It is a real honor to post this travelogue on my website. It was written by the clients who have become my friends. Thank you and I miss you much!
Our return to our ancestral homeland, Hlyboka, Chernivtsi, Ukraine.
This Blog is a day by day accounting of our trip to Hlyboka, Chernivtsi, Ukraine, which began on April 20 and ended on May 9, 2018. Our purpose was firstly to reconnect with our Monax and Tonenchuk families and secondly to learn more about the country of our ancestors.
Terry and Patricia Maurice
April 21-May 9, 2018
Our family left Hlyboka, Bukovina, Austria, as it was then known, in early May of 1914 and sailed to Canada on May 25, 1914, arriving in Quebec on June 5, 1914. My grandparents, Aftanasi Monax and Eufrosina Tonenchuk left Hlyboka with four children, one of which was my father, Miron (Patrick) who was an 8 month old infant. With him were his brothers, Damian (John), Petro (Peter) and a sister Domnika (Mary Laura). From that time no one in the family had returned to Hlyboka until this journey of ours.
We retained the services of Andriy Dorosh who did a most admirable job in organizing our tour, making our hotel bookings and served as our driver and most importantly our translator. We could not have done the trip without him and we are eternally grateful to him for all that he did for us. We could not have asked for a better traveling companion than Andriy.
This travelogue is dedicated to the memory of my Uncle Alex Monax Maurice, who had the foresight to make a recorded interview with my grandmother, just a year before she passed away. Without that recording, we would not have known where the family came from and the many of the details of their lives. I also wish to acknowledge my Uncle Jim who saved a precious copy of this recording and passed it on to me and also thank him for his enthusiasm for my ongoing research..
Closing the loop. Day 1
My wife Patti and I left Canada on Friday April 20 and flew from Toronto to Warsaw and then on to Lviv. We traveled by LOT Polish Airlines and it was a very pleasant flight and a nice airline to travel with. We arrived in Lviv on Saturday at 5:30 pm Ukraine time. The time difference from Eastern Standard Time is 7 hours.
Andriy Dorosh arranged our tour and pickup from the Lviv airport and we will meet him on Wednesday to begin the very interesting tour he has put together for us. We wanted to have a few days on our own to get over jet lag and that, as it has turned out was a good idea, 🙂 Our hotel is called Hotel Astoria, located in the heart of Lviv, within walking distance of many of the attractions in this lovely city. Hotel Astoria is a smaller “boutique” hotel built during Austrian times, coincidentally in 1914, the year my family left for Canada. The hotel has been in continuous operation from 1914 to now and was known as Hotel Kyiv for many years. The hotel was restored to its original splendor and its original name, Hotel Astoria. www.astoriahotel.ua We ended our long travel “day” with a nice dinner in the hotel restaurant, that has the very Ukrainian sounding name of “Mon Chef.” 🙂
Closing the loop. Day 2
We awoke to brilliant sunshine on our first morning with the temperatures expected to to go 23C (73F). Trees are fully leafed out and there are many flowering trees in bloom. It was a very pleasant change for us, since we had over 10 cm (4 in) of snow the week before leaving and very cold temperatures for April. After a nice complementary breakfast at the hotel, with great coffee, we ventured forth on our first outing in Lviv. And what a lovely city it is! The architecture is beautiful and much work is being done to restore the old buildings, many of which date from Polish and Austrian times and some from as far back as the 1500s. It is quite overwhelming to see and walk along the many winding and angled cobble stone streets with all this history around you and as we also found out, also very easy to get turned around.
Lviv or Львів is an old city founded in 1256 by Danylo son of Roman Mstyslavich in a dynasty known as the Romanvyichi. The history of this area of the former Austrian Crown Land of Galicia is both colourful and turbulent. It was largely under Polish-Lithuanian control until 1772 when it was partitioned and taken over by Austria and ruled by the Austrians until 1918. Much of the older architecture dates from this period of Austrian control and the ornamental details are quite lovely and interesting. We found ourselves being amazed by the variety of colorful buildings and architectural styles at every bend in the road. We were advised by Andriy to get SIM cards for our phones and found the store he recommended about a 1 km walk away from the hotel. On our way there we passed through an outdoor market located in front of the Lviv Opera House. It was alive with people buying souvenirs, food, etc. Just beyond the market we arrived at a square situated at the foot of a statue honoring Taras Shevchenko, where a Ukrainian folk dance event was just starting. There was over 100 young dancers in traditional regional dress doing various dances. It was all very colourful and enjoyable. They were obviously enjoying themselves, as were the many people and families gathered around to watch. From there we made our way to the cell phone shop where we purchased SIM cards for about $5 each, installed! Certainly far less expensive than paying roaming fees which are generally exorbitant.
