This map plots the settings and references in The History of Love

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A ruined Slonim synagogue
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeA ruined Slonim synagogue - Credit: Unomano/Wikimedia Commons

Leo grew up in Slonim, a place that was "sometimes Poland and sometimes Russia”. Now a city located in northwestern Belarus, Slonim fell into the hands of the Soviet Union and then Germany during World War II.

The German advance on Slonim in 1941 must have been terrifying for its inhabitants. Unspeakable atrocities followed, with 9,000 Jews massacred in a single Nazi operation on 14 November, 1941.

After the war, the Allies agreed to hand Slonim back to the Soviet Union; following the dissolution of the USSR in 1991, it became part of the independent state of Belarus.

Polish forest
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikePolish forest - Credit: Omega933/Wikimedia Commons

In The History of Love, Leo survives World War II by hiding in the woods for two years and making himself "invisible".

Immediately after the War, Leo spends a further six months in a Displaced Persons Camp. These were temporary facilities set up across Europe to house refugee Jews, often on the sites of former Nazi concentration camps.