Student Museum Musings – Displaced Persons in Oshawa

By Mia V., Oral History Project Student

It seems like hardly any time has passed since I first started here this summer, but that goes with the old saying about time flying when you’re… kept very engaged and interested in your work… having fun! Since my last blog post, I have continued to work on the museum’s oral history project, about displaced persons that came to settle in Canada and then in Oshawa following World War II.

In doing so, I have contacted several cultural organizations and clubs in Oshawa who may know of someone who arrived in Canada as a displaced person, as well as those individuals who were considered to be displaced themselves. I have also put together some of the collected stories and documents together into online exhibits at the website Oshawa Immigration Stories. It is a way to pull together many of the common experiences into narratives that can be shared with others. I am really enjoying this task, as I think that these stories are important to many different levels, beyond just individual families – for Oshawa history and for Canadian history as a whole.

Zenia Kolodziejzcak's stateless persons document
Zenia Kolodziejczak’s temporary travel document issued at the DP camp in Germany.

One of the major things I’ve noticed about the documents that have been donated is how many of them were for purposes of identification, and just how many pieces of ID each person needed at different points in their journey – to get to Canada, as well as once they were here. As such, one of the documents that stood out to me the most was a document for travel “in lieu of a passport” for “stateless persons and persons of undetermined nationality.” To me, this document puts into words the feeling of uncertainty that pervaded the immediate post-war era. I’ve also found this sentiment to be heavily apparent in newspapers at the time, some of which have also provided incredible insight for the project.

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