We spent the balance of the day wandering about the core area of the city taking in the sights and sounds of this wonderful city. We were impressed by the large number of people who were out enjoying the sunny Sunday afternoon. The sidewalk cafes and various squares were full of people. We made a brief stop at the tourist information center in Rynok Square to pick up a map and a booklet in English on Lviv, both of which proved to be very helpful. We returned to the square later in the day to enjoy a meal at one of the restaurants there. The local Lviv beer is quite good, as well.
Closing the loop. Day 3 & 4
Kind of a quiet couple of days, as we are feeling a bit of jet lag. The Astoria is a very comfortable place in which to just chill out and that is what we mostly did. The bed is very comfortable as is our room. The interior of the hotel has a central winding staircase with marble steps. At each landing there is geometric marble flooring that has a 3D effect, an Austrian design from the early XX century. It is quite interesting.
By way of background, Patti and I are both in our seventies and don’t do a lot of globe trotting these days, so this venture is a big event for both of us. When we were first thinking about making this trip we had some concerns about the language barrier, as neither of us read or speak Ukrainian. I am able, through my research work with the Orthodox Church Metrical records, to read names and recognize most of the characters, but that is the extent of it. So, how much of a problem is the language barrier? We have been on our own for three days now and it is a barrier for sure, but not as bad as I thought it might be. With map and guide book in hand, one can maneuver around the city and get some sense of the place and its history. Most of the staff at the hotel can speak English and there is always the Google translation app on our phones that we can use to “speak” the language when we need to. Our guided tours begin on Wednesday and I know we will get a lot more out of our visit to this wonderful city with a tour guide who knows the language and the history.
We did a bit more walking around the past couple of days and are beginning to feel more comfortable in knowing where we are. There are numerous electric trolley lines that run throughout the core area of the city and tourist mini buses to drive you about. Driving is a bit wild on the narrow streets that were built before the advent of motor cars, but the locals seem to manage. One very nice feature is areas of the city core that are pedestrian only and many small parks with benches. They cater to people being outside with many sitting areas and outdoor facilities. It makes for inviting wide open spaces with little fear of getting in the way of someone’s automobile. With all these people friendly features it does not feel like a city with a population of close to 730,000.
The city is truly alive with people. Ukrainians seem to want to get out and get together in groups or with their children. On Sunday we passed by a large group of seniors standing in a group and singing what sounded like patriotic songs about Ukraine or at least that is what my English-only ears picked out of it. I can say that I have never seen that kind of spontaneity back home. I love to walk the streets and hear the sound of Ukrainian being spoken. Oh and yes, they have cell phones and they walk along and talk and text. It made us feel very much at home. 🙂
Tomorrow we meet Andriy Dorosh and he has arranged for a guide to take us on a three hour walking tour of the old city and we get to peer into courtyards and see palaces and churches with a running commentary about the history and an insiders view of it all. Looking forward to it!
Closing the loop. Day 5
It was a busy day with our first guided tour of Lviv. It was great to meet Andriy Dorosh for the first time in the hotel lobby after the many emails back and forth over the past few months. What a charming and delightful person he is too, being very attentive to make sure that all is right with the hotel and plans for our tour together. After a short talk and an exchange of gifts, we met Yulia who was to be our tour guide in Lviv. She is a native of Lviv, a former teacher and very knowledgeable about the history of the city and its many hidden and interesting places.
We began our 3 hour walking tour at 9:30 and what an interesting tour it was. Although the two of us had covered some of the area in our previous days in Lviv, we learned that we had missed most of what was interesting, just by not knowing where to look. We began our tour with a walk to the beautiful Lviv Opera House located at the center of the city. Construction began in 1897 and was completed in 1900. It was closed several times during its existence and even survived an attempt by Nazi troops to blow it up. The opera house had several names during its lifetime and is now named after a famous Ukrainian singer Solomiya Krushelnytsk.
