I was always told to sit this way, turn that way, and smile until my grandpa got a photo. He was the man behind the camera and it wasn’t until after his death we discovered photos of him, and photos of his father, a man I had never seen nor heard about. The top left photo is the classic image of my grandpa, who spent his entire career in the Soviet Union at photography studios. The bottom left is a picture of him in 1933, around the time of his 5th birthday. The other three photos I never knew existed; the bottom-center is my grandpa with his father. The stories I’ve heard about my great-grandpa are very mixed: living altogether in the town of Bryansk prior to the war, he worked at a prison as a guard and when the prison was evacuated, he went missing or was killed. A “Missing in Action” notice was supposedly received by his wife, but there is the possibility of him sending a postcard dated after the notice. The top-right photo is of my great-grandfather and his brother in military uniform; a document we have suggests he was serving in the military when the Nazis occupied the town of Bryansk and he was killed in August, 1941. My grandpa himself was evacuated with his mom and brother prior to October, 1941 and they lived in Novosibirsk for the duration of the war where my grandpa finished school at 15 and worked on military equipment. Upon returning to Bryansk, he was able to go into photography through state-run organizations created to help youth develop certain skills.
– Nicole Litvitskiy