Narratives of resilience in aging Soviet Jewish child survivors of the Holocaust / by Svetlana Shklarov.
Soviet child survivors of the Holocaust represent a distinct group of seniors who live with the memory of trauma. Unlike those survivors who left Europe shortly after liberation, Soviet Jews faced the life-long secondary trauma of oppression and forced silence. Although historical knowledge in the Former Soviet Union began to be recovered, the psychological dimensions of trauma in Holocaust survivors remain under-analyzed. Prior scholarship has offered general theoretical frameworks for understanding the experiences of aging trauma survivors. However, little research addressed the applicability of general trauma discourse to contextually specific experiences. Lacking in the literature is an interdisciplinary perspective on trauma, resilience, and aging. This cross-cultural study explored trauma sequelae and resilience of aging Soviet survivors within several disciplines: gerontology, aging studies, social work, and psychiatry. A bilingual researcher interviewed nine Russian-speaking survivors—émigrés in Canada and residents of Russia—and employed a combination of the classical grounded theory method and narrative analysis. The idiographic analysis of the participants' narratives revealed unique, recognizable personal patterns of power, agency, and choice, which were named anchor scripts of resilience—personal scripts that defined the identity of the storyteller through meaningful realities other than trauma. Nomothetic analysis of the general patterns revealed the overarching connection between individual anchor scripts and collective narratives of Soviet Jewry. In the ambience of ideologically imposed silence, the survivors' narratives of trauma and resilience were hidden below the surface of the mainstream Soviet discourse. These hidden but tenaciously maintained stories, defined as undercurrent narratives, had a salutary value for individual and group resilience, because they represented an essential source of validation for the survivors' posttraumatic pain and personal anchor scripts. Through participation in Jewish collective narratives throughout their life span, child survivors had access to the communal pool of salutary meanings, through which their anchor scripts could be initiated and richly developed. This study conceptualized the relationships between individual and communal strategies of resilience in the face of cumulative collective trauma. The theory might be considered in community practices with diverse groups, and used in future research as a source of sensitizing concepts.
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