Polish Studies Initiative Updates

Film Screening of the Documentary The Return

The Polish Studies Initiative (PSI) hosted filmmaker Adam Zucker in Columbus on January 18 for a screening of his most recent documentary, The Return. The film followed the lives of four women who searched for their Jewish identity in modern day Poland.

Before World War II, Poland was the epicenter of Jewish life in Europe with more than 3.5 million Jews living in the country. However, after the devastation inflicted by the Nazi’s “Final Solution,” Polish Jewry was almost completely destroyed. Today there are only 20,000 Jews living in Poland.

After the Nazi occupation, Poland became a member of the Soviet bloc and religious life was limited with many Jews denying their heritage. In the 21st century, this has resulted in a phenomenon whereby many people who were raised Catholic have come to discover that they are Jewish. Zucker’s film follows two women, Kasia and Tusia, who are grappling with their new Jewish identity. A third character, Maria, was raised as a secular Jew but meets a rabbi-in-training and converts to Orthodox Judaism. The fourth woman, Katka, a Catholic from Slovakia, meets a Polish-Jewish man and decides to convert to Orthodox Judaism.

Zucker tells a compelling story about what it means to be Jewish in a country with a rich history of Judaic culture, but with very little of it surviving today. The film brought out a diverse audience, including students, faculty and community members. The director graciously participated in a question and answer session with Daniel Pratt, SEELC visiting professor, and shared with the audience how he found the women, what it was like to film the documentary, and provided updates on where the women are now.

PSI Awards Scholarships for Summer Study Abroad

After a competitive round of applications, PSI is excited to be offering three undergraduate students scholarships to study abroad in Poland in the summer of 2017. They come from diverse interdisciplinary backgrounds and while in Poland they will enhance their knowledge of Polish language and culture.

Andrew Parra is a sociology major who will be studying abroad through the “Research Central and Eastern Europe in Comparative Perspective - Social Sciences in Warsaw” program. Parra will conduct sociological research based on data from the Polish Panel Survey, which includes statistics on political participation, religious affiliation and perceptions of the communist era. He hopes through this study abroad experience to better understand how Poland as a post-Soviet satellite state has been affected by other nations’ foreign policy.

Jason Scheele, an aerospace engineering major, will hold a summer research position at the Institute of Aviation in Warsaw. The Ohio State College of Engineering has had an agreement with the institute since 2014, allowing Ohio State students to participate in three-month scientific internships in Warsaw. Scheele will have the opportunity to work with Polish engineers and will thus broaden his inter-cultural communication and research skills, making him more competitive on the job market.

Jacob Tischler, a criminology and criminal justice major, will also participate in the “Research Central and Eastern Europe in Comparative Perspective – Social Science in Warsaw” program. He will conduct a research project analyzing how people perceive the strength of social conflict in Poland. His goal is to broaden his perspectives and contribute to reaching a deeper understanding of people as he plans to pursue a career in law enforcement.

Grant to Fund Research in Poland

The PSI committee awarded Nicole Freeman, PhD student in the Department of History, a 2017 research grant. Freeman will travel to Poland for six weeks in the summer to conduct research for her dissertation at the POLIN Museum and the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw. Her doctoral research examines Jewish children’s programs in postwar Germany and Poland that the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) financially supported. The PSI research grant will allow her to explore how the JDC worked in tandem with the Central Committee of Jews in Poland in order to reconstruct Jewish life after the Holocaust. 

The Polish Studies Initiative is pleased to be funding worthwhile projects and research that allow Ohio State students to gain a deeper knowledge of Polish language, culture, and scientific study.