Maria Tumarkin was born in 1974 in the former Soviet Union in a Russian Jewish family, which settled in Kharkiv - the second largest city in Ukraine. From the age of seven, she attended a literary club at the Palace of Pioneers, acquiring a habit of judging people solely by the number of books they had read. In 1989, at the time of Gorbachev's reforms, a large number of Soviet Jews were able to leave their country, and Maria's family immigrated to Australia. In 1992, less than two years after arriving in Australia, Maria bluffed her way into a Melbourne Journalism course. She was 17, could barely speak English and did not even finish Year 11. She said she was 23, avoided all questions about schooling, looked determined and, miraculously, got in. A few years later she enrolled at the University of Melbourne to study history and cultural studies and ended up completing an interdisciplinary Ph.D thesis on sites of trauma. Her work on trauma and lived geography has since been published in major academic and popular journals and presented on radio and at international conferences.