Once upon a time there was a shtetl named Trochenbrod. In its heyday, Trochenbrod, which is located in Western Ukraine just 30 kilometers northeast of the city of Lutsk, was home to approximately 5,000 Jews, with seven synagogues, and a rich farming culture. In typically frank Yiddish fashion, Trochenbrod means “bread without butter.”
And then one day, Trochenbrod was wiped off the map. In 1942, the Nazis liquidated the shtetl, murdering all but 200 of its inhabitants.
Today, Trochenbrod isn’t an easy find. It is so elusive, in fact, that Jonathan Safran Foer fictionalized his own journey to Trochenbrod in his debut novel Everything Is Illuminated.
Now author Avrom Bendavid-Val is exploring the place, too—only this time there’s nothing fictional about it.
Lost Town, a haunting new documentary, follows Bendavid-Val, whose late father emigrated from Trochenbrod years before the Holocaust, on his voyage to track down his ancestral homeland. On the heels of his 2010 book on the same subject, the film is a poignant journey into the past, bringing Bendavid-Val into contact not only with survivors of the shtetl, but with his own personal history as well.