Back when you would fling out an arm and jump into a taxi, I had the same experience, over and over. Drivers would ask me where I’m from. I always responded, “Chicago,” to which they added, “No, where are you from?” I knew what they are getting at – what was my ancestry, my ethnic origin. That is a complicated answer, especially for a cab ride, so I started answering, “I’m an Eastern European Mutt.”
For years, that response also served as the only real answer I had. My dad’s side was from “Russia” with maybe a place called “Mezbish” being more specific for his maternal side. My mom knew her mom was a “Litvak” from Kovna. Not a lot to go on. Now through research, perseverance and a bit of luck, I can say I am truly an Eastern European Mutt: present-day countries of Lithuania, Latvia, Belarus and Ukraine. Shtetls and cities as varied as Ariogala, Vidzy, Daugavpils, Sudylkiv, Novohrad-Volynskyy, Medzhybizh. DNA evidence of places even more far flung.
How may I help you answer the question, “Where are you from?”