When I was little I’d badger my grandparents for stories about growing up in Russia. My grandparents tried to honor every request I made of them but they refused to talk to me about their early years in the town of Berdichev. Or their journey from Russia to America.

After I grew up I still ached to know about my roots. My grandparents, who had passed away, could no longer tell me their stories. But my grandfather’s baby sister, Lucy, was able and willing to talk to me about her own childhood.

Letters From Rifka is largely inspired by my great aunt’s early experiences.

The next time you are visiting with the elders in your family try to get them to tell tales about their childhood. I’m willing to bet you have more than a few treasures growing on your own family tree.