Shot On The Spot – 1999

Shot on the Spot ©1999
Sculpted altered book, photomontage and mixed media
Size: 11″ x 8 1/2″ x 2 1/2″

Terry Braunstein’s maiden name, Malikin, is not a common one. In fact, since she and her brother had never run across any other Malikins, they were convinced that the customs official that welcomed their grandfather, Morris, into America had misunderstood the pronunciation of his surname and had written it down incorrectly.

However, when Braunstein’s niece went on the internet in 1994 to see what she could find under her last name (Malikin), she got back a response from an organization that called itself “Schtetl-links”. Its contents startled the entire family. The document she received listed people from a small town in Russia, who had been rounded up, taken out into the countryside, and shot by the Nazis. There, on the list, three separate times, was the name “Malikin”. The family had always suspected that something horrible had happened to their grandfather’s family. He, and one of his siblings, had escaped to the United States when pogroms in Russia were regular occurrences. These were times when Russian Cossacks would ride through the tiny Jewish schtetls, where they lived, and kill anyone in their way. He had left for the U.S. when drafted into the Russian army, at a time when every young Jewish male that was conscripted was sent to the front-line, and never seen again. World War II came next, with the Nazis shooting their way across the Russian Pale, killing whatever Jews happened to remain.

Still, they were not prepared for these notes, this list, and their name, three times. They were not prepared for the numbers in each family, and the ages of each person. Braunstein suddenly saw her great-grandfather and great-grandmother, her great-aunts and uncles, and all her Malikin cousins. It was two years later, when she visited Ellis Island, and photographed a tailor shop, not that different from her grandfather’s in the Bronx, that she saw the book Shot on the Spot, come together in her mind — her grandfather’s journey from his schtetl to America, juxtaposed with the horrors he had left behind.