Finding helpful connections through Facebook

Everyone seems to be on Facebook these days, even some Russian city and town governments. Stalin must be rolling in his grave. Many Russians and Ukrainians have created pages for their communities so current and former residents can interact with each other.

My father’s birthplace in southern Russia has a page on Facebook. It has been a blessing for me.

About a year ago, I posted on the page for help with finding information on my family in the city. I won’t be able to visit the city for a long time. A woman answered my post and then passed me along to a friend who lives in the city. Crazy enough, the guy has the same first and last name as my grandfather who lived in the city.

The guy has been eager to help. I was curious whether my grandfather’s house still stands on the city’s main street. My grandfather was worried his house with a vineyard along the seaside would be demolished for an ugly communist-style apartment highrise. My contact from Facebook, Pavel, visited the address of my grandfather’s house. Naturally, the older Russian was probably startled why this younger guy was asking about his house.  The only thing the guy would tell Pavel is that he bought the house from my grandfather.

I sent a letter to my grandfather’s old address to see if anyone would answer my letter. The new owner never answered. My grandfather said in a letter to my father that he was required to take in a renter and make adjustments to the house so the man would have his own space. My grandfather suspected the guy worked for the communist government. I was surprised the man still lives there.

Pavel sent me a few pictures of my grandfather’s property from the street. I can only see the chimney and the roof in the photos. I don’t have photos of the house, but I have several photos of my grandfather’s vineyards that were his pride and joy. I hope some day I can visit this city and the owner will let me take a peek around the property.

My grandfather probably would not like how the gate to his home looks from the street. The bricks are crumbling and need some paint, but at least it looks very similar to how my grandfather left it.

Pavel tried to find my father’s childhood home, but he had no luck. He nor residents on the block could determine where 60A Greek Street was located. Still, Pavel took pictures of the nearby homes. He also found the shop where my grandmother’s brother worked during World War II. A granddaughter of my grandmother’s brother e-mailed me a photo of the shop from 1980s. The photo Pavel took and the photo my cousin e-mailed me looked identical, except for the newer looking cars parked on the street.

Most recently, Pavel visited a registry office for birth, marriage, divorce and death records. He delivered a letter that I had sent months ago but was never answered. The employee at the office gave Pavel excuses why she could not help, such as it would take months to fulfill my request and an audit would be done on their records soon. Hopefully, my brother will visit the city in a few years to charm the staff to help us.

Pavel has been wonderful with answering questions about the city. I was sad to learn the cemeteries are in terrible condition and graves that are not maintained are reused. It sounds horrible but that’s how cemeteries are managed in Poland, Germany and Ukraine. I was hoping Pavel could help me find my grandfather’s family graves so I can see pictures of them and know when he and his parents died.

I am so grateful to find a kind person who has helped me see my father’s city through photos. I really should try to research towns and cities of other relatives through Facebook. Maybe another friendly Russian like Pavel would be just as helpful in my journey to discovery my family’s stories.