From the Archive

Document found in the National Moldovan Archives describing death of an infant whose father was Refuel Kipnis, from Tulchin (no mother’s name); Tulchin was 11 miles from Bratslav, where my grandfather was born. The baby boy who lived for only three days, and died, it says, of convulsions, may have been my father’s brother, and therefore, might have been my uncle.

The documents uncovered by my archivist, Alla Chastina, pointed to the presence of Kipnis family members in Kishinev; notably my great-grandfather’s cousin (who married twice, both times to a woman called Sarah) and his children, who emigrated (from Odessa) in the same years as my grandfather did from Kishinev. I kept hoping that Alla would find a more direct link to my grandparents, but invariably I had to be satisfied with this kind of approximate, asymptotic relation: always approaching the thing itself, but never the thing itself. Still, if what I wanted to know whether we–my father’s side of the family–were “from there”–in the end, I concluded that we were.

Had I only been a novelist and not an academic, I could have resolved the question.

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