B is for beginning. And Ephraim’s birth… in Bobruisk, 1829. It’s way over near Minsk, but when he was three the Epstein family moved west to Brest-Litovsk (lower tip of darkest area on the map). Was that because of a tightening up on where Czar Nicholas I said Jews could live? (See the Pale of Settlement, red border on map.)
In Brisk (its nickname) Ephraim grew up in a lovely big yellow house with gardens, and his father had a successful brick factory. But this became a mixed blessing; in the mid 1830s the Czar ordered construction of a massive brick fortress in the city, demolishing the old Jewish quarter. Good for the brick business, but hard on the Epsteins and all the community who had to move to a new-built, less gracious area. Even the cemetery had to be moved.
Belarus, Lithuania, Poland, Hungary, Austria, Germany, Ukraine, Russia… for centuries the borders have been shifting… and still are.