This picture was taken in 1941 in Zhytomyr, Ukraine. German soldiers are surrounding Jews in the Market Square, and we all know what happened after that.
My family left Zhytomyr decades earlier. I never thought about that place much, never visited, never felt like I had to. It was the Old Country, not My Country. It’s not like I have any relatives there now or any other reason to worry.
But I can’t shake the strange quiver in my chest. I can’t block out the memories of my grandma’s bland chicken soup, or her and my mom’s Yiddish conversations about Ukrainian relatives I didn’t know and would never meet.
I hadn’t thought about Zhytomyr for years, and now I can’t stop thinking about it because my sister texted me today and said that Zhytomyr was just bombed by the Russians. Again there will be soldiers in the Square, and there will be new pictures, in color this time but materially not much different.
Zhytomyr is just one of dozens of cities being bombed, its people among millions of others who will be put under occupation. I shouldn’t give it a second thought. But you don’t have to live somewhere to call it home.