The challenge of recognizing and healing World War II trauma in Poland


Three issues are worth recognizing about Poland:
(1) The massive scale of World War II trauma,
(2) The manifestations of great resilience and power of the human spirit, and
(3) The challenge of using contemporary knowledge of social and medical science for healing the trauma. Poland belongs to that part of Europe Snyder (2010) calls the ‘bloodlands’. The number of Polish Jews, ethnic Poles, and people belonging to ethnic minorities who died or were murdered in the course of WWII amounted to about 6 million. Poland lost about 17% of its pre-war population – the highest percentage among all countries involved (Davies, 2005; Szarota & Materski, 2009). Despite massive traumatization, there are however many great accomplishments of the Polish people following WWII.

One example is the restoration of capital of the countr, Warsaw, ruined in 1944; the reconstructed Old Town district is now on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites. In addition, Poland was the first country where the communist government fell in 1989, as a result of struggle by the 10 million-strong Solidarity movement. And another example: during the past 27 seven years, GDP per capita has grown almost 8-fold.

However, the consequences of the historical massive traumatization seem to endure. Several studies show a 30%-40% prevalence of current PTSD in nonclinical populations (Cyniak-Cieciura et. al., 2017; Ogińska-Bulik et. al., in press; Lis-Turlejska, et. al., 2018; Rzeszutek et al., 2017). Such rate of PTSD is much higher then in the Western European countries (e.g. Alonso et al., 2004; de Vries & Olff, 2009). Explaining the reasons for such difference and finding ways to deal with the consequences of World War II trauma in Poland is an important challenge.






Maja Lis-Turlejska

Original Work Citation

Lis-Turlejska, M. (2019, June). The challenge of recognizing and healing World War II trauma in Poland. Presentation at the 20th EMDR Europe Association Conference, Krakow, Poland



“The challenge of recognizing and healing World War II trauma in Poland,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed September 20, 2021,

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