Overthrowing communism in 1989 and joining the European Union in 2004, the Polish people hold loyalties to region, country and now continent – even as the definition of what it means to be ‘European’ remains unclear. This book uses the life-story narratives of rural and urban southern Poles to reveal how ‘being European’ is considered a fundamental component of ‘being Polish’ while participants are simultaneously ‘becoming European’.
Close attention to the individual lives of Poles allows the author to identify cultural patterns and grasp the impact of the EU on its member states, paying particular attention to how the EU has affected the life experiences of Poles who came of age in the earliest years of the neoliberal and democratic transformations. In exploring what it means to be Polish by tracking these parallel processes of change, the author traces Poland’s path from state socialism to European integration and Polish identities as they are reinscribed, revised and reinvented in the face of historic, political and economic processes.
Ultimately, this study demonstrates how the EU is regarded as both an idea and an instrument, and how ordinary citizens make choices that influence the shape of European identity and the legitimacy of its institutions.