High Crimes and Atrocities: Testimony

By Johannah Knudson / June 15, 2017 / 0 Comments
My Uncle Steve (Stefan) with his parents, Rosa and Moritz (my great grandarents), before the Holocaust

JUNE 15, 2017: As the nation investigates an elaborate corruption that has ties to its highest offices, the term testimony has been broadcast far and wide—in print, over wires and airwaves, and in countless individual conversations. A testimony is a story in one’s own words, a formal telling of one’s experience, a public account of an event or condition in order to clarify, illuminate, or prove its existence. A testimony roots broad events, currents, and conditions in utterances of a single human being, moments of recounting words, gestures, and impressions.   JUNE 1, 2017: I write this on Thursday, June 1,…


Me, the Kremlin, and the Fall of an Empire: Moscow, 1991

By Johannah Knudson / June 1, 2017 / 1 Comment

In the summer of 1991, I toured the Soviet Union with a group of “student ambassadors.” Just a few months later, that entity no longer existed. The U.S.S.R. had collapsed, splintered into 15 separate states. Student Ambassadors We crossed 11 time zones over four weeks, traveling by train, bus, and plane. We went as far east as Irkutsk, Siberia, north of the Mongolian Border, to Lake Baikal, the deepest lake on Earth. We traveled to Almaty, Kazakhstan and Tashkent, Uzbekistan, a country that borders Afghanistan. We visited Tallinn, Estonia, rerouted from Latvia, our original destination, due to political turmoil. We…


“I Am,” I Said: Thoughts on Borders and Refugees

By Johannah Knudson / May 15, 2017 / 0 Comments

Shifting Borders When I read about the history of Eastern Europe, I realize how changeable national boundaries and concepts of nation are. I live in a very young country, America, which nevertheless has been highly successful in forming a self-concept that seems essential and timeless. Its sense of surety likely is rooted in the concept of “Manifest Destiny,” which declared it God’s will for America to expand westward to the shore of the Pacific Ocean, while rationalizing the genocide of the indigenous people of this continent. The history of Eastern Europe shows that it’s often, in fact, nation-building efforts that undermine…


Any Other Name

By Johannah Knudson / May 8, 2017 / 4 Comments
My grandmother, my brother, and me

A Temporary Peace My grandmother was an immigrant from Eastern Europe. She was born in 1910 in the town of Svalava, which was part of the Kingdom of Hungary at the time but joined Czechoslovakia in 1920 by decree of the Treaty of Trianon, which ended WWI. Now, the town, with no remaining Jewish population, is within the boundaries of Ukraine. The area where my grandmother was born has been, and is currently, known by many different names, some of which reference geography, some of which reference culture, and some of which reference nationality. The terms Sub-Carpathian Ruthenia or Sub-Carpathian…


Across the Forest

By Johannah Knudson / May 1, 2017 / 0 Comments

In the region of Transylvania, in Eastern Europe, so many structures are painted one particular shade of blue that it is widely known as Transylvania blue.

My family, particularly my grandmother, her siblings, and her predecessors, come from areas within and neighboring what we know as Transylvania.



My Great Uncle Stefan
My Great Uncle Stefan