Refugees and citizens in East-Central Europe in the 20th century


The Unlikely Refuge? is a 5-year comparative research project funded by the European Research Council (Consolidator grant) and hosted by the Masaryk Institute and Archives of the Czech Academy of Sciences.

The project aims to write refugees back into the history of East-Central Europe, a region which is often considered a place to leave rather than to search refuge in. Since September 2019, the project team has been systematically probing the interactions of civil societies, humanitarian organisations and nation-states with refugees in Poland, Czechoslovakia, Austria, Hungary, Yugoslavia and their successor states in the 20th century.

The project deploys methods from spatial studies and combines traditional historical enquiry with digital humanities methods. It attempts to produce new microhistorical studies of refugee spaces and analyses of life trajectories of selected samples of refugees.

Research team

  • Michal Frankl, Principle Investigator, scientific coordinator and expert on Czechoslovak refugee policies.
  • Doina Anca Cretu focuses on refugee camps in the Austro-Hungarian Empire during the First World War.
  • Lidia Zessin-Jurek explores the issue of refugees to Poland with focus on the late 1930s.
  • Nikola Tohma concentrates on Cold War refugees in Czechoslovakia.
  • Julia Reinke on Greek refugees in the German Democratic Republic and the Polish People’s Republic.
  • Francesca Rolandi scrutinizes refugees to Yugoslavia with focus on the Upper Adriatic region.
  • Karla Koutková, social anthropologist, examines the refugeedom in post-communist East-Central Europe.