From the opera house we walked to the Taras Shevchenko (1814-1861) monument which was erected in 1992, just a year after Ukraine gained independence from the Soviet Union. Shevchenko was born into serfdom and had been an early proponent of Ukrainian independence. His writings and satire of the Russian Tsar caused him to be imprisoned and subsequently exiled as a private in the army to a remote region of Russia. His writings were so strongly nationalistic that they were repressed during the communist era and it seems fitting tribute that his statue was raised shortly after Ukrainian independence. Beside the statue is a 12 metre high Wave of National Revival, a relief sculpture depicting the rising of Ukrainian people and their aspirations. The back side of the monument depicts the darker times in Ukrainian history, the Holodomor, Chernobyl and other sad events.
We went to the various sections of the city including the Old Market Square, the Armenian Cathedral, and several other cathedrals. The Armenian Cathedral of the Assumption of Mary is very old being built in 1363-1370 with numerous additions and renovations over the years. It was closed during Soviet times and was used as a warehouse for plundered religious art taken from other churches, but has recently been restored with funding from the Polish Ministry of Culture. The wall paintings in the cathedral are worth seeing, filled with symbolic meaning. They were painted by Jan Henryk Rosen.
We toured several churches of Greek Catholic, Orthodox and Russian Orthodox denominations. All of them have many icons of their saints and they are very elaborately decorated with gold gilt and glass chandeliers. The space inspires many of the faithful and there were several services that were well attended. At the Saints Peter and Paul Church, which is the garrison church of the armed forces there was a lovey service taking place. Along the left side of the church were memorial photographs to the many, many Ukrainian soldiers who have given their lives for the country, including those killed in the present conflict with Russia in the eastern territories. It was sad to see the faces of many young soldiers whose lives have been tragically cut short.
Our last stop on the tour was the memorial built on the ruins of the Jewish synagogue. The synagogue was blown up by the Nazis in WW2. A very touching memorial has been constructed on the site, remembering those who killed during this sad period in Ukrainian history.
Our next stop was for lunch at the Baczewski Restaurant which is named after the old Jewish family which operated from the late 1700s to 1939. They were involved in the production of vodka and spirits. Our meal of Ukrainian food was quite nice and the atmosphere of the restaurant was pleasant and relaxing.
In the afternoon we had a very special treat with a tour of the famous State Archives of Lviv Oblast. The archive is one of the oldest, if not the oldest, archive in Europe and is located in a former monastery. We were greeted by Bardana and Oksana who work there. Bardana then took us to the lower vaults where the oldest documents are stored. What an amazing place and what a vast collection of ancient documents. Row after row, shelf after shelf of bound volumes of documents, land records, estate letters, tax and court proceedings, police records, education documents with some dating back to the early 1400s. The earliest document in the collection dates back to the early 1200s. It is incredible that so much of this paperwork has survived the many wars and upheavals that the region has undergone. Upstairs in the reading room many researchers were pouring over various documents to glean information from them. In Soviet times the archives were not as open to the general public and used very little. Today the situation is quite the opposite. We felt very honored to have had the opportunity to see just a part of this vast collection and to ask questions about it.
Our first day was a great start to our tour, which will eventually lead us to Hlyboka, our ancestral village in Chernivtsi region.
Closing the loop. Day 6
Our tour guide was again Julia who took us to the Lviv cemetery. In a strange way I suppose only genealogists would consider a trip to a cemetery as a part of their vacation, but the Lviv cemetery is really a trip back in time and a history lesson at the same time. Lviv Ukrainians appear have a deep respect for their departed family members, as evidenced by the quality of monuments and the care they lavish on their cemeteries. Graves are tended well and the high level of sculpture work for many of the more prominent residents of the city is testament to this statement. It was amazing to see the works of sculpture done by prominent artists in the 19th and 20th centuries. We were touched by the monument to a departed person that had two dogs as part of the sculpture work. The two dogs went to their master’s grave immediately after his death and would not leave. They lay on the grave until they too, died after several weeks of refusing food or drink. They died one day apart. The family saw fit to memorialize them with a sculpture of these two dogs beside a bust of their master. The cemetery was in a park-like setting with many ancient tombstones still visible. Many famous citizens of Lviv are buried here, such as Ivan Franko (1856-1916) the poet and writer. To fully appreciate this cemetery a guided tour is essential.
