By Celina Colby

Rachael Cerrotti’s storytelling journey began with having conversations with her grandmother, Hana Dubova, a Holocaust survivor. After more than a decade of researching, experiencing, and living in that family history, Cerrotti has published “We Share the Same Sky: A Memoir of Memory & Migration.” The book joins her podcast of the same name and a portfolio of documentary photographs preserving her grandmother’s story.

“I started this project as a photojournalism project, documentary photography, back when I was twenty years old,” says Cerrotti. After her grandmother passed, Cerrotti discovered a rich archive of primary source materials about her life, photographs, letters, diaries, and civic documents. “I ended up adopting all of it and taking on the role of unofficial family historian.”

A few years later, the author flew to Europe, planning to spend a year abroad delving into her grandmother’s life and documenting the experience in photographs. When she returned, she would write a book. Little did she know that trip was just the beginning.

A breakthrough moment in Cerrotti’s creative process came when the Shoah Foundation reached out to her about the project. The nonprofit organization recorded tens of thousands of interviews with Holocaust survivors, now used as educational resources. It turns out Dubova was one of them. Cerrotti now not only had written documents about her grandmother’s life, but she also had four and a half hours of video and audio footage as well. From here, the “We Share the Same Sky” podcast was born.

“We Share the Same Sky” has evolved not only into a personal emotional journey for Cerrotti but an essential educational resource about the Jewish experience. Each episode was made with accompanying educational curricula when she developed the podcast. The podcast is used in schools all over the nation to teach students about the Holocaust and Jewish life. Cerrotti has worked with many universities and Jewish communities in Brookline and Boston to bring educational resources into their classrooms. She hopes to work with Brookline Public Schools in the same way.

Cerrotti grew up in Boston and Brookline and attended Brookline High School. It was there that her passion for photography was initially sparked. Brookline Booksmith hosted the virtual launch of “We Share the Same Sky,” and Cerrotti spotted many of her Brookline High teachers in the audience. Dubova didn’t live nearby, and growing up, Cerrotti couldn’t see her very often. Now she’s making up for the lost time.

“To have someone’s inner thoughts from the time they were fourteen and then to hear them reflect upon those memories when they were 75, you really get a special relationship with memory and our own personal stories,” says Cerrotti. “I am closer to my grandmother now than I ever was before.”

During her years traveling abroad to research for the podcast and the book, Cerrotti picked up on the threads of her grandmother’s life generations later. She stayed in Denmark with the granddaughter of the woman who took Dubova in as a refugee during the war. She spent time in the Czech Republic learning what it’s like to live as a Jewish person in a post-Soviet society. She lived for years in the tiny details of her grandmother’s life, walking the same paths, riding the same trains, all while reading the words in her’s diaries.

This experience has changed Cerrotti profoundly. She hopes both the “We Share the Same Sky” podcast and book have a similar effect on the readers and listeners.

“I think we can all be a little more gentle with each other in terms of how we tell our own stories and how we interpret the stories of others,” says Cerrotti. “I hope this book can be a reminder of how connected and how interconnected strangers are.”