The Heavens Are Empty
Discovering the Lost Town of Trochenbrod
Publication Date: October 2010
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Trochenbrod was the only freestanding, fully realized Jewish town in history. It began with a few Jewish settlers searching for freedom from the Russian Czars' oppressive policies, which included the forced conscriptions of one son from each Jewish family household throughout Russia. At first, Trochenbrod was just a tiny row of houses built on empty marshland in the middle of the Radziwill Forest, yet for the next 130 years it thrived, becoming a bustling marketplace where people from all over the Ukraine and Poland came to do business. But this scene of ethnic harmony was soon shattered, as Trochenbrod vanished in 1941 her residents slaughtered, her homes, buildings, and factories razed to the ground. Yet even the Nazis could not destroy the spirit of Trochenbrod, which has lived on in stories and legends about a little piece of heaven, hidden deep in the forest Bendavid-Val, himself a descendant of Trochenbrod, masterfully preserves and fosters the memory of this city, celebrating the vibrant lives of her people and her culture, proving true the words of one of Trochenbrod's greatest poets, Yisrael Beider: I beg you hold fast to these words of mine. After this darkness a light will shine.
About the AuthorAvrom Bendavid-Val's father grew up in Trochenbrod and regaled him with tales of his childhood there. Avrom specialized in economic development and has traveled the world with the U.S. Economic Development Administration and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). He retired in 2007 and lives in Washington, DC.
JONATHAN SAFRAN FOER is the author of the novels Everything is Illuminated and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, and a work of nonfiction, Eating Animals. His books have won numerous awards and have been translated into 36 languages. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.