Zoë wanted to find out more about where her grandfather Maurice had come from. She travelled to his hometown, Nikolaev, in modern-day Ukraine, which had formerly been located within the Russian Pale of Settlement. In the Pale, Jewish people faced vocational and educational restrictions and persecution.
Journalist and translator Irina Sanul took Zoë to the municipal archive to see if they could find proof that Maurice was born in Nikolaev. Under communism, many synagogue records were removed or destroyed, but some were placed in local archives. Zoë was shown a book that featured a record of the birth and circumcision of Manus Batmakher (translated as Watmakher), later to become Maurice Wattenmaker, Zoë's grandfather. She also discovered that her great-great-grandfather's name was Moshka Batmakher.
Zoë visited the area where her grandfather and his family were most likely to have lived. In the vicinity of her ancestors' former family home, Zoë met a local expert, Irina Korsunskava, who described the poverty and persecution they would have faced.
Pogroms were random and often murderous attacks on Jewish communities. From 1903 a deadly wave of pogroms broke out in the Pale, with many attacks concentrated in the area around Nikolaev. Zoë discovered that in 1905, Nikolaev suffered its own pogrom. Two years later, Maurice's brother Nathan left for America. Three years after that, Maurice and the rest of his family left Russia for a new life in the United States.
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