One section of the cemetery is devoted to fallen Polish soldiers from the Ukrainian-Polish war of 1918-1919 and a nearby section to fallen Ukrainian soldiers. I speaks volumes about the ethnic conflict that troubled this part of Ukraine for many years. The scale of the cemetery is vast and a maze of graves and memorial tombstones. For those looking for their ancestors, it would be a real challenge to find them without some index or map of the cemetery.
After a lunch at a local restaurant we visited the site of a notorious former political jail run in Soviet times by the NKVD the predecessor of the KGB the National Museum-Memorial of Victims of Occupation Regimes. The jail was added on to an earlier police station soon after WW1. It was used exclusively for political prisoners by the Polish, Soviet and Nazi regimes. When the Soviets took over Lviv in 1939 after the partition of Poland it became the NKVD Prison No. 1. It was designed to hold 1500 prisoners in crowded conditions and also had the infamous interrogation rooms where people suspected as enemies of the nation were interrogated. Very few of the people imprisoned there were ever convicted by regular courts of any crime, but during Soviet times, just being a suspect was enough to land you in this infamous prison. Adjacent to the prison was a courtyard where prisoners could get some exercise, but even this was later denied them. Many prominent citizens were held in this facility. When Nazi troops were on the verge of taking the city of Lviv the orders came from Moscow to execute all prisoners and over 1000 of them were shot in the courtyard in a couple of days. When the Nazi troops arrived they found the murdered prisoners in the basement of the building. They allowed local citizens in to help identify the victims and recorded it all on film. The same film was later used by the Soviets to make the claim that the Nazi troops had committed this atrocity against these prisoners. It was only when the KGB files were opened after Ukraine’s independence that the truth was revealed. During the war years, Nazi forces used the jail for political prisoners as well. It was a very sad testament to the brutality of totalitarian regimes during these times.
While some may find this part of our tour to be on the grim side, I feel that, as a tourist, it is important to get to know and respect what the people of this lovely country have endured at the hands of occupying forces for so many years and it is these events that have molded the character and outlook of modern day Ukrainians.
We ended our day with another great meal of Ukrainian cuisine. We have been very impressed by the high level and quality of food served in Ukraine and many North American restaurants could learn a lot from their Ukrainian counterparts. And I should mention the truly great coffee served in most restaurants and coffee houses. Tomorrow we begin our road trip with Andriy Dorosh!
Closing the loop. Day 7
At last, we get a look at the Ukrainian countryside and get to experience first hand the sights and sounds of the countryside. After a nice breakfast at the Astoria Hotel we were picked up by Andriy and we drove through the city on our way to Pochaiv Lavra and Ternopil. The topography outside of Lviv is that of a rolling countryside, not particularly hilly for the most part. You can see this easily on road view on Google Maps. Spring is well on its way here and the trees are in full leaf and the fields of Canola are the yellow of the Ukrainian flag. We were delighted to see many chickens along the roadsides and it gave a whole new meaning to the term “free range” chicken. We also passed many horse drawn carts , grazing horses and goats along the way. These carts are quite common in the rural areas, with the general design of the cart going back many centuries.
The roads in this part of Ukraine are generally good. They would not remain this way for many parts of the trip, but this only added to the interest. We joked with Andriy that the condition of the roads in some regions were that way to slow down tourists and to give them more time to view the lovely Ukrainian countryside. I have always loved the idea and look of cobblestone roads, of which there are many in the central part of most cities, but driving on them is a whole new experience!
Pochaiv Lavra is the site of one of the most beautiful Orthodox Monasteries in the world. It is a Russian Orthodox monastery which is connected to Moscow Patriarchate and is a popular place for religious pilgrimages. It is know as the Church of the Holy Dormition and it sits on a high hill and dominates the view for kilometers around Pochaiv. It is truly impressive in its scope and the number of buildings contained within its grounds. Our tour was given by a student of the local seminary and a future priest. He was a gentle soul, deeply immersed in his faith and very knowledgeable about the history of the site, which dates back to 1240. For the tour, women are required to wear head scarfs and a skirt while on the grounds of the church. There are numerous vendors outside the grounds selling head scarfs for about $2 and the monastery supplies a wrap around skirt for the duration of the tour. You can read about this amazing complex of buildings here: http://www.pochaev.org.ua/?pid=1&lang=eng Google translate can help to sort through some of the pages of this website. Also, Google Maps gives some nice views in street view mode.
