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

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.

Nikolina Židek

Nikolina Židek

Nikolina Židek is Adjunct Professor at IE University Madrid, School of Global and Public Affairs and member of Research Group Places, marks and territories of memory, at the Memory Studies Nucleus, at IDES, Buenos Aires, Argentina. She received her PhD in political science from the Complutense University. Before entering academia Dr. Židek was previously working for 12 years as Croatian professional diplomat. Her current research is focused on the Croatian post- World War 2 diaspora in Latin America and Spain. Her most recent articles were published in Memory Studies Journal and a volume on political rituals and cultural memory in Croatia, published by Routledge.

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1. What are the long-term effects of Croatian cultural policies in the 1990s?
2. How has the Croatian theatre/playwriting dealt with the issue of the war in Croatia through time?
3. What is the main effect of the counter-memory produced by the Croatian theatre?


Southeastern Europe