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Europeans sought sanctuary in Africa during World War 2

By Martina Schwikowski

 

Thousands of Europeans sought sanctuary in Africa during World War 2 – among them were many Polish people. A Canadian filmmaker explores the journey of his Polish forefathers in a documentary.

When Canadian Jonathan Durand traveled to Africa for the first time as a 20-year-old, he experienced a strange sense of being at home, an odd feeling for a young white man.

It took a while for Durand to understand why Africa seemed so familiar to him.

During and after World War 2, his Polish grandmother Kazia Gerech had lived in a refugee camp in what is present-day Tanzania – the stories of her childhood near the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro had burned into his soul.

“When your Polish grandmother says that she has gone on safari on Africa’s highest mountain, that inspires a child’s imagination,” he told DW.

As a history student, he was surprised about the lack of information about Poles seeking sanctuary in Africa – his professor had never heard of Polish refugee camps on the continent.

“That’s when I started my research,” recalls Durand.

His grandmother’s testimonies about her life in the small town of Tengeru in northern Tanzania motivated the filmmaker to embark on an emotionally charged nine-year journey that took him to Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.

The resulting film, Memory is our Homeland, won the Audience Award at the Montreal International Film Festival in 2019.

From 1942 to 1949, Gerech lived with her siblings and parents in a simple thatched hut in Tengeru in what was then the British-administered territory of Tanganyika (now Tanzania).

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During his travels to the former Polish refugee camps in South Africa, Tanzania and Zambia, Durand said that local people “had good memories of the Poles,” who farmed and sent their children to school.

“It was often their first contact with whites,” he told DW.

The Polish refugees also have a positive memory of the locals, says Durand. “They were young, and these intercultural encounters have shaped their humanity.”

Migration expert Julia Devlin agrees with Durand’s findings. “It was a friendly existence, side by side,” she told DW. Locals from Tengeru and the Poles even sometimes celebrated mass together, said Devlin, the head of the Center for Flight and Migration at Germany’s Catholic University of Eichstätt-Ingolstadt.

From Poland, over Russia and Iran, to Africa

The Polish migration to Africa has its roots in an event from August 1939. That was when Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin signed a non-aggression pact that divided several eastern European countries, including Poland, into German and Soviet spheres of interest.

With a few days, Germany invaded Poland, triggering World War 2.

Within a few weeks, the Soviets invaded Poland from the east. Like the Nazis in the west of the country, the Soviet Union began to carry out ethnic cleansing. They deported hundreds of thousands of Poles, including many Jews, in four waves to forced labor camps in remote Russian regions such as Siberia and Kazakhstan.

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In 1941, the tables were turned when Germany invaded the Soviet Union, forcing Russia to join the Allies.

It triggered an amnesty for the Poles in the USSR. Unable to return to war-torn Poland, some 116,000 Poles living in the Soviet Union were evacuated to Iran, which had been invaded by the Anglo-Soviet alliance.

But Iran proved unable to care for such large numbers of refugees, causing the British government to move Polish civilians to other British colonies.

It was by this circuitous route that the Polish deportees arrived in Tanzania, South Africa, Zimbabwe and other parts of British Africa to see out the rest of WW2.

Finding his grandmother as a young girl

After the end of the war in September 1945, the African host countries pushed to get rid of the Polish refugees.

“African countries were on their way to independence and didn’t want reminders of colonial rule,” said Devlin.

But Poles were reluctant to return to their homeland, which was under staunch Soviet control. Eventually, they migrated mostly to Australia, Canada, and Great Britain.

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Durand’s grandmother made it to England in 1949. There she met her husband, a Pole and a survivor of the Majdanek concentration camp. Together, they emmigrated to Canada.

Of all the research Durand undertook, one discovery made a great impression.

At the Polish Institute in London, he found the only existing film footage from the Tanzanian refugee camp where his grandmother had lived.

“I recognised the hospital and a group of young girls walking toward the camera. On the left, smiling and with her arms crossed – that was my grandmother,” says Durand. He still gets goose bumps when he looks at the footage today.