Sorting out differences between the various churches in Ukraine can be quite confusing and I advise anyone planning a trip to Ukraine to do a bit of reading on the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, the Orthodox churches and their several patriarchates before arriving here. Generally speaking, the former Austro-Hungarian province of Galicia is largely of the Greek Catholic faith, aligned to Rome, while the former province of Bukovina is largely of the Orthodox faith, with both following the eastern rites. The Catholic Church is also present here, largely as the result of the former Polish presence in Ukraine. There are at present three Partriachates in the Orthodox Church, the Moscow Patriarchate, the Kyivan Patriarchate and the Autocephalous Patriarchate. The relationship of these branches of the various Chrisitian churches is complicated to say the least and at present only the Moscow Patriarchate is recognized worldwide.
After a lunch in Pochaiv, we proceeded to the village of Tarakaniv to see the hidden Tarakaniv Fort with its two story underground fortress, a remnant of the former Russian Empire, situated on the old border between Russia and Austria-Hungary. It was an impressive feat of engineering, being largely underground and occupying many acres of the former borderlands. With our local guide we had a chance to learn more about the fortress, its details of construction and its fate over the years since it was built in the late 1800s. As we wandered through the various underground caverns, flashlights in hand, we saw the places where the soldiers lived, where horses were kept, the gunpowder storage rooms and the various facilities of military life on the borderlands, we were amazed at this feat of military engineering. Today, it is in ruins and although it is not an “official” tourist site, it is very worthwhile seeing. It is truly a place of mystery and wonderment, but at the same time it is a testament to the futility of war and empires.
We left the fort and made our way to Ternopil, staying at the Avalon hotel, all of which has been arranged by Andriy. It was a long day of driving for Andriy, but with the varied countryside and the many things to see, the time went by quickly. Andriy picked our hotels and they were generally located close to the old sectors of the city, within walking distance of most of the attractions. One feature we particularly liked is the many pedestrian-only walkways in the center of the various cities. And what was always surprising was the number of people out walking in the evenings, young people, children and a few older people, but not many. The three of us ended our day with another lovely meal. Ukrainians sure know how to cook. And did I mention the great coffee?
Closing the loop. Day 8
After a long day of travel filled with many sights and impressions we arrived in Kamients-Podilskyi, the site of a large castle complex and a town filled with remnants the mixture of the various cultures, all former occupiers of this region. Architecturally speaking, it is a most interesting town with Turkish, Polish, Russian, Armenian and Ukrainian characteristics. Where else in the world can you find a Turkish minaret topped with a statue of the Virgin Mary? We marveled at how each town and city along the way had its own character and feel about it and Kamients-Podilskyi was no exception.
We had a very nice lunch at Hetman restaurant. Hetman is the name given to former leaders during the Cossack era in the 17th century. The founder of the Hetmanate, Bohdan Khmelnytsky, declared himself as the ruler of the Ruthenian State or Rus State of the Polish representative Adam Kysil in February 1649.
On our way to lunch we came across the beginning of a festival and a local troop of young dancers and with Andriy’s help they agreed to have their picture taken with us. After lunch, we met our local guide Max, who took us on a 3 hour walking tour of the old city and the castle fortress. Max had a very good knowledge of the history and lore of the local area. We walked through the old sectors of the city and learned about the varied history of this most colorful town. We sat for a while at the ruins of the ancient St. Nickolas Armenian Church that had been blown up and destroyed by the Soviets in the 1930s after their occupation of the region. It is sad that the Soviets had so little regard for the culture of the areas they occupied, especially if they had any religious significance. Many churches throughout Ukraine had been used for everything from grain storage to housing horses.
From the Armenian Church we walked to the castle fortifications and they are truly impressive with massive walls, guarded entry points up steep ramps and shooting holes to fend off invaders. The site dates back to the 14th century and was initially built to protect the bridge connecting the city to the mainland. The castle sits on top of a peninsula with the Smotrych River winding around it. The castle was almost impenetrable, but Ottoman Empire forces manage to capture it in 1672. In the beginning of August 1672, a 300,000 Ottoman force led by Sultan Mehmed IV and a 40,000 combined force of Tatars and Cossacks led by Hetman Petro Doroshenko laid siege to the castle. (I am almost certain that Petro is a distant ancestor of our most capable guide and friend, Andriy Dorosh, but I will have to do further research on this. 🙂 )The Polish-Lithuanian Empire surrendered to the attacking force. It was held for 27 years until ceded back to Polish control in 1699. Our tour concluded with a climb up to the upper ramparts and back down again. It was indeed a most most impressive view across the beautiful Ukrainian countryside.
