Voices from the past: 20th-century migration in audio and video

Recordings, reports and more relating to migration, found on Europeana

Adrian Murphy (opens in new window) (Europeana Foundation)

The 20th century was a time of great migration movements across Europe and the wider world.

In previous centuries, the sources we could explore were shipping records and diairies only. In the 20th century, however, technological developments allow us to hear and see these migration movements and experience history in a much more vivid way.

Oral history recordings, radio and television interviews and reports

There's something evocative listening to people speak directly of their own experiences and, in their voices, hearing their happiness, their sadness, their hopes and fears, their hesitations and concerns. These emotions tell a story as much as their words.

Here's a snapshot of audio and video collections found on Europeana - oral history recordings, video reports, documentaries and more - which bear witness to migration in the 20th century.

Spanish refugees in the Netherlands

During the Spanish Civil War from 1936 to 1939, many refugees left Spain for other European countries. This short film report - from Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision - shows the arrival of refugees by train in Roosendaal or Eindhoven and the transportation to the refugee centre.

Migrating to and from the Czech Republic

13th Chamber (13. komnata) is a Czech TV show which profiles Czech and Slovak personalities, focusing on difficult times in their lives. Migration experiences feature in many of the profiles, for example, that of actress and author Anife Vyskočilová who emigrated to Bohemia from Bulgaria in the 1990s.

Watch interview with Anife Vyskočilová

Watch more episodes of 13th Chamber

The Windrush Generation in the UK

This is an interview with Albertina Aparicio about her move from Trinidad to England and her work as a midwife in Thurrock.

Albertina is part of what is today known as 'The Windrush Generation': people who emigrated from the Caribbean to Britain between the late 1940s and early 1970s. These included passengers on the first ship, the HMT Empire Windrush.

The HMT Empire Windrush arrived in Tilbury in 1949 from Jamaica, carrying just over one thousand passengers. It is remembered today as one of the first large-scale post-war migration waves of people from the Commonwealth to the United Kingdom.  

The interview with Albertina is one of 12 interviews with people from 'the Windrush Generation' from the Essex Record Office that are available on Europeana. 

Ireland's Italian communities

During the 20th century, Ireland was very much a country marked by emigration - with successive generations moving abroad in search of new jobs and lives.

However, throughout the 20th century, communities from several nations became established in Ireland, predominently around Dublin.

Small Italian communinities moved to Ireland in the wake of World War I and World War II. By the latter half of the 20th century, around 4000 Italians were living in Ireland, often working in the catering industry.

This 1971 television show from Irish broadcaster RTE looks at Dublin's Italian communities, first and second generation Italians who have made Ireland their home. 

Watch The Italians from RTÉ

Dutch post-war emigration to Australia

Between the end of the 1940s and 1960s, in the wake of World War II, many Dutch citizens emigrated from the Netherlands to other countries, such as Australia. The Netherlands had been deeply affected by the war. Thousands had been killed, cities were destroyed, food shortages were common.

In this context, many Dutch people chose to begin new lives in Australia, often as part of an assisted migration programme.

black and white photograph of a family sitting around a table looking at a map

This documentary from 1984 features the experiences of Dutch people who emigrated to Australia and New Zealand in the 1950s and 1960s.

Despite the years passing, many still feel homesick for the Netherlands. The programme shows how they maintain their Dutch identities, by going to Dutch festivals and listening to Dutch radio.

Watch 'Growing old far from home'

These interviews and reports are just a few examples of the various communities and migration movements throughout the 20th century, all of which have shaped the communities, societies and cultural diversity we see today.

Have you moved from one country to another? Share your story with Europeana Migration

This blog is part of Europeana XX, a project co-funded by the European Union that focuses on the 20th century and its social, political and economic changes.