I didn’t know what to expect when I asked the Ukrainian Secret Service to check its archives for records on my maternal grandmother’s family. Would it be a good thing if records were found? Would it be wonderful if records didn’t exist?
My luck, of course, was records were not found. It was a disappointment at first but I also felt grateful that my grandmother’s family did not suffer from political persecution during a painful time in the communist era.
My grandparents told my mother that my family escaped war-torn Kiev in winter 1943 during the night. Only what was needed made it into suitcases. Thanks to my maternal grandmother’s German ancestry from her mother in current day eastern Poland, my family got permission to immigrate to Germany.
My family lived a quiet life in southern Germany. It wasn’t easy for my grandfather to live in the land of his torturers. My grandfather was a POW of the German army in a prison near Kiev and my grandmother walked for a long time every day to bring him food.
My grandfather talked his way out of that prison and got back to my grandmother and mother. My grandmother’s family found a way to escape bombed-out Kiev, which had little food and hope for those who waited for the war to end.
My grandmother probably wondered whether her father’s family suffered when she and several family members escaped Soviet Ukraine. Proof of persecution against her family doesn’t exist. Records from the secret service’s archives would have helped me find my grandmother’s paternal relatives.
I am grateful the records are not there. I am even more grateful for the professionalism and openness of Ukrainian Secret Service.
My request was acknowledged by e-mail less than 48 hours later. Then, 13 days later, I received a letter, stating archive records do not include my family.
The letter included information on a man carrying my grandmother’s maiden name who died as a POW of the Germans and addresses for Ukrainian and Russian military archives and Kursk Regional archives. The secret service just didn’t send me a cold one-paragraph letter that nothing was found.
Anyone who is curious about whether their family suffered from communist persecution should take action now. Requests are free and simple. I posted my proof of ancestry and identity records to a private Google Picasa album and sent secret service archives a link to the album.
I will make two more requests with the secret service archives. At any time politics of Ukraine could change the openness of these records. Timing is everything, especially when closure is desired on Ukraine’s painful political past.
Related website: Secret Service of Ukraine archives