That evening we had dinner at the Reikartz Hotel where we stayed that night. We made plans for the next day’s tour of Bakota and the Podilia Natural Preserve. My own excitement was growing as tomorrow afternoon we would enter the province of Chernivtsi or as it was known in my grandfather’s time, the Duchy of Bukovina. We are now only a day away from meeting our relatives!
Closing the loop. Day 9 & 10
We continued our tour with a visit to a very special place in Ukraine, the former village of Bakota, which was removed, a dam built and the area flooded to make a hydro electric generation facility. Today the area is a nature preserve and at the foot of the steep cliffs is an ancient monastery. We began our journey to this site and picked up our local guide Nastia and arrived at the Podolia Natural Preserve and it was a truly breathtaking view from high atop the high cliff. Nastia explained the history of the site and told us about the history of the monastery that was found at the bottom of the cliffs. The former village of Bakota was first mentioned in the Hypatian Chronicle of 1240. At that time the area was controlled by the medieval Grand Duchy of Lithuania. A Lithuanian chronicle mentions the cave monastery as early as 1362.
We began our descent down a winding path along the cliff side to the monastery. It took about twenty minutes to reach the monastery and it was a lovely walk with beautiful views across the lake. The wild flowers and shrubs were in bloom and we had a brief encounter with a small green lizard beside the path.
We arrived at the site of the ancient monastery and rested while Nastia told us more about the history of the area and how a wooden church had been built on the site, but was destroyed by the Soviets in 1960. In 1981 the village of Bakota was leveled and the area flooded to provide water power for the new hydro electric generator. The residents of the village were relocated to a new site nearby. The site of the cave monastery is a place of quiet tranquility and Nastia told us that she likes to come there in the early morning or late evening when it is largely deserted to appreciate the peacefulness of the place. We made the climb to the top and bade farewell to our guide.
We were on the road again and now headed for Chernivtsi Oblast. My excitement was growing as we neared the borderlands of the old province of Bukovina. In a recorded interview, my grandmother had told us about her former life there before leaving for Canada in 1914. I marvel at the detail that she, in 1971, at the age of 80 years, recalled from her past life. My subsequent research into the Metrical records for Hlyboka, her home village, supported her observations and recollections. She had told us that her father died when she was only 5 years old and that her mother died within a year. Orphaned at the age of 6, she was sent to Terebleche to live with her aunt, her mother’s sister. She lived there as a servant to her aunt who kept her out of school so that she could do the family chores. As a result of this, she never learned to read or write. Terebleche, to this day, being largely populated by Romanian speaking Ukrainans, she learned their language too. When her uncle, Teodor Savchuk, died five years later, her aunt sent her back to Hlyboka, where she, at the age of 10years, she lived with her brothers and worked as a housemaid in the village.
My research found her recollections to be factual, as I found that my grandmother’s parents, Ivan Tonenchuk and Domnika Zastovcian were married in Terebleche and lived there for several years. I found Domnika’s sister, Irina and her marriage to Teodor Savchuk. Teodor died in 1903, so this agrees with my grandmother’s story. I treasure that recording and thank my late uncle Alex for his foresight in doing this interview. For any of you who have grandparents or parents living, I highly recommend making a recorded interview with them.
We arrived in Chernivtsi later that evening and had a nice dinner with Andriy at a local restaurant. I contacted Tania Tonenchuk, who I had previously corresponded with after having Anna Bilanenko of this group give me directions to her web page. We agreed to meet the following day at our hotel, the Allure Inn, which is located in the central square of the city.
It was with great excitement that we met Tania the following morning. Tania teaches English at the Chernivtsi National University and she is a delightful person. Since first contacting here via Facebook Messenger, we have exchanged many emails and she has been very helpful in my search for Tonenchuk relations. I was so delighted later in my research to find that she is a 4th cousin twice removed of mine!
