When you think of a 19th century Polish immigrant and their grandchild, you probably think of an unskilled Jewish farmer arriving to America through the Ellis Island and…. Stephen J. Dubner.
But you probably wouldn’t immediately think of Polish refugees in Iran. Yet, it’s true, roughly 120,000 Poles found refuge in Iran in World War II, known as the biggest European migrant wave to Iran. They were soldiers from the Polish Armed Forces and civilian refugees escaping from the Soviet work camps in Siberia and Kazakhstan.
Iranians received Polish refugees with open arms. Starting in 1942, the port city of Pahlevi became the main landing point for Polish refugees coming into Iran from the Soviet Union, receiving up to 2,500 refugees per day. The city of Isfahan became known as the ‘City of Polish Children’, home to 10,000 Polish orphans.
Many cultural institutions in Iran were built by the Polish people and adopted by the Iranian middle class, including bars and cafes (for example, until the revolution, there was a Cafe Polonia in Tehran).
Strong diplomatic ties between Iran and Poland exist until today. In May this year, Poland hosted Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs, celebrating their friendship and partnership. This was one of the first visits to an EU member state after the international economic and financial sanctions on Iran were lifted.
While Stephen Dubner is producing awesome podcasts in NYC, third generations of Polish refugees in Iran are cultivating traditions of their Iranian and Polish grandparents.