Student, Social & Transcultural Psychiatry, McGill University

Migration of Polish children during and post-WWII: A lifespan development perspective

The main goal and purpose of this study is to examine the psychological well-being and social adjustment of Polish individuals who migrated as children during and post-WWII. As children, they largely fell into one of three migrant groups, being sent to: (1) Soviet labour camps and then Allied refugee camps (in Africa, India, Lebanon, etc); (2) the UK where family was military-affiliated; or (3) Nazi labour camps. Despite six decades of research on related topics since WWII, there exists a paucity of knowledge and lack of consensus regarding mental health and the long-term adjustments of having lived through this war as a child and migrated during that time. Research regarding the long-term mental health outcomes of individuals who experienced WWII has tended to focus on psychopathology rather than resilience, adaptation, and recovery. This study specifically adopts the psychosocial approach to understanding mental health following migration due to war and focuses on children who experienced WWII in Poland. Twenty age, sex, and socio-economic status matched participants will complete interviews based in grounded theory to explore the themes of age dependent resilience and vulnerability, family life and structure, coping, adjustment, and attitudes of the host country towards the immigrants. Results will contribute to understanding the lived experiences of these individuals, to our understanding of what to consider when for children who are currently undergoing similar migration experiences, and to further understand the variety of reactions to childhood migration across the lifespan.