Abstract

Experiences of mass trauma carry powerful intergenerational effects involving both vulnerability and strengths, and often leave indelible imprints and legacies across generations. A qualitative phenomenological pilot study was conducted to explore the lived experiences of second and third-generation descendants of Polish resistance fighters and survivors of the Second World War, which examined the impact of the war on descendants, as well as the potential for posttraumatic growth. The following research questions guided the study: 1) What features of trauma and posttraumatic growth are transmitted from Poles who survived the Nazi Era (1939-1945) to their children and grandchildren?; 2) What legacies and life lessons are passed down to second and third generation descendants?; 3) How is present day outlook influenced by having been a descendant of a fighter and/or survivor?; and, 4) How do descendants experience western society’s awareness and recognition of Poland’s suffering during this time? The findings of the pilot study were based on a phenomenological analysis of the participants’ narratives and the following themes emerged from the lived experiences of both second and third-generation descendants: Communication, Adjusting to a New Country and Culture, and Suffering of Poles Unrecognized. The study also provided a voice and social acknowledgement for the descendants of Polish survivors and resistance fighters, who carry a powerful legacy to share.

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