Contemporary Southeastern Europe
Research Articles

“Nobody asked me how I felt”. Childhood Memories of Exile among the Croatian post-WW2 Diaspora in Argentina

  • Nikolina Židek
This paper focuses on childhood memories of exile over time. While researching commemorative practices of the Croatian post-WW2 émigré community in Argentina, we mainly find adult (and predominantly male) voices on the trauma of the military and political defeat. It is therefore essential to analyse how the 1.5 generation—those who arrived in Argentina as children—narrate their childhood memory of exile. This research employs qualitative methodological tools of discourse and narrative analysis, studying personal testimonies, gathered through semi-structured interviews with members of the 1.5 generation, combined with written, photographic, and audiovisual material. The results of the research show that child memories are not exclusively personal or biographical, but overlap with family and collective memories of the émigré community, especially when it comes to making intellectual sense of their exile experience, even seven decades later. Even though the majority felt uprooted from Croatia and accepted Argentina as their home, in order to make sense of their (personal and family) suffering, they merge their community history with official history, and justify the reasons for their parents’ struggle, without any critical questioning of their parents’ role in the Second World War. This subsequently gives way to a monolithic narrative that is perpetuated through generations.