Yet after the war ended, many Poles didn’t want to go back home. The Soviet Union was among the Allied nations that defeated the Axis powers and Poland was still under the influence and control of Moscow. This presented a quandary that resulted in the Allies not only forgetting about the European refugees in Africa but also erasing them from history books.

Eventually, the refugees were resettled, finding homes in North America, Europe, and Australia.

For Durand, the documentary is a meditation on what home and identity represent for many of those displaced and their families. But the film is also a paean to the resilience of people in the aftermath of war and the power of memory in the face of oppression and displacement. As he traverses modern-day eastern Europe in search of his grandparents’ homeland, he encounters pliable borders, empty forests, and desolate towns.

Polish refugees in Tengeru, Tanzania
At home in Tanzania
Image: Courtesy/Jonathan Durand

“When I initially started this project, my idea was to make a largely conventional film about an unconventional history,” he tells Quartz. But he quickly realized, he says, that the story of Poles in Africa, the history of how “the first modern refugee camps in Africa were for white Europeans,” wasn’t written or documented as such.

So the film, he says, “organically became a much more personal one, because it was about how history is kept alive in the stories of mothers and grandmothers, even when outside forces try to erase it.”

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