Category Archives: Research Trips

Europe 2012 – Days 15 and 16

Still in Uzhgorod. This was not the plan. If I’d kept to my “schedule”, I would have been in Moldova by now. Things are going slowly in Uzhhorod.

My lack if sleep is catching up, for one thing, and I spent some of Sunday napping instead of doing anything else very interesting.

On Monday, I got a new translator, learned my cell phone still has issues, and tried the Uzhgorod archive again. I really wish I’d learned more of the language here to know what that conversation was about with the director, but my translator was kind of optimistic, assuming they find a little time for me before I head off to Paris.

I’m really just biding my time here now, hoping for good things from the archive. Still not getting used to Ukrainian everywhere yet, but don’t feel quite as lost as when I arrived.

Europe 2012 – Day 14

Laundry day. It seems I packed a little more than ten days. I read something about laundry not being easy in these countries. What do the locals do? There are no laundromats at all? Does everyone without machines hand wash their clothes?

I was about to head to a nearby hostel that I found online but I asked again at the front desk here. Back upstairs, they offered to let me hand wash or their person would do my laundry for me. No one has touched my laundry since my Mom used to do it. But I left it for her to save myself the effort.

Maybe that’s a way to pack even lighter the next trip — hand wash my laundry every few days.

Having returned to that hostel site, and seeing how close it was to me, I read a little again and took their restaurant recommendations. I am right in the city center so I went for a walk to the river and around the area. I didn’t even realize the former synagogue was right here until I looked over and recognized it.

(Apparently no Androids will upload pictures from the WordPress app anymore. I really tried. Did you check my Twitter stream? My Foursquare check-ins almost always have photos, and this one is there.)

I returned to the same restaurant as before and had something much better this time, recommended by the hostel site. Then I found a 24 hour grocery nearby. Those are always important finds. It’s hot out here and I keep buying giant bottles of water.

I also listened to a few hours of my Russian lessons. I should have done that sooner. I don’t know how to learn Ukrainian though; I haven’t seen any lessons, and my Russian pronunciations would be way off without the recordings.

Europe 2012 – Day 13 – Kopinovtsi

Things went a little wrong today. And a lot right. I wrote the previous post in the morning waiting for my ride. Over two hours, I waited for my guide, blogged, fought with downloading am image emailed to me, and bought some water down the street. Finally I walked back to Hesed Shpira where I learned my guide had car trouble. Someone else helped instead, but he didn’t know any English. We first got a SIM card for my phone, then had to walk to another location to activate Internet. At least now I’m connected.

Next, we took a bus across town to the archive, and he left, I think because someone there allegedly knew English. But she said, in English, that she could speak but not understand. I know exactly what she meant. Suddenly everyone was asked if they knew English and lots of people tried to help. Someone was called who knew some English. I was walked into an office and my phone rang. Then I was spoken to in English again and they suggested returning on Monday. And it sounded like they might let me see the records I want. I’ll bring a translator then and find out.

That phone call was the director of Hesed Shpira sending his son to pick me up for a ride to Kopinovtsi. How did he know I was about done?

After passing through a few villages on a road made out of potholes, we left the paved road. There wasn’t even a sign at the village border like all the others had. And then we found the house with help from the locals. They knew that Jews had lived there, as if they had been the only Jews in the village. Were they? I didn’t think about that to ask at the time. A couple of phone calls verified it was my Rosenthals. They spoke to people who knew the family. I learned that after the war, Hershie returned and sold the house, eventually moving to America. They verified his three kids by name and knew that he had married his cousin (first cousin, once removed, actually). I even met someone who knew Hershie.

I hope I took enough pictures. Not thinking, I didn’t take any with my Androids to post them now. Which means I didn’t mark it by GPS either. Why would I forget to do that when I was doing so well this trip? I guess I got caught up in the moment. In Polish towns, I was looking for the towns generally, or addresses for a client. In Ukraine, I was looking for the house where my grandfather was born and raised.

Europe 2012 – Days 11 and 12 – Trains, Ukraine, and Glad to be Jewish

I feel very lost in this country. I should have spent more time learning Russian, except that things here are in Ukrainian.

But I digress. The train from Krakow to L’viv took the whole day because of two different two hour stops for customs. My bunk mates did the talking for me in Ukraine. The Polish side spoke enough English. I managed at the L’viv train station somehow, and got on to the next train. The only person who spoke English on that one didn’t help much. But I made it to Uzhhorod.

