Years of patience leads to an accumulation of discoveries

Olesia Fediushkina loves to show her adventures in travel and appreciation of nature through photos posted on Facebook. Her other love is genealogy.

“As far as I can remember, I’ve enjoyed looking through old photos and listening to my granny’s stories about her youth, her parents, etc.,” says the woman from Kaluga in western Russia. “But initially, I wasn’t interested in details – dates of birth, death, motives or reasons of actions and events that happened to my ancestors, relatives. That came much later, as I was about 23-25.”

It hasn’t been an easy journey to learn about her ancestors. When her interest had peaked, regional archives weren’t open to visitors and Internet sources “were not so well-developed as compared with nowadays,” she says.

That has not stopped Olesia’s determination to learn about her ancestors since her interest started about 15 years ago. She sends requests to archives, visits archives, gets advice on genealogy forums and uses search engines.

“I managed to turn back to my research just a year ago, and since then I found more than within all previous years,” Olesia says.

Now, she has traced her family tree back to the beginning of the 19th century. She knows her mothers’s ancestors came from Kaluga governorate, now modern day Tula and Bryansk regions, with some also coming from Poland or Baltic countries.

Her father’s mother’s ancestors also came from Kaluga governorate, near Kaluga. On her father’s father’s line, she has discovered ancestors who were Terek Cossacks from the territory of modern Chechen Republic. One branch seems to lead her to Georgia.

“I believe it helps me to understand myself better, which is quite important to me, to see some patterns and to try to break them. It helps to see some events with different eyes, to forgive some things that seemed unforgivable, etc.,” Olesia says. “…Overall, that helps to get one little step closer to the internal harmony. I know that sounds like a cliché, but that’s how I really feel. I believe that our knowledge, experience and self-consciousness is the only thing we can take with us, when it will come our time to leave.”

This journey helps her learn more about history, which she admits she should have been more diligent to learn in school.

 Olesia on her travels.

Her discoveries in the family’s history has brought mixed reaction from her family.

At first, her mother didn’t see the value of genealogy. Then Olesia’s mother saw the excited reactions of her relatives and her mother’s attitude has changed to supporting the research.

Meanwhile, her father’s family has questioned the research.

“My father’s mother used to tell that remembering the past hurt her and refused to share information, documents, memories,” Olesia says. “Besides, she couldn’t believe I need it just for myself, and she used to ask ‘Whom will you tell, show that?’”

Her father lacks any interest in his ancestors and doesn’t share stories with Olesia. His wife questions whether the research is about her searching for inheritances or something of value.

Meanwhile, her friends are neutral on the topic. She has a friend who is interested in genealogy as much or even more than her. Other friends are satisfied knowing about their grandparents and don’t see a purpose in knowing any more.

“Anyway, nobody of my relatives, friends knows how much money I spend on my hobby, except the above mentioned friend, who shares this hobby,” Olesia says. “Every one of them would say Im crazy.”

This attitude about genealogy doesn’t surprise her because the word genealogy wasn’t used when she was growing up, she says.

“There was no ‘typical’ attitude about one’s family’s history. Generally, people kept memories about their parents and grandparents,” Olesia says.  “But due to some reasons -repressions, war, etc.- some people preferred to ‘forget’ about some of their relatives, ancestors – it could be just dangerous sometimes to tell about them or to keep the evidences.”

That attitude doesn’t ruin Olesia’s excitement for her research, which has led to finding living relatives. Some are excited to find a new relative and others are not interested in the connection.

She also is trying to find her relatives through DNA testing. She started with MyHeritage and then uploaded her DNA file to Family Tree DNA and Gedmatch.

The office worker at an automotive factory originally was curious about her ethnic origins but was also hoping to find relatives. Time will only tell if she gets her wish.

This is the fourth article in the series “Bending Curtain: A Changing Tide in Genealogy in the Former USSR” that will continue throughout 2020. People from the various countries of the former USSR will share their experiences in uncovering their ancestry. Follow this blog with the top right button to catch these unforgettable stories.

Related posts:
Ukrainian native inspired to research family after discovery of “American” ancestor
Keeping alive some notable ancestors in a Russian family tree
Coming back to Ukrainian roots through genealogy
Introducing “Bending Curtain: A Changing Tide in Genealogy in the Former USSR”

New WWII databases reveal amazing information, honoring 75th anniversary of victory

Coronavirus is not stopping the online celebration of the 75th anniversary of WWII’s victory.

