The aftermath of a house fire brings surprising joy

Just four months ago, I was upset to hear that my grandfather’s house burned down to the ground. There went any hope in contacting the current owner to find previous owners who could have known my grandfather, who died 5 years before I was born.

I can’t just jump on a plane and appear in the local property records office to look at records on my grandfather’s property. Grasping onto some hope, I posted a photo of his house on a Facebook page dedicated to his city asking anyone with memories of my grandfather’s house to contact me.

I got a bunch of likes to my post. I wanted to scream, “Stop liking my post. Someone please contact me!”

Three months later, I got more than I wished. A woman living in my grandfather’s city in southern Russia messaged me that her friend’s grandmother bought the house from my grandfather. That came to a complete shock.

He lived in the house until he died. It has been a mystery of what immediately happened to my grandfather’s house after his death. My father, his only child, was living in the USA and would have been arrested for just trying to visit his father. I don’t even want to think about what happened to all of my grandfather’s possessions after his death.

Now, it’s a shock that my grandfather sold his house to two different families in 1960 and stayed in the house as a tenant. Or maybe it shouldn’t be. He was single and 75 years old and most likely overwhelmed by taking care of the house himself.

The woman whose grandmother who was part owner of my grandfather’s house sent me scans of the property sales agreement. This was the last thing I thought I would ever see. Attempting to acquire this document from archives would give chuckles to office staff. Getting communist-era records from Russia is as easy as winning the lottery.

Then, the part owner’s granddaughter told me the truth about the condition of the house my grandfather had so much pride in. The house was so big that it was split into two properties. Only one half of the property burned to the ground.

A half of a house still standing sounds strange but that house has yet to be knocked down for some ugly, modern-looking apartment complex on the city’s main street, a fear of my grandfather.

I still don’t have one photo of this house from the inside. I’ll get my wish to see the inside in 10 days. The granddaughter will send me pictures her mother has been keeping in her home in Ukraine.

She also knows the other half owner of the property who bought it from my grandfather. The man still lives there 56 years later. My grandfather’s house must be quite the home.

With just searching his last name on a Russian online address book, I have found the other owner’s full name and birth date. He is almost 80 years old and will need to receive a charming letter to be inspired to pen me a letter.

This man is the only person alive who could tell me about my grandfather in detail. With the right letter, he could bring more life to my grandfather. Why give up now when I got surprised by just hoping?

 

10 thoughts on “The aftermath of a house fire brings surprising joy

  1. Reine

    I’m very happy for your finding this home and important piece of your family history.

    Your story gives me hope to learn more about my great-grandparents’ home in Russia/Poland. I’m not sure which is correct, because when they came to the United States they identified as Russian in the census and other documents, but in the following census they identified as Polish.

      1. Reine

        Hi Vera, I have a note that my great-grandfather, Wladyslaw Klosowski (b.1876), came from Sompolno, Russia. This information I found on a ship’s passenger list. My great-grandmother was Matylda Otylia Podobienska (1884–1925). Her native language is listed on the census as Russian, but I haven’t yet found a place name for where she was born or lived in Russia. They were married in Salem, Massachusetts, and I’m not sure where they met.

      2. Sorry for the delayed response. Have you tried to search for their naturalization records? The Social Security Application for Matylda should have her birthplace.

  2. Knowing a family home has been lost is sad, but this is a great example of the saying, “if life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” How wonderful that half the house is standing and that you’ve been able to make contact with modern day folks living there.

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