Jochen Lingelbach, "On the Edges of Whiteness: Polish Refugees in British Colonial Africa during and after the Second World War" (Berghahn Books, 2020)

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As the horrors of Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine unfold before our eyes, we have witnessed a massive wave of refugees absorbed by a range of Eastern European countries – with the most refugees so far remaining in Poland. This is a remarkably apt moment to talk about the lessons of an important new study by historian Jochen Lingelbach. In On the Edges of Whiteness: Polish Refugees in British Colonial Africa during and after the Second World War (Berghahn, 2020), Lingelbach tells the story of just under 20,000 Polish refugees (many, from present-day Ukraine) who, initially deported into the Soviet Union at the start of World War II, found themselves in British hands after the USSR joined the Allies in 1941, and were transferred to the British-held colonies of East and Central Africa. On the Edges of Whiteness traces the complex relationships that developed among the Polish refugees, their British administrators, and their African neighbors in a story of survival and dramatic dislocation against the backdrop of war. Lingelbach’s book is an important and timely contribution to African history, Eastern European history, colonial history, and migration studies.

Piotr H. Kosicki is Associate Professor of History at the University of Maryland, College Park. He is the author of Catholics on the Barricades (Yale, 2018) and editor, among others, of Political Exile in the Global Twentieth Century (with Wolfram Kaiser).

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