I was taken aback when a woman posted on a Ukrainian genealogy Facebook page that the Secret Service of Ukraine has opened its communist-era archives.
The files are open on Ukrainians who were investigated for “crimes” or other “suspicious activities”. Back in the Soviet era, talking to a foreigner in the street was suspicious.
“We are always happy to answer and queries to provide comprehensive information and useful advice on finding information about people who are trapped in the crucible of the Soviet repressive system security. After all, the basic principle of the archive is to share their treasures with the previous approval of the historical truth for the sake of a better future.”
I know it is 2015, almost 24 years since the Iron Curtain fell, but I thought Ukraine would need more time to open these records.
So I immediately scanned family documents on my Trunov family from Kiev to prove my ancestry.
Those documents included my grandmother’s official birth record, an EWZ record (German citizenship records for those who lived abroad and wanted to live in Germany during WWII) that shows my great-grandparents’ and their children’s names and birth dates, my great-grandmother’s German identification papers and my U.S. passport.
To make sending these documents secure online, I posted the images to an album on Picasa and e-mailed an invitation from Picasa to view the records to the SSU.
Then my e-mail message translated into Russian included my gratitude for the records being open and thankfulness for any information that could be provided. I included everything I knew about my Trunov family in Kiev and my postal address to show my request was not casual and lacked thoroughness.
My decision to move quickly on contacting SSU is based on my fear that restrictions could come any day such as complete proof of ancestry, limits on searches only of direct ancestors or requirement of using professional researchers to complete the searches. A future change in administration at SSU could easily make this process more complicated.
When I pressed the send button from my Russian e-mail account, I wondered how long would it take to receive a response. To my surprise, I got a response in 48 hours that my request was accepted and would be answered in the legally required time period.
I nervously await the response from SSU. The secret service archives could have records to answer so many questions for my family. Nothing also could be found but I cannot turn down or take an invitation to search these secret files casually.