Into The Nothing

Trochenbrod (Trachimbrod, Sofiyovka) was an all-Jewish town that was completely wiped out. Not a single stone has been preserved from a place with formerly 6,000 residents. Nevertheless Trochenbrod has a unique afterlife – the place became famous through Jonathan Safran Foer’s novel “Everything Is Illuminated” and the film adaptation by the same title. Like many others, I thought Trochenbrod was fiction. But Trochenbrod existed.

Together with Renata and Vasyl I have been to Trochenbrod today – Vasyl, the driver who despite all difficulties with roads and paths kept his sense of humor, and Renata, who has helped me already on other occasions.

My friend Alex had warned me before of the condition of the road to Lutsk and he was right. Soon after Lviv pothole is after pothole. Vasyl needed to slow down the car to 30 kilometers per hour and the 110 kilometers to Lutsk took us 3 hours. Shortly before Lutsk conditions improved, we now made rapid progress until we had to leave the main road. We passes through two very picturesque little villages – Yaromel and Domashiv – then we finaly had to leave the paved road. The path was barely visible in the snow, Vasyl bravely attempted to pass a bump, and then the car stuck in the mud.

It took us about an hour to get the car out and decided to walk the last 2 kilometer. The path went on through a snow-white winter forest. We saw traces from animals in the snow. Around us was complete silence. Then we were in Trochenbrod.

Two memorials commemorate the town that was once. One is from the Soviet era and speaks of “Soviet citizens of Jewish nationality” who were murdered here. The second seems to be more contemporary and marks the mass grave where most people of Trochenbrod were shot.

A dirt road that leads along a power line and a water channel is the last echo of Trochenbrod. It is the former main street of the town. Nothing is left, not even ruins. We walked along the road. It was getting colder. The sun began to sink. Not even birds could be heard. It was time to leave.

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15 thoughts on “Into The Nothing

  1. Christian, I am one of the descendants of Trochenbrod. The smallest commemorative marker in your photo was raised by a small group of us who visited there in late July 2012. There is much information on the town if you are interested including a book by Avrom Bendavid-Val titled “The Heavens are Empty.” There is also a documentary about Trochenbrod called “Lost Town” that may be of interest. It just came out on DVD last week. Also, since you are currently in the area, you may want to visit the State Archives of Volyn Region in Lutsk. I curated a large photo archive that is part of the permanent collection there. You will find many photos of life in Trochenbrod and Lutsk before and during the Holocaust with information about the town and the people who lived and died there. Please feel free to write for further information. Kind regards, Andrea

    • Thank you so much for your comment, Andrea! The book of Avrom Bendavid-Val is of course well known to me and I observed the publication of the documentary. The book is a wonderful source of knowledge! I took it with me while travelling here. And I will order the DVD after my return home. I’m not sure what I will be able to do tomorrow. I feel like I scratched a surface of history that will need further deepening. Thank you again!

      • Another question: My husband, whose father, Abraham Slivko, was from Trochenbrod-Lozisht and his mother, Genia Chirger Slivko, would like to find any remaining records (birth, death, property, marriage) that might be available. Is there a way for us (or someone we hire) to search for these records?

  2. You are so welcome Christian! I am working on the Trochenbrod archive as a long term project. The photos I collected are from descendants around the world as well as Yad Vashem in Israel and the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC. If you do have time tomorrow to go to the State Archives, please let the director, Mr. Volodymyr Hyka, know that I recommend you to visit and send my warmest regards. It was he who I worked with to make a place for the archive and I think you would enjoy meeting him. If you don’t have time, then you will find a portion of the photo archive on the “Lost Town” DVD. I am so happy that you made the journey to Trochenbrod. Thank you for sharing them with us. I took some time and looked at the other photos on your blog and they are works of art. I am very happy that you are documenting this Vanished World as you call it. I would like to learn more about it too. Wishing you all the best on your project and your journey. Safe travels, Andrea

  3. Christian:
    Thanks so much for sharing all this and Andrea, too, for her very interesting contribution. It certainly adds another dimension to the tragedyy that was portrayed in “Everything is Illuminated.”
    Best regards and safe travel.
    Simon

  4. Pingback: Return to Trochenbrod | Vanished World

  5. Christian, thanks so much for the blog and information, and also Andrea, I am from argentina, I guess as many others got in touch with all of these through the film ¨everything´s illuminated¨. I am now travelling throughout Russia, trying to find and facing my personal and family history (my grandparents were partisans from belarus) and really want to get to the memorial in trochembrod, for me it is also important as a jew, and as a lawyer I am working on genocides and human rights issues. Still, I am 33 years old, travelling alone, and know almost nothing of russian and even less ukranian language, maybe you can give me some advice on how to get there, I guess there is no public transport reaching the place, so if you know people from the town or a tourist agency you think can help me I would very much apprecciate your advice, kind regards, Luciana Milberg

  6. Hey! I am planning on visiting L’viv next summer and was interesting in taking a day trip to see where Trochenbrod would have been. With your driver, how did you ask to go there? are there coordinates or would locals know where it is? just curious on how to actually get there! Thank you

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