The archivist, whom Natasha had found through her research, was on his way to for Kiev, which is why we met at the train station. We ate borscht at the outdoor cafe, while the archivist explained how he operated. Because the archives in this area had been scattered, when they were not destroyed by the war, finding the documents I was interested in–my grandparents’ marriage, my uncle’s birthplace–was a great deal more complicated than going to the National Archive in Moldova and looking for traces of the Kipnis family.
As Natasha translated the sums and probabilities of what this new research would mean, I stared in rude fascination at the archivist’s teeth, missing except for one gold one at the top, in the middle. Could I trust this man? Was it worth it? This conundrum is familiar to all root-seekers. How much money can you invest, and how much hope, in the quest? What would another document do for your story? How can you decide when to stop? I wrestled with this during the trip.