The Tramp’s Tale: A Strange Story of the Repatriation of a Soviet “Displaced Person” after the Second World War

When:20 Sep 2016, 12:30pm - 1:45pm
Venue:Morven Brown 209 (map ref C20)
Who:Prof. Sheila Fitzpatrick (Sydney)
Sheila Fitzpatrick

History Seminar Series. All Welcome. 

Abstract

“The Tramp’s Tale” is a microhistory, telling the story of a one-legged Russian woman’s travels through the Soviet Union in the 1920s and ‘30s and then, after the Second World War, to Poland, Yugoslavia, Austria and Italy. Anastasia Egorova was a tramp and beggar by habitual occupation. With no right to cross the supposedly tight border with the West in 1945, she simply attached herself to a trainload of Polish repatriates and then toured around, presumably hitch-hiking and begging, as one of the millions of “displaced persons” in Central Europe in the aftermath of the war. She ended up spending four years in a psychiatric hospital in Naples, apparently a fairly comfortable billet, until the Soviets came and offered her a free passage to repatriate, which she duly did. The life story comes from her debriefing interview after repatriation, which Fitzpatrick found accidentally in a Soviet archive. Her discussion focusses on how so many supposedly impossible things could have happened, and the role of anomalies in writing history.

About Sheila Fitzpatrick

Sheila Fitzpatrick is a renowned historian of modern Russia, especially the Stalin period, but has recently added a transnational dimension with her research on displaced persons (DPs) after the Second World War. This paper draws on that work. Sheila is currently working with our own Ruth Balint on an ARC Discovery Grant tracking Russian refugees crossing China after the Revolution.

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