I was brought up to think of my father’s family as Polish, even though he was born in what’s now Ukraine. He came to England during WW2 and was unable to visit his homeland during the Soviet occupation, so instead he drove us to Poland for family holidays. Letters and photographs would arrive from what my mother would call “Russia”, and my father’s sister even sent me a doll. At the time, being a small child, I didn’t appreciate how difficult that must have been for her.
As I grew older I began to pour over those old photographs and realised that my roots were more complex than I’d thought. It all became a puzzle, and I was determined to find out who these people were and if any of them were alive.
And I wanted to say thank you – to someone – for the doll.
Forthcoming book (out in 2020): On the Edge of a Young Country: Travel and Discovery in Western Ukraine.