European studies blog

09 February 2022

PhD Placement Opportunity - Displaced Persons (DP) Camp Publications in the British Library

Applications are now open for an exciting new PhD placement working with the Slavonic and East European collections at the British Library. Under the title ‘Displaced Persons (DP) Camp Publications in the British Library’, current PhD students are invited to spend three months (or part-time equivalent) researching, improving catalogue records, and promoting the Ukrainian-language titles within this collection. 

Cover of Lesia Ukrainka, Poezii: vybrani tvory

Cover of Lesia Ukrainka, Poezii: vybrani tvory (Regensburg, 1946). 11588.a.59. The British Library copy contains the stamp of the London-based Central Ukrainian Relief Bureau, which is believed to have donated the book to the Library in 1948.

At the end of the Second World War, millions of people were displaced from their homes, with more than six million refugees in Allied-occupied Germany alone. They included concentration camp survivors, political prisoners, former forced labourers and prisoners of war. While many were repatriated in the first few months, approximately one million people in Germany were unable or unwilling to return to their countries of origin. The remaining displaced persons were housed in camps, organised mainly by nationality. DP communities set up schools, churches, synagogues, theatres, hospitals, and published their own newspapers and books.

Cover of Ravensbrück: naibilʹshyi zhinochyi kontsentratsiinyi tabor v Nimechchyni

Cover of Ravensbrück: naibilʹshyi zhinochyi kontsentratsiinyi tabor v Nimechchyni, illustrated by Olena Vityk-Voitovych (Munich, ca. 1946). YA.2003.a.16502.

The British Library holds a number of rare books, journals and newspapers published in and around DP Camps in Europe (predominantly Germany and Austria) between 1945 and 1955. The languages of these publications include Ukrainian, Russian, Polish, Yiddish and Belarusian. Among the titles are editions of famous literary and historical works, accounts of internment in Nazi concentration camps, political manifestos, and children’s books. Many are written and/or illustrated by prominent writers and artists, and contain stamps and other information key to understanding the activities, networks and governance of the camps and DP/émigré communities. The metadata for these items is inconsistent and, in many cases, minimal. While the project will focus on the collection’s Ukrainian-language titles, there is also scope to work with DP camp publications in other languages depending on the student’s area of interest.

Cover of Selo: Al’bum Karykatur

two watercolour illustrations by Edvard Kozak, Selo: Al’bum Karykatur

Cover and two watercolour illustrations by Edvard Kozak, Selo: Al’bum Karykatur ([Germany, 1948?]). RB.31.c.713. The Library’s copy is nr 89 in a limited edition of 500 numbered copies.

The placement will provide a hands-on introduction to the activities of a major research library and cultural organisation, with a particular focus on cataloguing, collection management, and public engagement. In undertaking the placement project, the student will have the opportunity to consult and work with colleagues across a range of collection areas and roles.

Supervised by Dr Katie McElvanney, Curator of Slavonic and East European Collections, the placement will sit within the European, Americas and Oceania Department. Alongside regular meetings, pastoral support, and training opportunities, the student will benefit from being part of a welcoming and supportive wider team, which includes a number of PhD researchers.

Cover of Lev Iatskevych, Parovyi verbliud, illustrated by Edvard Kozak

Cover of Lev Iatskevych, Parovyi verbliud, illustrated by Edvard Kozak (Munich, 1947). Awaiting shelfmark.

The placement is open to UK-based PhD students from all disciplines and academic backgrounds; however, a good reading knowledge of Ukrainian is essential, and knowledge of 20th century European history and another Slavonic language (Russian, Belarusian, Polish) would be an advantage.

Further information on eligibility, funding and how to apply is available on the British Library website. The deadline for applications is Friday 25 February 2022 (5 pm).

For informal enquiries, please contact Katie.McElvanney@bl.uk  

References and further reading:

Gerard Daniel Cohen, In war’s wake: Europe’s displaced persons in the postwar order (New York; Oxford, c2012). YC.2011.a.17419

Ann Holian, Between National Socialism and Soviet Communism: Displaced Persons in Postwar Germany (Ann Arbor, 2011). YC.2011.a.13908

David Nasaw, The Last Million: Europe’s Displaced Persons from World War to Cold War (New York, 2020).

Mark Wyman, DPs: Europe’s Displaced Persons, 1945–1951 (London; Ithaca, 1998). YC.1999.b.7740

Publications by Ukrainian "displaced persons" and political refugees, 1945-1954, in the John Luczkiw collection, Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, University of Toronto: Microfilm collection: An electronic bibliography Compiled by Yury Boshyk and Włodzimierz Kiebalo. Edited by Wasyl Sydorenko.

The Refugee Experience: Ukrainian Displaced Persons after World War II, eds. Wsewolod W. Isajiw, Yury Boshyk, and Roman Senkus (Edmonton, 1992). YA.1995.b.3753

.