It is a largely unknown and astonishing fact that most Polish Jews who escaped Nazi extermination survived as refugees in Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Iran and India. Mikhal Dekel, whose then thirteen-year-old father was such a refugee, will share her decade long archival research and global travel to retrace their 13,000 mile route. This route began with deportations to gulags and “Special Settlements” in the Soviet Interior and continued on with collective settlements in the Soviet Central Asian Republics, refugee camps in Iran and India, and kibbutzim in Mandatory Palestine. Dekel tells a story at once intimate and historically sweeping, conversing along the way with Polish nationalists, Russian oligarchs and human rights activists, Iranians, Korean Uzbeks and Israelis, and painting a story of interlinked and divergent histories, of death and survival, of hospitality and cruelty, and of twentieth and twenty-first century politics.
Mikhal Dekel is Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the City College and the CUNY Graduate Center and Director of the Rifkind Center for Humanities and the Arts. She is the recipient of many awards - including fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Mellon Foundation and the Lady Davis Foundation – and is the author of three books: Tehran Children: A Holocaust Refugee Odyssey (W. W. Norton 2019); Oedipus in Kishinev (Bialik Institute, 2014) and The Universal Jew: Masculinity, Modernity and the Zionist Moment (Northwestern University Press, 2011). Her articles, translations and blogs have appeared in the Journal of Comparative Literature, English Literary History, Jewish Social Studies, Callaloo, Shofar, Guernica, and Cambridge Literary Review, among many others.