Worlds Apart: British journalist presented a book about a Jewish family, part of which took place in Soviet Russia

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A book by the British journalist with Russian roots Nadia Ragozhina was presented in London. Worlds Apart: The Journeys of My Jewish Family in Twentieth-Century Europe is Nadia's first book. It is based on the story of her Jewish family. 

Nadia told the guests of the meeting about what prompted her to write the book and the painstaking collection of materials. She shared family stories closely intertwined with political events in Europe, revealed some family secrets and showed photos from the family archive. 

The online conversation was led by journalist and producer Yuri Goligorsky. 

The brothers never met again 

YG: The book was written and published in English. What is it about? Two brothers grow up on the Jewish streets of Warsaw. At the turn of the twentieth century, Adolphe leaves to seek work and start a family in Switzerland. Marcus moves east, inspired by his Communist beliefs. They would never meet again. A hundred years later, Marcus’ great-granddaughter, Nadia Ragozhina, rediscovers the missing part of her broken family and pieces together the stories hidden for generations. 

When I started writing the book and searching for necessary information, I felt like a detective 

YG: Is your book a detective story? 

NR: When I started writing the book and searching for necessary information, I felt like a detective. It all started with a riddle: in Moscow, my grandmother, daughter of Marcus, carefully kept old photographs that she showed us. The pictures showed her cousins ​​Eva and Genya. The photographs were taken in Switzerland in the 1930s. It was very interesting for me to gaze at these people, and I wanted to know more about them - what they did, what are their life stories, but, unfortunately, my grandmother could not tell me anything, as she simply did not know.  

After the brothers moved, the families corresponded at first because Adolphe and Marcus were very close. But after their death in the 1950s, communication stopped. We started the search with my mother and wrote to relatives whom we found through a genealogical site. 

We were fearful that they would not know of us. But it turned out completely differently. 

We were very lucky that Genya, my grandmother's cousin, was still alive and remembered that her father, Adolphe, had a brother Marcus, who had left for Russia, and she herself wrote letters to his daughter. 

I learned that Adolphe left Warsaw for Switzerland in 1905. There he and his wife started working in a watch factory, and later Adolphe established his own factory in Geneva. By that time, they already had two daughters - Eva and Genya. In the 1930s, Eva left for Brussels, and Genya - for Palestine. In 1942, Eva was able to escape the Nazis from the occupied city and returned to Geneva to live with her family. The book contains a lot of information from Eva's diaries, which she kept during and after the war. Genya returned later. 

YG: How many countries have you travelled in search of material? 

NR: I have travelled five or six countries. It was very interesting. In some places, for example in Tel Aviv, I just walked the streets – I walked and tried to imagine how they looked at that time. In others, like in Antwerp, I had to look for a house from a photograph. I would get on a tram and look out of the window at the surrounding buildings. It was very important for me to see the places in which this story unfolded with my own eyes. 

It was very important for me to show the lives of ordinary people, to convey this to a Western audience 

YG: How many years did you spend writing this book? 

NR: I wrote it in seven years. I had several reasons why I decided to start working on it. One of them was that, having already lived in the West for so many years, I see that very few people really understand Soviet history. Those who are interested in history know the key events, but no one particularly captures the real post-Soviet everyday realities, including my Swiss relatives. It was very important for me to show the lives of ordinary people, to convey this to a Western audience. 

 

The meeting was organized by the representative office of Rossotrudnichestvo in the UK. 

Further information about the book can be found here: www.nadiaragozhina.com