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  From the Publisher
Al Zagofsky, publisher
Illustration by José Luis Rodríguez Arellano


The other day, probably a month ago by the time you receive this, I read about the Russian bombing of the Ukrainian city of Kharkov.

Kharkov, I thought to myself, where have I heard that name before? Then I remembered, Concave? Huh? Concave? that's what Dad must have said — that must have been Kharkov.

My dad was in the hospital and things were not looking good. I felt this was the time for "the talk". By "the talk" I mean that I asked him to tell me his family history — there had never been an interest on my part before, so now was the time for the talk.

You can follow the story inside in my story called Dad.

It turns out that Kharkov is the second largest city in Ukraine, second only to Kiev. But around 1992, when I was talking to my Dad and writing the story, there was no Ukraine — Ukraine had been gobbled up into part of the USSR.

When I researched the ancestry of Dad's family, all references indicated that the family came from Russia. But later, after mistakenly trying to trace the Russian roots of the family, I discovered that back around the time Dad's family made the Fiddler on the Roof exodus to the USA, what was being called Russia was actually the Russian Empire.



The Russian Empire was pretty much like the USSR. It had gobbled up a number of surrounding counties, Ukraine being one. So until around the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, Ukraine didn't exist — at least I saw no reference to it.

Now Ukraine is back — but Russia isn't happy about it and is blasting the country to smithereens.

As I look into the history of Kharkov, I'm finding that it was a Brigadoon type of place. For a brief time in history, about a century or two, it was a Jewish haven. There were basically no Jews native to Russia and when they annexed Ukraine, they inherited thousands of Jews and didn't know what to do with them.

Their major move was to create a Pale, a political line such that Jews could only live within the Pale. Jews could not live or work beyond the Pale. But there was an exception.

Jews in the professions: doctors, lawyers, musicians, professors, etc. were allowed to live in Kharkov. Thus, Kharkov became a center of Jewish culture. There were even no pogroms in Kharkov.

But then came the Russian Revolution. Things changed and became difficult in all of Ukraine and noticeably more difficult in Kharkov. And so, the "Zagofsky" family, the spelling being much different as it was written in the Cyrillic alphabet, left for New York City.

Enough about Kharkov, let's go read my Dad story.

~ Al Zagofsky








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