In December 2017, I spent almost a month as SPECTRESS scholar in Brazil. At first, I stayed at USP where I had excellent opportunities for valuable collaboration and interaction with academic staff and Ph.D. students.
My academic host was Professor Laura Izarra. Almost immediately after my arrival, we had an inspiring conversation on the related fields of our research and a wonderful sightseeing tour down the Avenida Paulista, including a visit in the concrete-modern building of Museu de Arte de São Paulo. Laura, thank you so much for your hospitality and support!
Thanks to Laura and the SPECTRESS scholarship I was able to take part in a conference, which took place at the USP’s Department of History, dealing directly with my research subject: Diásporas Globais & Migrações Contemporâneas. I contributed to discussions and delivered a paper on my research, entitled “Peasants’ Migrations from Polish-German Borderlands and National Identities in the Making, 1890s-1930s.” This was undoubtedly a stimulating part of my secondment, also in terms of being part of local academic culture and learning about South American ways of discussing and exchanging.
I also had inspiring meetings within the USP’s German Studies. I discussed German migration flows to the Brazilian South with Professor Joachim Steffen and Professor Helmut Galle. I also got an insight into a specific “Romanian” memory of historical migration from Moldova, surprisingly cultivated by decedents of migrants with Polish or German family names, as I was instructed by Manuela Burghelea, a Ph.D student from Romania, studying in France and being on a research scholarship in Brazil. These meetings and discussions gave me the opportunity to review my research on migration memory, represented and cultivated by my “target group” – Polish-speaking Prussian migrants from Upper Silesia.
Of course, I visited a lot of places outside USP as well. Despite pollution, noise, permanent traffic jams and a level of poverty I have never seen before, Sao Paolo is an exciting and highly interesting city! I have never seen so many high-rise concrete-buildings spread over such a large city, even though I work on a campus similarly full of buildings made of concrete in Bochum. I was fascinated by Sao Paolo’s panoramic view from the roof of the Oscar Niemeyer’s Copan Building, and then later in Curitiba by the Oscar Niemeyer Museum and the famous Eye, and the Museum of Tomorrow in Rio de Janeiro – to mention just the most prominent examples of brutalism architecture I saw in Brazil. [pic 1]
As fanatical football fan, I had a lot of topics to talk about with locals similarly crazy about football. Unfortunately, I missed the last match day of the Brazilian Serie A, the only thing I deeply regret – having been in a country where football is a religion for some time, I could not take part at a football mass, what a shame! In order to compensate, I visited at least Museu do Futebol. There, I saw a photograph of the Brasilian team before the game against Poland 1938, a legendary matchup between Leônidas da Silva and Ernest Wilimowski. The latter is one of the most intriguing protagonists in the book I’m currently writing. [pic 2]
During the second part of my secondment, I stayed in Curitiba, in the Province of Paraná. The 2-million-city gives a much more European impression than Sao Paulo and I felt very comfortable there. I had several meetings at the Universidade Federal do Paraná and I am very grateful to Professor Aleksandra Piasecka-Till and Professor Izabela Drozdowska-Broering for their support and contacts to other researchers.
The major focus of my stay in Curitiba was the history of migration from Upper Silesia. Through the 1870s, 1880s, and 1890s several thousand people from the Prussian Province of Silesia, district Oppeln, moved to Santa Catarina and Paraná. I found descendants of the first migrant families and interviewed them in a mix of some Portuguese, Polish and English. Moreover, I collected a good deal of historical sources like documents, shipping lists, slot maps, newspapers, and letters, first of all in the colony Santa Candida, but also in Pilarzinho, Abranches, Thomaz Coelho, Murici, and Dom Pedro. This was undoubtedly a very fruitful part of my research trip! There will be a fascinating chapter in my new book based on this material; Santa Candida is particularly suitable for a thick description. I am extremely thankful to my contact persons who helped me so much: Danusia Walesko, Domiciano Spisla, Jaime Sluga, Ulisses Iarochinski, and Mafalda Sikora. [Pics 3, 4, 5, 6]
Generally, I am more than grateful for the opportunity provided by the Spectress programme to live and research in Brazil!