Category Archives: Research Trips

Europe 2012 – Day 22 – IAJGS Day 1

Welcome to the IAJGS 2012 conference from Paris, France.

I don’t have much to say about the first day since I didn’t go to any sessions except the opening one. I’ve seen a lot of people I know and met some new ones already.

I found out that I was on the same flights as Alex Dunai and his wife. I thought it might have been him, but my distance vision is getting worse and I wasn’t about to approach strangers in Ukraine if I was wrong – how could I explain it to them?

French is definitely easier to deal with than Ukrainian, so that’s a nice change.

Europe 2012 – Day 21 – Travel

A train ride to L’viv, a flight to Warsaw, another flight to Paris.

The airport in L’viv was built for the Euro games, though the front of the old building had a lot more character as my taxi went by it. It’s mostly a big, modern building with very few people around, except as a flight is boarding. I arrived far earlier than I needed to and had to surrender my water bottles at security. Here too? One was still sealed. I’m sure they will cost more in Paris.

I took the train from the Paris airport to the conference hotel, saw a few people I know, and went out to see the Bastille Day fireworks with new people I met. Well, I did spend the Fourth of July on the train from Poland to Ukraine…

Europe 2012 – Day 20 – Mighty Genealogy Browncoat

I have done the impossible and that makes me mighty.

I’ve decided to award myself with a new title, as stated in the title of this blog post.

Ask any genealogist with family from Trans-Carpathia and they’ll tell you no one gets records from the Uzhgorod archive. There is a system in place to order specific records, forms at the archive are in Ukrainian, with a huge back-log.

I don’t even know what was said, but my translator was just as determined as I was. I explained to her how proper research works, how you can’t just order specific records because there are other events you didn’t even know about and can’t know without searching for yourself, among other things.

And today, I saw the old record books and took at least 100 photos of the pages. Among them, I saw the record for my grandfather’s birth, Abraham Rosenthal – that’s the first grandparent birth record I’ve ever seen. I found my great-grandfather’s birth, David Alter, as well as that of a sister who died young that no one knew about. That kind of record would be impossible to find without just flipping through the pages of the books – everyone insisted he was an only child. I always found that hard to believe, that other children just didn’t survive, and I was right.

I only wish we’d called back sooner. They only brought out the books of births this time, and I really only had time for them with just one day. So again I’m planning ahead for my next trip to Europe, which will undoubtedly include Uzhgorod to continue my research there.

Europe 2012 – Days 18 and 19 – More Uzhgorod

It’s already been going pretty slowly since I got to Uzhgorod, but now it’s even more so, just waiting to hear from the archive.

I ventured into a cafe with no English, not on the menu or spoken, and I did all right. And I finally had golubtsy, aka stuffed cabbage in America. Except here it was with sour cream. I eventually found the botanical garden and Uzhgorod Castle right down the street. I tried some other foods; they were each hit and miss.

I spent considerable time one morning trying to find a reasonably priced way to Paris. The trains just wouldn’t get me to the airports on time, assuming/hoping I was at the archive Friday. Trying again in the evening, something popped up and I grabbed it – only a six hour train ride to L’viv.

I have considered skipping the conference to go to Moldova, but I finally registered after they extended online registration. Anyone still need a roommate?

Europe 2012 – Day 17 – Mukachevo

I was up early enough for breakfast for only the second time in Uzhgorod. I’ve been catching up on my sleep a bit. My ride arrived just after breakfast and we were off to Mukachevo.

Everyone in genealogy says that no one gets records out of the Uzhgorod archive but instead you go to the Mukachevo synagogue. But who am I to do what everyone else does? At the synagogue, I was told they have no records and to go to the archive. So much for that idea.

We visited both the new and old Jewish cemeteries. I had checked online again to be sure, and none of my known family were buried at either, as far as the online records say. There should be a few, so I don’t really know what that’s about. Still, the caretaker pointed me to the Schwimmers and the one Rosenthal in the new cemetery. I saw other names that are also in my family and photographed them too. The old cemetery is just a large field with piles of a few remaining stones, some intact, some in pieces, and some embedded into the walls.

In the center of the city, my driver pointed out another synagogue that was just rebuilt. Is that the one with the old records? Maybe, but it was closed.

A visit to Palanok Castle ended the tour for the day.

And now, I wait in Uzhgorod for the archive to call, which hopefully they will do before I leave for the Paris conference.

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.