Can trauma be inherited? It is this question that sets Alex Halberstadt off on a quest to name and acknowledge a legacy of family trauma, and to end a cycle of estrangement that had endured for nearly a century. His search takes him across the troubled, enigmatic land of his birth. In Ukraine he tracks down his paternal grandfather – most likely the last living bodyguard of Joseph Stalin – to reckon with the ways in which decades of Soviet totalitarianism shaped and fractured three generations of his family. He returns to Lithuania, his Jewish mother’s home, to revisit the legacy of the Holocaust and the pernicious anti-Semitism that remains largely unaccounted for, learning that the boundary between history and biography is often fragile and indistinct.