Finding Family Roots – An “Once In A Lifetime” Adventure…..
Unfortunately I know little about my family background. The only official family document from my Mothers side is a Great Aunt’s (Grandfathers Sister) birth certificate.
The first time I visited Ukraine I brought a copy of that birth certificate but soon realized after talking with a few Ukrainians that finding family root information is a difficult process, I tried but came home with no information,
When I recently travelled to Romania with a group of passengers I tried again to gather information with no success.
The day before I left on this current journey to Ukraine, Mom reminded me to bring the birth certificate along.
In conversation with Taras, our local guide I told him about the birth certificate and he offered to examined it. He understood some of the writing but he thought our city tour guide in Chernovtsy could possibly provide more insight.
She joined us for lunch and then asked me if she could examine the birth certificate. She also showed it to the front of house staff in the restaurant, A chef eventually appeared from the kitchen and she was the key because after she looked at it, voices sounded excited and I saw big smiles – they figured out the location of the village listed on the birth certificate. I was surprised to learn that it was just a 30 minutes drive from our Chernovtsy Hotel.
We then continued touring (was an excellent day) and at 330pm we had some free time to do as we wished before dinner.
I realized this was my opportunity to “possibly” visit the village I just learned about so I asked Taras if it might be possible for me to hire a driver to take me there, I wanted to take a few village pictures so I could share them with my family at home. He said he knew a driver that might be available and within 5 minutes that driver was on his way to pick me up.
Everything was happening so quickly!
My driver was a young, very professional man – who holds a University Major in English. He drives a KIA which cost him $5000 Canadian and it currently has over 100000 km on it. The car was spotless inside and out.
Very unusual for this time of year, fog was thick as we started out, The fogs erie look added to the adventure. He knew the village we were in search of as he often drives by it when visiting his mother-in-law.
The road sign announcing the village was faded – I feel its look added to the mystery.
I would consider this village that consists of 600 homes to be poor but my driver explained that its location close to the city increases the property values. Old and new homes are next to one another and line both sides of bad shape road. The towns terrain is very hilly.
We stopped at the Orthodox Church. It’s the most beautiful one I’ve seen during this journey. There were a few graves of priests marked with large blue crosses. My driver explained that years ago Blue and Green were the most popular paint colours as they were the most inexpensive colours to buy.
There homeowners dig wells so they have a water supply and some villagers still use out-houses,
Wealthier homeowners often build their own chapels,
It was getting dark and I noticed that no lights were on in most of the town homes (cost saver).
Eventually we came across a middle age lady who was opening the gate of her home. My driver stopped his vehicle and started a conversation with her. Since they were conversing in Ukrainian the only word I understood was “Canada” and once she heard the word she peered in the car so she could look at me. Unfortunately she had no family information to share.
My driver then continued down the village road and came across 2 gentleman, He started a conversation with them and within a minute he told me to get out of the car in order to meet them, Once again I heard the word “Canada” in their conversation.
The man went into his house to grab a cellular phone. He started calling a number of town folk – I kept hearing the word “Canada” during the conversations,
I could tell by the tone of his voice that he wasn’t getting any answers so he suggested that we visit the village “old-timer” to see if he had any information to share, We walked to the gate of his home but heard a vicious sounding dog, Then all the neighbour dogs started barking. He started speaking in a loud voice in hope the homeowner would hear. There were three small homes on this very small parcel of land. A lady came out of one of the houses to see what we wanted.
The “Canada” conversation started again and she left to chat with her Dad. She came out of his house shortly after and invited us in.
The interior of his home was like entering a time warp. I don’t think he is in good health – he spoke with a weak voice. His tiny home consists of one very small room. The walls are lined with religious figure blankets. His double size bed fills most of the space. He was sitting at a small desk watching television when we entered,
The conversation continued. My driver often turned to me to say that the old-timer was trying to recall memories of my family members but I could tell he wasn’t going to be any help,
A telephone call suddenly came in when that conversation started faces lit up – my driver told me that the person calling located my “relatives” so we jumped in the car and my driver drove to meet them, I misunderstood and thought we were heading to the next village but we travelled just a short distance down the road to find a family of four waiting outside to greet me – husband age 40/wife/2 children.
Their facial expressions looked like they just saw a ghost – ME. The gentleman held his cheeks in surprise that their “long lost relative” had arrived from Canada. I was welcomed into their home and was told that originally this was my “relatives” home but since then it has been renovated inside and out, He explained that the homes large green wood stove that was manufactured in Austria is the same one my “relatives” used to heat the house.
His Mother and Father soon arrived from a neighbouring village. They kindly greeted me with hugs and offered me food, homemade donuts, beverages.,,,
In conversation they kept referring to my Grandfather but my Grandfather was born in Canada so “possibly” they mean’t my Great Grandfather? They claim they are the only family with the same surname as my Grandfather that has ever lived in that village.
Could this family possibly be relatives? I plan on doing some more research in co-operation with Ukrainians who specialize in this – they can search church records and visit with locals and the town mayor who is usually willing to help out.
No amount of money could buy this amazing experience. After I returned to our overnight hotel my passengers were anxious to hear how I made out. They are so excited for me,
This “family” story continues to be an ongoing saga but I feel that I’m much closer to finding the details I am looking for – so the adventure continues – stay tuned,,,