Amanda Chalupa

Title of Presentation:
Planting the seeds of resilience in a refugee camp: Is it possible?

Oral Presentation


Of the 22.6 million refugees worldwide, nearly 2.6 million live in refugee camps. They are portrayed as miserable places, rampant with disease, disorder, and devastation caused by overpopulation and poor sanitation. This talk will present a unique case from the Second World War; a case of refugees host reunions celebrating their refugee camp experiences. In particular, this talk will focus on how refugee camp design has the potential to help build social networks and a sense of community, as well as to create stability and a sense of normality through social activities, education, and lifestyle. The group of interest constitutes Polish people who had been deported as children from eastern Poland to Soviet labour camps (gulags) in Siberia. Between 1942 and 1952, over thirty thousand Polish children passed through refugee camps that were located far from their war-torn country of origin, including in Lebanon, India, New Zealand, Mexico, South Africa and across east Africa. Data from individual interviews, participation in reunions, and archival material is triangulated to shed light on the process the Polish refugees went through to rebuild their lives.

Innovative Component:

This talk brings together the various voices (accessed through diverse methods), of a unique group that has great potential to inform work on resilience, posttraumatic responses, memory studies, and the integration of psychiatric research into the design of refugee camps and safe spaces. Because the history and their experiences were actively repressed following the Second World War, the experiences of these refugees has been largely unknown and therefore kept out of the research literature. It has potential to shift the way we think about trauma and work with people who went through refugee camp experiences.