Source:LRT

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IOM launches open South America portal

International Organisation of Migration (

Buenos Aires – IOM, the International Organization for Migration, this week launched the Open South America Portal, a web platform providing migrants and stakeholders in the region with access to reliable and timely information on human mobility restrictions and health and safety measures adopted by governments in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Open South America, available in SpanishEnglish and Portuguese, shares official information by country on the latest measures, including border restrictions, quarantine requirements and COVID-19 tests for migrants and travellers.

The portal also provides updated information on authorized entry points and key places for travellers and migrants, such as consulates, migrant care and health centres, airports, border crossings points and ports. This information can be explored through an interactive map.

The platform, funded by the IOM Development Fund, is also accessible to vulnerable migrants who may be stranded or are at risk of receiving misinformation on migration.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, South America has been one of the most impacted regions worldwide. According to the World Health Organization figures, as of 8 July 2021 there were 33,475,765 COVID-19 cumulative cases in the region, which represents 89 per cent of the total cases in Latin America, and 18 per cent of all infections recorded globally.

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Countries such as Brazil, Peru, Colombia and Ecuador all experienced severe outbreaks. For example, Brazil currently reports the third highest number of cumulative cases (18,855,015) and second highest death toll (526,892) globally.

“Open South America will facilitate orderly, regular and responsible migration in South America amid the uncertain times of COVID-19 and after the pandemic,” said Minister Ana Laura Cachaza, General Director of Consular Affairs of the Government of Argentina.

“Migrants’ access to up-to-date information through innovative online tools is essential considering the changing migration dynamic in the region due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Marcelo Pisani, IOM Regional Director for South America.

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29,000 Nigerians, Ghanaians, Somalians, other Africans migrated through the Mediterranean Sea to Europe in 2021 —IOM

The International Organisation for Migration has said that 29,000 individuals including Nigerians, Ghanaians, Somalians and other Africans have emigrated to Europe through the Mediterranean Sea this year.

About 13,000 were arrested by the coast guards and returned home while 761 migrants were said to have perished in the sea.

Disclosing this to journalists in Abuja on Friday, the Chief of Mission, IOM Nigeria, Mr Franz Celestin, said less than five per cent of migrants usually made it to Europe, adding that the vast majority stay in Africa.

He further said that a lot of migrants were trafficked within the Economic Community of West African States, adding that Mali was the number one destination point for trafficked Nigerian women.

Responding to questions on the number of people who have undertaken the perilous trip to Europe through the Mediterranean, the IOM Chief said, “A combination of unemployment and underemployment is pushing people to migrate.

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“In this year, 29,000 migrants from Sub-Sahara Africa have migrated to Europe through the Mediterranean. About 13,000 were intercepted by the coastguard while 761 died.”

International Organisation of Migration (

Celestin stressed the importance of tackling human trafficking which he said grossed about $150 billion annually.

“Traffickers make a lot of money and they would continue to do it until a coordinated response is evolved to stop them. We are collaborating with Interpol in this respect; we are connected to the Interpol i/247 database. We connected the MIDAS to the Interpol database where we pass the information on traffickers to the Interpol,” he stated.

Celestin explained that the IOM has been involved in the biometric registration of children in the North-East, noting that the agency has registered no fewer than 17,053 children in 18 different internally displaced person camps between 2019 and May 2021 in Borno State.

The agency chief also disclosed that IOM was involved in the G7 Famine Prevention and Humanitarian Compact for North-East.

READ  Always ensure factual narrative, IOM admonishes African journalists

 

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FG condemns killing of Nigerian footballer in UK

Kelvin

The Federal government has condemned the alleged killing of a Nigerian Footballer, Kelvin Igweani, by the UK police.

Recall that Igweani, a Nigerian Footballer, was shot dead by officers, who attended a call out to a house, where a child was found with serious injuries.

Reacting, Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, Chairman/CEO, Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), in Abuja on Wednesday described the incident as very unfortunate,and sad.

Dabiri-Erewa condoled with the family of the deceased and the Nigerian communities in the UK while praying that God grants rest to the soul of the departed.

“We call on the UK government for a thorough and proper investigation to be carried out on the incident,” the statement added.

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