During the turbulent post-war period, in the 1940s-50s, criminal gangs terrorized the city of Kharkiv in east Ukraine. One story, involving a particularly ruthless gang leader and a chief prosecutor who opposed him, became a city legend that incited imaginations for years afterwards. With time, however, this part of Kharkiv’s urban folklore faded away.
In her effort to unearth and re-narrate this high-profile criminal case, Tanya Zaharchenko, the prosecutor’s great-granddaughter, is piecing together archival documentation, interviews with contemporaries, and surviving records of court proceedings. Her academic focus has centered on cultural memory studies—how traumatic historical events are remembered by groups of people. But what happens when a scholar of memory faces her own family history?
Tanya Zaharchenko, the 2015 Albert Einstein Fellow, holds a PhD in Slavonic Studies from the University of Cambridge (2014), an MSc in Russian & East European Studies from the University of Oxford (2007) and a dual BA from Bard College. Her monograph Where Currents Meet: Frontiers of Memory in Post-Soviet Fiction of Kharkiv, Ukraine is forthcoming from Central European University Press (2016).
Katharina Raabe is the Eastern Europe editor at Suhrkamp publishers. In 2015 she was awarded the prestigious Deutscher Sprachpreis (German Language Prize) for making East European literary voices heard in Germany, thereby enriching the German language.