Broken promise will not be forgotten

Six years ago, I promised my newly found Ukrainian cousins that I would visit them. My cousins, nieces and nephews of my grandfather, wrote they would be excited to have us visit.

The time passed and got closer to when I promised to visit. Ticket prices were perfect but arrangements for care of my two kids needed to be smoother while I was gone for a week.

Hoping things would be easier to arrange in the next three summers, I wasn’t worried the trip to Kiev wouldn’t happen eventually. Then the ticket prices sky rocked and the fighting between Russia and Ukraine added a scenario never imagined.

Today, I am filled with regret when I learned the cousin who gave me so much information over the years died. She was a young 65 years old.

I wanted so bad to thank her in person for helping my family to learn about the relatives my family left behind in a nighttime WWII escape of Soviet Ukraine.

She is one of two regrets from my search of my maternal grandfather’s family. The other regret was the death of my grandfather’s nephew, who unsuccessfully tried to find us through the American Red Cross.

I listened to my maternal grandmother’s brother that the family with a common name would be too hard to find in such a large city. The fact that my grandfather had four sisters who wouldn’t carry the family name and only had one brother to carry the name was also against us. Maybe they weren’t living in Kiev anymore.

I was looking at a Russian genealogy forum for years and never bothered looking at the surname list.

Then I stopped listening to my grand uncle’s negativity years after he died, I discovered my grandfather’s nephew was looking for US. I breathlessly called my mother at 6 a.m. on a Sunday and sent e-mail messages to everyone who knew about my search.

I had a friend in Moscow call the cell phone number listed in the online advertisement for the sale of my cousin’s car. The line was disconnected, a sign of what was ahead. I found his home phone number. His wife was thrilled to receive our call but we were two years late. He had already died.

My grandfather’s nephew posted that message looking for us eight years ago when I could have skipped an unexciting visit to Delaware beaches.

His children have tried to decipher his notes on the family as much as they could and sent me family photos. Many times, they couldn’t answer questions because their father knew the answers.

If only I had found him earlier, things would be so much different today. My fearful grandmother even passed a letter to a friend visiting Kiev in the late 1990s to find her husband’s family. The family had already moved to another apartment.

If only I could have told my grandmother that I had found her nieces and nephews before she got dementia.

So if you have an invitation to visit family abroad, have the money and don’t have concerns about personal safety, please don’t repeat my mistake and get on that plane to visit your family.  No one knows what could be ahead of us – job loss, a health crisis or death.

I’ve never heard of anyone regretting, dipping into savings to see their newly discovered family. Maybe relatives won’t be as exciting or inviting as expected but to walk the same ground as your ancestors cannot be regretted.

 

 

7 thoughts on “Broken promise will not be forgotten

  1. Your post brought tears to my eyes. It’s my dream to visit the villages where my great grandparents lived one day. (in Volhynia area of Ukraine) but no one is left as they all fled back to Germany where my family has since lost track of that side of the family, or they all immigrated to the USA in 1910 and 1911. I am a descendant of that line, and this month I will be attending a family reunion for the first time down in Oregon. I am excited to see the cousins of cousins, some I’ve never met. Yes, take the trip while you can. You will never regret it.

  2. Pingback: Recommended Reads | Empty Branches on the Family Tree

  3. Sandra Martinez Guthrey

    How awesome that would be! My mother and grandmother fled their home in Poltava during WWII. From stories I have heard they were the only ones to get out and since they had a close friend from Germany. Both sides of her mother and father’s family were sent to concentration camps or vanished.Both my mother and grandmother are now gone and I regret not knowing who my Russian families were and maybe are… My grandmother would not talk about the war and my mom would on occasion. My grandfather was part of the Red Army (an officer) and was tried for treason by his own people. They took him away to Siberia never to be heard from again. One day when I sit and am able to put my notes together just maybe I will find someone who is part of my Russian side.

    1. If you need any help with your research, contact me, I am sorry about your grandfather. It is terrible that your mother’s family was sent to concentration camps or vanished. I would never have closure until I could document everything.

      1. Sandra Martinez Guthrey

        Thank you very much! As I get older I find I need that closure whether it be good or bad. I know somewhere out there I have family on my Russian side.

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