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Katarzyna Martinovic is a PhD candidate at the University of Heidelberg – Hochschule für Jüdische Studien. Her dissertation focuses on the identity, culture, and literature of the Zionist-oriented Jewish youth in interwar Poland. She holds an MA in Jewish Museum studies from Heidelberg, an MA in Polish Studies at the University of Wrocław, a BA in Modern Languages (German and Hebrew) from University College London and has studied at the Hebrew University.

Presentation: Identity and culture of the Zionist-oriented Jewish youth in interwar Poland. ‘We are going up to the Land of Israel’. But in the meantime, this study sheds light on a missing chapter in the history of Zionism by focusing on the everyday life, identity, and culture of Zionist-oriented youth in interwar Poland in the context of the Diaspora before their emigration – which in many cases never took place. It provides a vivid portrayal of these young people, who, in a sense, lingered in suspension – they dreamed of leaving, while at the same time were rooted in the reality of interwar Poland, skillfully navigating and juggling between different cultural borderlands. The thesis offers a picture full of contradictions – quite different from the one conveyed in the institutional history of Zionism and the official ideology of certain youth movements. It captures essential aspects of the informal youth culture of the Zionist adherents in Poland between the two world wars, and perhaps most remarkably, it does so in the voices of the youth themselves, largely through hitherto unpublished sources.

‘Anu olim artza, be-shira u-ve-smira’ (Heb.: ‘We are ascending to the Land of Israel singing songs’) – this song used to be sung across the Zionist movement throughout the interwar period by members of Zionist youth organizations prior to their eagerly longed-for emigration to Mandate Palestine. It accompanied the pioneers on the trains carrying them on their last journey through European countries and on the ships docking on the shores of Jaffa or Haifa – for them the gateways to the Promised Land.