I assumed. There wasn’t a sign at the station saying where I was. With no other plan, I got in a taxi and headed for Hesed Shpira, a local Jewish organization. (Most of the genealogists I tried to hire didn’t even answer my emails.) Of course, it was 7am, and they were closed, so the taxi brought me to the nearest hotel. After a couple of naps, I walked over and met the locals. They will be very helpful.

Producing a few books of people missing after the war, I found lots of family, some missing from the lists, and my grandfather who was in Canada already. It was odd to see him listed there. And I didn’t really search thoroughly.

They arranged for a driver to pick me up the next morning to head to the archive.

The hotel restaurant open 8-23 was closed at 21:00, so someone walked me to a nearby place. Their prices were inflated on the menu ten-fold and I don’t know why. I thought I wouldn’t have enough money to pay. It’s very strange here.

Europe 2012 – Day 10

I think it was supposed to be laundry day. Good thing I packed a little more than ten days.

I returned to the archive to do more research to find ten books waiting for me. Except that I’d ordered about fifteen more. The archivist told me ten books at a time and to return at noon for more. I was a little worried that they might split it all into three groups, but the second batch had all of the rest.

That left me with plenty of time to get onto the Auschwitz tour. I was in Krakow for so long, I would have felt terrible missing it because I didn’t figure it out fast enough on the weekend.

We had terrible weather on the tour. As we arrived at the second camp, the guide tried to talk us out of half of it. But some of us wanted to see it all. And we still skipped past the big monument. I would have walked back when I realized, but I’d been walking for too many days already and my feet couldn’t take it.

Next up on the trip: a new country. (And more trains.) I’m anxious now. I’ve grown accustomed to Poland and I spent a while learning Polish, the little that I know. I’ve got lessons for Russian to listen to, but it won’t compare to the extra effort I put into Polish. I haven’t heard back from anyone in Ukraine or Moldova that I was emailing with. And I have to reconstruct the list of relatives to search for in Ukraine — I can’t find the original file on any Androids.

Update: File found! Did I not look there before? Sheesh.

I don’t know what happens with my Internet access now either. Guess I’ll find out soon.

I was going to try to add a picture today, but WordPress is being all kinds of rude. Just remember to check back here again after I get home.

Europe 2012 – Day 9

Krakow wasn’t meant to be such a long stop, but it just got longer. I arrived a day early because I didn’t get to Kalisz and now research is keeping me an extra day later.

I walked to the archive here; I’ve walked everywhere here. This was the first archive to have any English speakers. I had a slow start with the research but eventually got moving. I ordered up one book and was shocked at what they brought me. Records were different in Krakow, not to mention the size of the population.

I ended up ordering almost every book of births and deaths. She told me to come back tomorrow. It’s good that I’d seen the one book first, so I can better understand why the extra day is necessary.

I just wish I was more comfortable with this hotel. It’s too much effort to switch for one night. I’ll splurge on the next one to make up for it. I think I have to, as I didn’t see a lot if options for my next stop.

Europe 2012 – Day 8

I was a tourist again today. I walked around Kazimierz, the Jewish quarter,stopping at all seven synagogues. The Google map app needs work – there’s no indication of distances. At one time, I was about to walk to the next street over when I realized I was on the next street.

After a nap (is there siesta in Poland?), I walked around some more. At the end of my walk, I even found a grocery store to buy another giant water bottle. These seem pretty common around here. I just wish that cold was more common too. Nothing is cold. No A/C, no cold drinks, and I don’t believe I’ve seen ice in a week.

Next up, one more Polish archive visit.

Europe 2012 – Days 6 and 7

Yesterday’s “schedule” wasn’t good for posting a blog article, although I did write a rough draft.

The archive in Konin seemed just a little nicer inside than in Lomza. They also had several people researching, some different rules, a non-English speaking archivist, and lots of forms. I thought I had pictures of the forms so I could copy the old data, but they must have been in my camera instead of my phone. I found my two Halpert records and almost didn’t look through the other books. I have some more index searching to do now based on that data.

I never did find the bus to Kalisz; I was at the station for local buses. But I was too late for a bus to get there in time for research. I was sad to skip the visit since it is an ancestral city, but there wasn’t much I had planned to do after researching. And since I still need to go, that will be for another trip. Instead, I killed some time in Konin and went on to Krakow. That was another ordeal.

