Cab drivers like to ask me where I’m from. I always respond, “Chicago.” Then they say, “No, where are you from?” I know what they are getting at – what is my ancestry, my ethnic origin. And 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 truly am an Eastern European Mutt: present-day countries of Lithuania, Latvia, Belarus and Ukraine. Shtetls and cities as varied as Ariogala, Vidzy, Daugavpils, Sudilkov, Novohrad-Volynskyy, Medzhybizh. DNA evidence of places even more far flung.
How may I help you answer the question, “Where are you from?”