Don’t blink in a cemetery

Eight months ago, I posted on a Russian forum for help to find my great-grandparents’ graves in southern Russia. I got several responses with photos of graves for random people carrying my family’s surnames.

I sighed when I got a message that a woman found my paternal great-grandparents’ grave this week. When I clicked on the link to the image, I was stunned. The woman really found the grave.

Back in November, she sent me a picture of another Ivanov family grave. Without knowing it, she missed my great-grandparents’ grave by a few steps then. She apparently went back to the cemetery and found their grave right next to the other Ivanov grave found in November.

Finding this grave is just a miracle. This doesn’t sound like a great feat unless you know all the factors that were against me.

First of all, my great-grandparents most likely died during World War II in a city that was choked by a violent Nazi-occupation and battle between the German and Soviet armies.

My grandfather, who died in 1971, was the last person who maintained the grave. To continue standing today after decades of neglect from lack of relatives to maintain the grave is a miracle.

The grave sits in a massive cemetery that  is estimated to have several thousand graves. When I posted on another Russian genealogy forum for help, several people told me it would be as easy as finding a needle in a haystack due to the cemetery’s size, vandalism and lack of maintenance.

I didn’t care what those people had to say. The miracles that have come through in the past four years have been stunning. I have learned that posting in the right forums gets the right results. Thankfully, someone directed me to a ВКонтакте group that has been documenting the cemetery.

My expectations were that there was a chance someone would care enough to look and find at least one grave. However, I never expected that to happen in less than a year.

My only disappointment in finding this grave is that my grandfather did not have his parents’ death years placed on their gravestone. The local registry office cannot find their death records. It would have been great to know how long they lived and whether they saw the Soviet Army end the Nazi occupation of their city.

Now, I wonder how much longer it will be when the last three family graves will be found. The graves of my other paternal great-grandparents and the stillborn brother of my father’s first cousin are still waiting to be found.

It was only six months ago since my grandfather’s grave was found in the newer cemetery on my birthday. That of course was thanks to another stranger on a forum for the city.

I can credit only one success to Facebook. Anyone who wants to repeat my success needs to get comfortable with using Google Translate to write in Ukrainian and Russian and find the Cyrillic language genealogy forums.

Success is awaiting for those who challenge themselves….