An unreal surprise on my birthday

Yesterday, I was crying tears of joy. I have wanted for years to see the grave of my paternal grandfather. My oldest brother visited my father’s hometown three years ago and wasn’t brave enough to find our grandfather’s grave.

I made contact with a town official there and he said he would look into information on the grave. The local archive manager told him there wasn’t any information on his burial. Before I asked him, a friendly guy from the same town said it would be really hard to find the grave.

I was about to give up but then decided last week to post for some help on a forum for the town. Two people responded with questions and I thought this is hopeless again.

No one was offering to help me look for his grave on the forum. Then a guy sent me a private message that he was visiting the cemetery this week.

Luckily, I had my grandfather’s death date from the local registry office. That date determines where my grandfather’s grave would be located in the cemetery.

So, yesterday I casually checked my private messages for the forum and the guy sent me a message. I was nervous but relieved to not see the Russian negative words нет and не.

But I still was thinking he could be sending me random pictures of the cemetery. What were the chances of finding my grandfather’s grave on my birthday?

I could not understand what the guy was writing so I used Google Translate. It is hard to explain the excitement when I realized he pinpointed my grandfather’s grave on a map and posted 10 photos of the grave onto Dropbox.

This year has been the year of NO, NO and NO. I kept my expectations of finding the grave low because I’ve heard that cemeteries in Russia are not maintained in the same way as in the USA.

So, I cried on my birthday because I could finally see my grandfather’s grave. I gave my youngest son his middle name after his great-grandfather. Now, my grandfather does not feel forgotten in some Russian cemetery.

Here is his grave stone:


I’m giving a translation as a free lesson in Russian gravestone reading: Ivanov Pavel Nikolaevich (patronymic name that states he is son of Nikolai), born December 5, 1885 (but he was really born on Dec. 15. Even gravestones have the wrong information. I know this as a fact because my father bragged he shared his birthday with his father) and died December 2, 1971. The г. in the gravestone means year.


Here is the overgrown mess that surrounds my grandfather’s grave. Anyone who finds their relatives’ graves in Russia surrounded by beautiful flowers and nicely cut grass is lucky. This is the reality of cemeteries in Russia.






22 thoughts on “An unreal surprise on my birthday

  1. Janis

    great news – congratulations – not just for getting the photos but for not giving up – very happy for you – happy birthday


  2. Anna Dimakopoulou

    Congratulations! It is important to account for everyone in our families.
    This inspires me to carry on searching for my aunt Zofia Hendel lost in Wrewskoje /now Olmazor Uzbekhistan in 1942.
    Happy Birthday indeed – your gift came in the post!


    1. Hi Anna, I found 11 people on a Russian Facebook with that name in Uzbekistan-Гендель&st.mmode=Artist&st.mode=Users&st.grmode=Groups&st.posted=set& Maybe you should signed up for odnoklassniki. Use Google Translate to read the site in English.

      Here’s a post that will inspire you again-

      Good luck!


  3. Tatiana

    Hello, the dates are likely to be correct. Russians used a different calendar prior to 1918 called a Julian calendar and that would explain the difference in number of days. Congratulations ! Very exciting


  4. beanerhead

    How wonderful! It is so interesting how the dates are listed on the headstone. Happy Birthday and wishes for many more finds!


  5. nancyhvest

    How wonderful! I stumbled onto my gr-gr-gr grandparents’ graves last summer. I know what you mean about your grandfather not feeling forgotten and lost anymore.


      1. nancyhvest

        I am thankful that my ancestors have been in the US for centuries, especially when I read personal accounts like yours. Glad you found a helpful person to help you with this particular search.


  6. Inna Saporoschetz

    Happy Birthday and many more . Nothing better than for you wishes to happen on your day .Keep positive and never loose hope . The difference in the calendar days is 13 days , that is why Russia Orthodox Christmas is celebrated on Jan 7 .


  7. Irene Stojko

    What a great birthday present! Thanks for sharing your story, as it gives hope to everyone still researching their ancestors.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.