Note to self and everyone: never get on the wrong train. How will you know the right one? Well, if I knew that…

With the extra time, I did figure out a topic to submit to RootsTech. Also, if I ever complain about September, believe me, I’ve got good reason.

I arrived in Krakow about 8am, instead of the 11pm I expected. At least it saved me paying for a hotel night. And in the place I booked, I’d rather pay for fewer nights. She did check me in around 9am, so that was good. But what do they have against air conditioning? Maybe a fan? Am I booking hotels that are too cheap?

After a nap, I went for a walk around Krakow, to Rynek Glowny, the old market, all the way to the Florianska gate, which I thought would be too far to walk. Well, it kind of was and I actually got there by going the wrong way back to the hotel.

I have another day to be a tourist, so I’ll see how much I can do. I would consider sleeping in, but it’s too hot to sleep (or to breathe), so that likely won’t be a problem anyhow. At least I had some breeze in other cities.

Europe 2012 – Day 5 – Trains

Another adventure with mixed results dominated the day.

First, I drove back to Warsaw. I wanted to get a record at the Jewish Historical Institute, but I hit traffic too often and didn’t quite make it in time. I circled around and around and around and finally found a spot to park, then visited several Jewish historical sites. One building was under construction and completely surrounded so I couldn’t even see one of them.

I returned the car to the airport (I’ll skip the gory details of that ordeal) and took the train back to Warszawa Centralna, the central station, to head over to Konin. I tried to buy a ticket, and someone even helped translate for me, but I don’t know what the ticket agent gave me. It wasn’t a ticket for what I wanted. Eventually, once the train was mostly empty, a conductor asked for my ticket and I had to buy one. I sure hope I don’t see a charge for that “other” ticket later.

What bothered me most though, was realizing 90 minutes into the two hour ride that there were electrical outlets; my phone was dead. I plugged it in and booked the hotel online about an hour before I got to it.

The train station was pretty baron with two exits. I took the wrong one first — there were no signs. Eventually I went back through and found a taxi to get to my hotel. Weird keys here. And I’m wondering if this is a truck stop.

I hope I have fewer transportation problems tomorrow. I only have one day for two archives and the civil records office. I anticipate not enough time for all three, but it’s Friday and it’s all I’ve got. Sadly, at multiple times, I find connections or don’t for the same trips; I’m not seeing anything for tomorrow right now. More complications.

Europe 2012 – Day 4 – Small Towns

Today was the reason I really needed a rental car. I visited my ancestral towns.

From Lomza, I headed south through Zambrow where I found what is left of the Jewish cemetery. Some of my Rutki ancestors were likely buried there, from what I’ve read.

Zambrow Jewish Cemetery

I drove on to Rutki, where my Mularzewicz family is from. Going farther back in the family line, some were born at other nearby small towns too.

In Rutki, I looked for the building that used to be the synagogue. My difficulty was because the address was on one street but the building was set so far back that they’d changed the access to the other street. I spoke to a couple men for a few minutes. My cousin had been there a week earlier and they had the family names written down.

Former Synagogue of Rutki

With my limited Polish, it wasn’t a long conversation. After messing with my cell phone for a minute, one man waved me back in and spoke some English after all. He told me where to find a memorial. I’d previously found GPS coordinates online that were far from correct. Whenever I think of the expression “off the beaten path”, I will now think of this location.

Memorial to Jews Killed by Nazis

Onward to Wizna, driving the minor roads, I went through Grady Woniecko, the earliest known birthplace of a relative in that family.

In Wizna, where my Kurlenders were from, I had other minor setbacks. I was not able to find online the location of the former synagogue and the GPS coordinates I had for the cemetery were far off too. I didn’t feel up to asking the locals. At least in Rutki, I had some information to build on.

Another minor road took me farther north to Jedwabne, and another memorial at a Jewish massacre site, right across from the Jewish cemetery.

Memorial to Jews of Jedwabne

Back in Lomza, I visited the Jewish cemeteries, first the older and smaller one, then I found the secret back way into the newer one. But the weeds were tall and thick and I didn’t feel comfortable walking such a distance through them by the end of the day, so I took some general and far away pictures.

Back at my hotel, I fell asleep quickly. I guess the lack of sleep finally caught up to me a bit. Now, if the WordPress app would cooperate more, these blog posts would be even easier. I’m sorry to write that if future posts give me as much trouble as this one, they may be without photos until I return home. I hope it doesn’t come to that.