Today we talked to Dr. Anna Muller about her latest book, If the Walls Could Speak: Inside a Women's Prison in Communist Poland (Oxford University Press, 2017). Using archival research as well as oral interviews with many of the women in her book, Muller paints a portrait of life within the walls of Polish prisons for political prisoners. From harrowing tales of interrogation, to the creation of friendships that outlast the length of prison sentences, Muller's work illustrates how female political prisoners adapted to and survived lengthy prison sentences for various "political" crimes. Muller discusses the interrogation process the women experienced, how they adapted to life behind bars, the records written by spies placed in the cells with the political prisoners, and how the women attempted to redefine themselves within an environment that controlled their daily lives. Muller's work is a fascinating look at women as subjects in the Communist period of Polish history as well as a glimpse into women as subjects within the penal system.
Dr. Muller is an Assistant Professor of history and the Frank and Mary Padzieski Endowed Professor in Polish/Polish American/Eastern European Studies at the University of Michigan-Dearborn.
Kimberly St. Julian-Varnon is an adjunct history instructor and independent scholar near Houston, Texas.