Although war refugees are mostly a subject of research involving war and military conflict in the 20th and 21st centuries, forced migration also accompanied many earlier military conflicts. This article focuses on war refugees during the Deluge period in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, when the Commonwealth was simultaneously at war with Muscovy (1654–1667) and Sweden (1665–1660). At that time, the idea of offering temporary shelter for refugees was increasingly recognised, and relief for refugees gradually became a concern of the nascent modern state. In the Commonwealth, the Cossack uprising and the aforementioned wars of the mid-17th century made the issue of war refugees particularly relevant. The article first clarifies the terms that were used to refer to migration and war refugees (zbieg, advenus, profugus, exul and wygnaniec). Later, it examines whether state institutions in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (GDL), a constituent part of the Commonwealth, attempted to deal with refugees’ problems. Finally, on the basis of scarce and fragmentary sources, the author makes an attempt to trace the fate of women refugees from different parts of the GDL in Žemaitija (Samogitia) in 1654–1667, and their behavioural strategies, and to answer the question to what extent the decisions of the women refugees were independent, or dependent on the will of their spouse or their family.
In 1589, the Sejm of the Commonwealth of the Two Nations established the royal holdings (Crown lands), called Economijas, of Šiauliai, Hrodna, Alytus, Brest, Kobrin and Mahilioŭ in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. However, Šiauliai started to function as a royal Economija only in 1619. At this time, it was the largest and richest royal holding in the grand duchy. The article deals with the relatively closed community of the Šiauliai Economija in the second half of the 17th century. Its unusual administrative system, with its relatively abundant community records, makes it possible to trace and discuss the following issues: how the local government had functioned and how it maintained relations with the community; how the local community and individual members used and dealt with decisions by the Lithuanian central government; what rules of communication applied between different actors, the Lithuanian central government, the Šiauliai Economija government, and the local community.