Tania and her husband Sergiy took us to a favorite cafe of theirs and we enjoyed some good Ukrainian cooking. From there we were taken to the Chernivtsi Folk Park and that was an enjoyable look back at how our ancestors lived and the various houses and exhibits were most informative. I took many pictures of how life was lived in Bukovina in the 1700-1800s.
After our tour of the folk park we went back to their home for a truly wonderful Ukrainian home cooked meal, complete with a home baked cake! Cooking is a passion with Tania and she has a Facebook cooking page that is followed by many. We made plans to meet the following day and travel with Andriy to Hlyboka.
Closing the loop. Day 11
Today is the day that we have been waiting for! Tania met us at the Allure Inn lobby and began our ride south to Hlyboka. It is only about 20 km distance, but it seemed to take forever to get there. We turned off the main highway onto the usual bumpy roads and shortly we were in Dimka, a small village that borders with Hlyboka. We stopped to take a few pictures, as I had promised another Tonenchuk cousin who lives in Montreal, Quebec, Margaret Kulkulska. From there we made our way to Hlyboka. I was very excited and a bit nervous as to how we might be received by my 2nd cousin, Anastasia (Maksymiuk) Romaniuk, with whom I had made contact, with Tania’s help, through email, several months back. Tania took us on a tour of the village which was greatly appreciated.
We called Victor, Anastasia’s son, to let them know that we were here. He said they were waiting for us and also that the Mayor of the Hlyboka Region wanted to meet with us as well and said that he would be honored if we accepted his invitation. We of course did accept, but first we had to meet with our family. We stopped at a local flower shop and bought 13 red roses to present to Anastasia. We had learned that you never give an even number of flowers and not yellow flowers, as those are both more appropriate for funerals.
We drove up to the house, which is located on the same piece of land where my grandfather’s brother, Nikolai Monax lived. I also knew from my research on house numbers that my grandfather had lived at the same location prior to his first marriage. The house was nicely situated on a large lot and their were chickens in the yard and a small barn beside the property.
The door opened and the first to greet us was Victor. Andriy Dorosh handled the introductions, as none of my Ukrainian family spoke English. Then out of the door came Anastasia to greet us. She and I were all smiles. We shared a long embrace and she and I were in tears, as she said “ мій брат, мій брат ” or my brother, my brother, which is the term for cousin in Ukrainian. All three of Anastasia’s older sisters and her brother are deceased and so I am the only living person of her generation on this side of the family that she has met. She was about to find out, just how many Canadian and American cousins she does have.
We met the rest of the family, Maria, Victor’s wife and their son Igor, who had taken time off work to be there to greet us. After introductions, we were invited inside and to the dining room, where, as we had been told by several in this group and Tania that there would be a table laden with food. Everyone was talking at the same time and Andriy was doing a most admirable job of making sure everyone was understood. I had never appreciated until now just how difficult simultaneous translation can be, but he handled it in a most professional and personable way. All of our Ukrainian cousins were delighted that we could talk as freely as were did, as they too, had been worried about how we would be able to communicate.
There was a lot of catching up to do after a 104 year absence by our branch of the family. It amazed Patti and I just how much they knew about my grandfather, Aftanasie Monax, who, as I learned, had lived next door to them, prior to emigrating to Canada. We also learned that my grandfather was considered a wealthy man by Hlyboka standards of the day and had served as the head of the local village council for a number of years. They knew of his emigration to Canada and of the four children that he and my grandmother had at that time.
After our meal, we went to have a most interesting guided tour by the Director of the local Hlyboka Museum and then on to a meeting with the Mayor of Hylboka Raion. He welcomed us with a gift and a talk about the history of the area. He is very knowledgeable about the history from the earliest times to the present and we learned much from him. My wife and I noticed a strong resemblance to one an uncle of mine and we learned that he too had some Monax ancestors in his family tree! We agreed to keep in contact and to explore this possible connection when I arrived back home. A reporter and photographer from the local paper was on hand to document the event and we were surprised to find that we were in the paper the following day.
After our meetings, we returned to our family for yet another meal and lots of talk, an exchange of gifts and I presented the family with a large circular chart of all the Monax descendants from Ivan Monax b. circa 1786 to the present day. They were very interested to see this chart which I had, with the help of Tania and another cousin, Julia Krulikovska, translated all the names into Ukrainian. Anastasia and family had not known who their great grandparents were, as this information had been lost over the years. They were also surprised to know how many of the other Monax families in Hlyboka that they are related to. All of this information was found in my search of the Hlyboka Orthodox Metrical Records at the LDS Family History Center.
