Nadia Ragozhina | Family History

Author Researches Moving Jewish Family Memoir

"The SilverWood team is professional and efficient in helping you become an author. I was able to concentrate on the editorial for the content of the book, without having to worry about all the technical detail of the publishing process. Now it’s published, I feel great. The cover looks great, and I’m very pleased with the end result."
Nadia Ragozhina | Author

Author profile

Nadia Ragozhina is a senior journalist at BBC News. After more than 20 years in TV and radio, she recently switched to Digital and now edits the Live Page. She has also worked for BBC World Service Radio and France 24 in Paris. While growing up in Moscow, Nadia recalls that her grandmother Anna had the most amazing folder of family photographs from the 1930s. Nadia was fascinated to hear of her grandmother’s cousins, but there was an aura of great mystery surrounding them. Having lived through the world war and repression in Soviet-Russia, Nadia’s grandmother was very careful about what she could say, but also she didn’t know very much about them.

Nevertheless, Nadia found herself trying to imagine her great-grandfather, Marcus, and his brother, Adolphe. The two brothers grew up in Warsaw, but both left at the turn of the twentieth century to escape poverty and the uncertainty of being Jewish in Russian Poland. Adolphe left for Switzerland to join his wife’s sister, while Marcus moved east to Moscow, after enlisting in the Russian Imperial Army and surviving the First World War. The two brothers never saw each other again.

Their descendants may never have met either, if it weren’t for Nadia’s interest in the family history. By the year 2000, Marcus’ granddaughter, Elena, had moved westwards with her husband and their two daughters, Nadia and Katya, to live in London. Encouraged by her mother, Nadia was curious to find out whether her grandmother’s cousins, Eva and Eugenia, had any remaining descendants or relatives in Switzerland. Nadia says, "The two branches of the family hadn’t been in touch for over sixty years, so it was quite astonishing that it only took us about an hour on the internet to find them."

Challenge: Backing up her family stories with research

Exploring their genealogy led them to a celebratory family reunion in Geneva in 2010, where Nadia’s grandmother Anna met her cousin Genia - Adolphe’s younger daughter - and the rest of her family for the first time. Nadia says, "It was the most amazing experience. My grandmother was 86 at the time and she met her cousin, who was 97 by then. It was a very emotional experience and they had to speak German together because it was the only common language between them."

While there, Nadia tentatively began to interview her family because she could see they had lived through the most extraordinary events in history and she was keen to hear the missing pieces from the life stories of her great-grandfather, Marcus and his brother. Once she began to investigate, her research spanned the museums and town archives in Belgium, Russia and Switzerland, culminating in writing her book: Worlds Apart, published in November 2020 by SilverWood Books. The book is a very moving family memoir, bringing the six female lead characters to life across over a century of European and Russian history.

Positive feedback from literary agents

As the manuscript came together, Nadia began to explore her options for publishing the work. "I did try to find a mainstream traditional publisher first, so I spent quite a lot of time chasing that. The feedback I was getting was really positive; the agents were saying it was promising and well-written, but they weren’t sure there was a big enough audience. What I didn’t understand until afterwards, was that many aspiring authors don’t even get replies from agents!"

Next she considered self-publishing. However, Nadia recognised that a lot of work would go into publishing a high quality book and didn’t want to do it all herself, with a full-time job and two children by then. "I wanted the book to look as professional as it could. A friend of mine told me about SilverWood, and by then I had put so much time into writing it, I really wanted to see it published. In February 2020 I went to Bristol to meet SilverWood, who were very complimentary and interested in the book and said it was the right calibre for publishing. I had a really good chat with Helen and met some of the team. I had also looked at some of the other books SilverWood published and was happy. There aren’t many companies that offer what SilverWood does; it’s clear that there is a standard and it’s professional."

Finalising the manuscript ready for publishing

Nadia’s last trip to Grenchen was in February 2020 just before she met SilverWood, adding more family facts and photographs into the book. She says, "Once signed up, I knew it was very important to go through the editing and proofread to ensure there were no mistakes and that part of the process was somewhat stressful. You spend so much time, fixing things, adding things and then suddenly you have to let go. I was warned by Helen that it can be a traumatic process, letting it go and being sure that it’s definitely finished."

When she saw the first design proof from SilverWood for the book cover, Nadia was very impressed. She recalls, "The questionnaire for the cover design was really helpful and the first idea for the design was great. When I saw it, I knew that would be it, with just a few tweaks."

A family reunited

One of the best outcomes for Nadia is that her wider family is reunited and she is in touch with her cousins. However, she’s also achieved some hugely positive publicity since her book launch in November 2020. Given that hers is a pivotal story for the Jewish community, it’s great to see Nadia was featured by Haaretz and she has written a guest article for The Jewish Chronicle. She has also given several online talks and landed a double-page spread review by her local newspaper, The Camden New Journal.

If you would like to find out more, Nadia can be contacted via her website and her book, Worlds Apart, is available to buy on our website by clicking on the book image below. There is now a French translation available from Amazon in paperback and ebook here.

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Worlds Apart

Worlds Apart

Nadia Ragozhina



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