The Radov Chronicles

This is a history of the Radovs and a number of families related to them. Individuals are listed in the Family Members section. The history itself traces a small group of impoverished and observant Jews residing in Kiev and places nearby - Makarov, Ekaterinoslav or Yekaterinoslav, Fastov, and Berdychiv - their lives in Russia and their escape to America. In Russia, they were rabbis and bakers, factory workers and silversmiths, soldiers, livery owners, and workers on the railroad. During the pogroms, they were raped and tortured; under the Bolsheviks, they witnessed murder, terror and starvation.

The Radovs, and other family members, began leaving for America early in the 20th Century, but most were trapped by World War I and the Revolution. In 1922, in a complex and daring escape involving a railroad car secured by deception, bribes to boatmen to gain crossing on the Dnieper River, months awaiting visas in Bucharest, flight through central Europe and France, and a deal eventually struck by negotiations and mutual plotting between Joseph Radov (Zusie) and the United States Ambassador to Romania, Peter Augustus Jay, entry to America was secured and passage on the Olympic, the Titanic's sister ship, was booked.

Life in America was difficult. It involved bootlegging and garment piecework in sweat shops, running delis and scrap yards, delivering fruit on a horse-drawn wagon, selling shoes and schmata, and spending one's free time with family or in synagogue. It is, in short, the typical immigrant story of Ashkenazi Jews. The story of Russian Jews struggling to survive and succeeding in a way admirable, but hardly making them wealthy or famous, is what is told here.

That story is contained in one, very large .pdf document. You can preview it first, in the Table of Contents, the In Memoriam, the Family Members, Family Trees, and a lengthy Introduction to see if this is a story for you. Passing through the pages are fleeting encounters with a few of the famous - Leon Trotsky or Madeline Albright, for example - but that is not the essential story. Punctuating that story are encounters with many landmarks, often notorious, of the 20th Century: World War I and World War II, death camps, prisoner-of-war capture, the Russian Revolution and the Kiev Pogrom of 1919. More central are the lives of those in small Russian towns and villages now forgotten and a collection of tales of people who, at least at their best, were warm, colorful, generous, and often funny, and who made new lives in large cities in the United States, as well as small ones and those in between. Peddlers gave way to teachers, scrap dealers to investment bankers, artisans to entrepreneurs, shoe salesmen to lawyers. America. For travelers without family ties, the 27 attachments or endnotes can largely stand alone. They describe incidents of life on each side of the voyage - Russian synagogues and cemeteries, Kuzaris who provided one Radov bride, pogroms and Cossacks, Yiddish humor, the magical Jewish town of Berdychiv that only came alive ten times a year, but buried its dead in painted graves shaped like feet, the famous family deli, the Gaiety, that served as the backdrop for the Broadway musical Skyscraper, and a brief look at the Russian Ashkenazi world, with its theology, superstitions, customs, and ordinary life.

To see the full family history, please read the full Radov Chronicles, available in three sections: