The first time I visited the site of Trochenbrod was in 1997. I had been working in Warsaw, Poland, and realized that the the place where Trochenbrod had stood, where my father and grandfather had lived, was not far across the Ukrainian border to the southeast. I first went there, with my brother Marvin, in November of that year.

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Before reaching the site of Trochenbrod, we came to the nearby village of Yaromel. In the forest behind Yaromel were the mass graves of Jews  from Trochenbrod and neighboring Lozisht, who had been murdered by the Nazi killing squads and their helpers.

The first person we met in Yaromel was Mykhailo, who grew up there. He remembered the Holocaust well, and offered to lead us to the mass graves in the forest.

Later we went to find the site of Trochenbrod. We asked a village woman we saw working in the fields if she knew the way. Alex, our guide and interpreter, is the one pointing in this photo. My brother Marvin, filming, is obscured by the villager. The woman standing behind the villager, Evgenia, was born in Trochenbrod and now lives in the nearby city of Lutsk. She came with us to revisit the site of her home town.

At last we found our way to the small black monument at the edge of abandoned land near the forest. You can just barely make it out, as we did, in the upper right corner of the photo. This marked the northern end of Trochenbrod’s one long street.

I fell under Trochenbrod’s spell. I found myself researching books, documents, memoirs, and photographs, and traveling to several countries to interview people born in Trochenbrod who were still alive: some of them were Holocaust survivors. I returned again and again to Ukraine over the course of twelve years to interview villagers who remembered visiting Trochenbrod as children. In the photo above, I’m interviewing a villager with an interpreter, Anna, and and a cameraman, Jeremy. To the right is a photo of Trochenbrod birth records from 1918 that I uncovered in the State Archives in Lutsk.

I even hired this plane so I could see and photograph the clearing in the forest where the mysterious town of Trochenbrod had been hidden. In  the photograph below, the double row of trees marks what was once Trochenbrod’s street. Houses and shops were lined up along the street, and each family’s fields stretched from the back of their house about half a mile to the edge of the forest.