I had trouble when I got to Ukraine. I had put a lot of work into building a working knowledge of Polish, but I hadn’t tackled Russian. I started learning and intended to do more, but I really didn’t. I tried to hire a genealogist to help me when I got there, but that didn’t work out. I felt more lost than ever. As time passed, I started getting used to it. I still don’t know if I got used to all the Cyrillic or if I just got used to not understanding.
In my time of need, I was glad to be Jewish. I’ve read stories of how Jews always help each other, but I’ve never really used such kind of help. I contacted Hesed Shpira, a Jewish Welfare Center. At the time, I didn’t know what they did, but they were in Uzhhorod and some of them spoke English. They were a huge help, connecting me with guides and translators that made my stay in Ukraine interesting and fruitful.
My driver took me out of the city to Mukachevo and Kopinovtsi on different days. His English wasn’t terrific, especially when people in my ancestral village were recalling stories about my family and he had trouble translating, but it was enough.
My other helper came with me to the Uzhhorod Archive and spoke to the director for me. We sat to fill out the record request forms while the director went out, so we had some time to chat about genealogy and how research works, and why those forms were of little use. We waited a week for him to get back to us. We finally called him on my last day in the country. I wish we’d called sooner, because we went back to the archive and were able to look through all of the books of birth records for Mukachevo, but didn’t have time for marriages and deaths. I need to go back and finish.
While waiting for that call, I spent quite a few unexpected days in Uzhhorod. Without any planning, I ended up in a hotel in the city center. I slowly learned this, as well as how many things were in walking distance. The coolest find was when I was just wandering around and spotted a building around the corner and off in the distance, and I recognized it from pictures as the former synagogue. I also visited the Uzhhorod Castle, the botanical garden, and the Zakarpattia Museum of Folk Architecture and Life. Many days I just wandered around the city center.
The URL of this post is http://idogenealogy.com/blog/2012/12/19/uzhhorod-ukraine/.
All photos and content Copyright 2012 by Banai Lynn Feldstein.