Three databases have gone online, in addition to an explosion of soldier photos of men and women who served in the Soviet Army on a WWII database. Those who don’t know Russian are highly recommended to download a language translator app such as Google Translate and use this website or Google Translate  for translating keywords.

The information on these databases cannot be found in English anywhere. All websites are free of fees and registration requirements.

Saint Petersburg Archives has created a database of more than 67,000 civilian recipients of “For the Defense of Leningrad” medals. The database, searchable by last name, year of birth or place of employment, provides downloadable scans of award documents for each recipient.

“It (the medal) was awarded to active participants in the heroic defense of the city on the Neva – all those who, despite hunger and cold, shelling and bombing, stood by the machine, extinguished incendiary bombs, nursed the wounded, dug trenches, supported the urban economy, taught and cared for children, holding thereby personal victory in the battle for Leningrad,” says the website.

The Soviet government gave the award to 1.47 million recipients (according to Wikipedia) so the database is a work in progress.

That medal also was given to civilians in Odessa (Ukraine), Sevastopol, Stalingrad (now Volgograd), Caucasus, Transartic and Kyiv (Ukraine). My hope is databases for civilians who received the same medal in the other cities will appear online in the near future.

Another great database added for researching WWII is Explosion of Partisan, based on documents from the Central Headquarters of the Partisan Movement at the Headquarters of the Supreme High Command.

Information on more than 8,500 people awarded for their involvement in the war’s partisan movement are detailed in the database, which also is a work on progress.

This database can be easily searched by surname. Information provided on award recipients can include full name, birth year, place for call of service, place of residence, partisan group name, award presented, presenter of award and file location of record.

Requests to obtain scans of records can be sent to rgaspi@inbox.ru. It is highly recommended to write in Russian.

So far, most WWII databases from Russia have focused on soldiers of the Soviet Army. This is a great step toward recognizing all the people who helped in the war effort.

The other database comes from the Republic of Belarus- A Book of Memory, an effort by the Office to Perpetuate the Memory of Defenders of the Fatherland and Victims of Wars of the Armed Forces of Belarus.

The database provides information on people who died in Belarus during WWII and those who came from Belarus and died elsewhere during WWII. Users can find the following information in the database: full name, year of birth, place of birth, place of call of duty, place of service, position, date of death, cause of death, burial number and place of burial.

Those seeking information on their relatives or ancestors from Belarus will need to look page by page or know their full name- first, patronymic (name derived from father’s first name such as Ivanovich) and surname.

Some people on this database can be found on Memory of the People  but others are only found on A Book of Memory.

The other great news for WWII databases is the explosion of photos posted to Road of Memory, which has an estimated 2 million photos of men and women who served in the Soviet Army. Numerous photos are being posted everyday, with a noticeable amount of female soldier photos.

I wrote about Road of Memory back in October, when there were only 300,000 photos posted to the database. Users only can search by name. I search by surname and patronymic name or surname and first name to make the results more specific.

The photos on Road of Memory also can be found on Memory of the People, which is  much easier to search. It is very touching to see pictures of soldiers from the villages of my great-grandparents. (I explain how to search Memory of the People without knowing Russian in this post.)

These photos can be used to find facial similarities with known relatives or find potential relatives. I highly recommend bookmarking soldiers’ pages to regularly check for posted photos.

Last Sunday, a woman who posted her grandfather’s photo on Road of Memory e-mailed me. I saw that photo last Saturday while searching my 7th-great-grandfather’s surname in the database for soldiers from my great-grandfather’s village.

The Luxembourg woman saw my post on her grandfather’s surname on the largest Russian-language genealogy forum, All Russia Forum. Thanks to the database and forum, we will try to connect our family trees. Making the switch to Russian-language sites for genealogy really has its perks.

The news in WWII databases from the Russian-speaking world doesn’t end here. Last week, Germany handed over about 20,000 scans to Russian military archives on soldiers who were German POWs. The scans are expected to provide information on millions of soldiers, according to news reports.

It won’t be surprising if even more databases will go online this year, in addition to the new POW scans. The newest databases also will continue to grow.

The opportunities to make amazing discovers are available to those willing to try these Russian databases with language translators. Those who try will eventually have bragging rights.

Follow this blog with the top right button to learn about new databases posted online and important updates to WWII-related databases.

See more free databases here.

Related posts:
The cure for fearing Russian-language genealogy websites to make breakthroughs
Arolsen Archives quietly adds 13 million more WWII records…
Database of political terror victims in the USSR explodes past 3 million
Massive database reveals priceless information on rebels of the Russian Revolution
Expert guide to using Google Translate in Russian and Ukrainian genealogy