Trochenbrod was a bustling commercial center of more than 5,000 people, all Jews, hidden deep in the forest in Northwest Ukraine. It thrived as a tiny Jewish kingdom unnoticed and unknown to most people, even though it was “the big city” for surrounding Ukrainian and Polish villages. The people of Trochenbrod vanished in the Holocaust, and soon nothing remained of this vibrant 130-year-old town but a mysterious double row of trees and bushes in a clearing in the forest.
In this new book, Avrom Bendavid-Val makes Trochenbrod’s true story accessible, enjoyable, and memorable for young readers. The Lost Town follows his adventures while uncovering the lost history of the magical place where his father was born and raised. An imagined Trochenbrod was the setting for Jonathan Safran Foer’s novel, Everything is Illuminated, and the movie by the same name.
Trochenbrod was different from all other towns in Europe because everyone who lived there was Jewish. And because it was hidden deep in the forest, this town of 5,000 people was almost unknown beyond the nearby Ukrainian and Polish villages. Government authorities paid little attention to Trochenbrod, and Jewish customs were the only ones that mattered. All of Trochenbrod observed Jewish holidays and celebrated Jewish festivals like one huge family. Children played in the yards and fields, chuckling, yelling in Yiddish, and running up and down Trochenbrod’s one long street in complete safety and freedom. At dinner time, the aroma of Jewish cooking filled every corner of the little town and wafted into the surrounding forest.
By the end of World War II, everything was gone. Everything—Trochenbrod’s houses, synagogues, shops, and public buildings, as well as its people—had been destroyed. All that remained was a double row of trees and bushes surrounded by a clearing where its farm fields had been.
Once I had pieced together Trochenbrod’s story, I knew I had to share it. I would rescue the memory of Trochenbrod, and in a way, bring Trochenbrod back to life. The Lost Town is the story of 130 years of highs and lows and finally the destruction of Trochenbrod and its people. It is about the will people have and the struggles they will endure to be free to live their lives as they believe they should.
Avrom Bendavid-Val was working as an environmental consultant in Poland in 1997 when he decided to cross the Ukrainian border and visit the place his father came from, the town of Trochenbrod. Finding nothing there, he was determined to uncover the history and spirit of the vanished town. Avrom continues to this day to research, write and make films about the town, and serve as the anchor for the American community of Trochenbrod descendants. Avrom Bendavid-Val lives in Washington, D.C.
Avrom Bendavid-Val will be awarding a $10 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.