poland.” This informal talk will be held as part of the CREES Brownbag lecture series, presented weekly at noon Tuesdays in 318 Bailey Hall.



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