It hit me hard when my mother’s cousin died in Kyiv three years ago. I had promised to save my money to visit her but that plan didn’t work out.
Then, I got annoyed with myself that I spent so much time photographing the English language cemeteries in Pennsylvania for Find A Grave when I knew so many Russian cemeteries needed some attention.
So today I can finally say that I have put my Russian language skills to use to the benefit of the Russian-speaking community. Back in late April, I got into my car and drove 7 hours to Holy Trinity Monastery’s cemetery in Jordanville.
I was never so excited to see a hotel room. The drive must have passed through about every city of New York, other than Albany and New York City, to get to this cemetery. Below the hilltop where this cemetery stands is the monastery where my uncle served as a priest when I was very young.
I am very proud to have a mother born in Ukraine and father in Russia but I know my deceased family wouldn’t be thrilled that I haven’t tried to become more fluent in Russian.
My family tried to get me to learn fluent Russian by sending me to Holy Virgin Protection Church’s school in Nyack, New York, on Saturdays and Otrada Russian summer camp in Spring Valley, New York. I barely made it out of kindergarten and was stuck in first grade at Russian school for a while. At Russian camp, I had to stand in the middle of the dormitory during recess for speaking in English. I couldn’t speak Russian like the other kids.
So documenting a Russian Orthodox cemetery for Find A Grave has been my redemption for my failure to learn fluent Russian. At least, I can read and understand enough to translate gravestones for those researching their Russian Empire ancestors and relatives.
I also have been lucky with the friendship of Dimitri Salopoff, a Russian living in the USA, to help me when I can’t see information on markers and gravestones well. He has been a great cheerleader in my journey to document Russian Orthodox cemeteries for Find A Grave.
Dimitri saved the last portion of this project by finding a list of people buried at Holy Trinity online. About 200 of the 1,700 crosses and gravestones had some aging that made it challenging for indexing. The list in Russian made it a breeze to finish the project.
Sadly, not everyone who is buried at the cemetery isn’t on the Find A Grave page for Holy Trinity. Several crosses and gravestones have completely faded information. Others have prickly and overgrown bushes blocking their plots.
My goal is to correct this situation if the monastery chooses to help me. The cemetery is filled with determined dreamers, Russian nobility and Holy Trinity staff. Remembering their courage to come to America is what these people deserve.
I hope to announce completion of an another large Russian Orthodox cemetery later this year. Follow this blog on the top right to follow that news.
The User-Friendly Guide to Find A Grave for Russian and Ukrainian Genealogy
Old electrical tower leads the way to family graves
An unreal surprise on my birthday
Don’t blink in a cemetery
Going back to my Russian-American roots 30 years later just heartbreaking