We had many toasts with vodka. Prior to this Andriy had coached us on the proper way to drink vodka and to observe the ritual toasts of which he assured us there would be many. We were there for quite some time and poor Andriy was getting exhausted, so we made plans for our return the following day and bade them farewell for the evening. Patti and I were elated with the warmth and depth of the reception from everyone and especially from our family. We had indeed closed the loop after all these years.
Closing the loop. Day 12
We returned to Hlyboka to meet with the family once again, with the intention of making a visit to the cemetery, which is just down the street from Anastasia’s home. We were again warmly greeted by Anastasia and Victor told us that she had been sitting by the window looking out for us since early morning. Victor accompanied us to the cemetery on what turned out to be a very hot day with temperatures reaching about 29C or 84F in full sunshine. We have had such great weather since arriving in Ukraine, with only one evening of rainfall. The daytime temperatures have been very nice and the evenings cool for sleeping.
We entered the cemetery and I was surprised by the large size of it. Many plots in the older section had fallen into neglect and there were far fewer headstones in this area, mostly just iron crosses marking the location of graves.
Some had small plaques attached to say who was buried there, but most did not. With Victor’s help we quickly located the resting place of my grandfather’s brother, Nikolai Monax. His grave was marked with a single iron cross and if Victor had not know its location we would never have found it. I quickly lost hope of finding older family grave markers, realizing that time and the financial circumstances of my ancestors probably did not permit them to erect more lasting monuments to their departed relatives. Victor told us that a decision had recently been made to level most of this area of the cemetery to reuse the plots. We continued our tour and did locate all the plots for Anastasia’s three sisters. Her brother, Aftanasi, who was named after my grandfather, was killed two days before the end of WW2 and is buried in present day Czech Republic. The heat of the day prevented us from spending further time there and so we returned home, to yet another meal, vodka toasts and lots of fun and laughter.
Closing the loop. Day 13
Today we visited Terebleche which is south of Hlyboka and very close to the Romania-Ukraine border. It is a village with about 3000 inhabitants. My grandmother. Eufrosina Tonenchuk, lived here for about five years with her aunt, Irina Zastovcian who was married to Teodor Savchuk. My grandmother’s parents died when she was only 5 or 6, her father died in April of 1896 and her mother in August of 1897. Her older brother Emilian was serving in the military and her other brother Simeon, who was only three years older than her went to live with another family in Hlyboka.
Terebleche is a small, but fairly very well kept village, inhabited largely by Romanian speaking Ukrainians. Upon our entrance to the village we noticed an elderly gentleman tending a cow by the roadside and we stopped to ask him the whereabouts of the local cemetery. As luck would have it, he was the eldest person living in the village, had attained the venerable age of 86 and knew everyone in the village.
We asked him about my grandmother’s Zastovcian family, but he did not know this name. He did know the Savchuk name and we were informed that people by that name still live in the village, but the older generation had all passed away. The younger Savchuks now run a restaurant business on the main highway, just outside of Terebleche.
Earlier I had asked Andriy about an expression I had heard my grandmother utter when when she was annoyed or angry, but he did not recognize it and speculated that it might be Romanian. It was something like, “popa toda” and I have wondered for years what it meant. We asked the gentleman if he knew of this expression. He became a bit embarrassed and was reluctant to tell us, but Andriy insisted and he informed us that it translated to something like “My ass.” We all had a great laugh over this, thanked him for his help and he agreed to Andriy taking a picture of the two of us.
We entered the village and found the local Orthodox church and a villager informed us that it had been built early in the 1800s, but had been modified since then. This is most probably the church in which my great grandparents, Ivan Tonenchuk and Domnika Zastovcian were married. My search of the old Metrical records had shown that their first child was also born in Terebleche, so they spent some time here before returning to Hlyboka.
We then traveled further to find the cemetery not far down the road. There were several people working on graves and we asked two women who were working on a cemetery plot if they could direct us to the Savchuk plots, which they did. We did not find older Savchuk graves, but they were very helpful and soon everyone in the cemetery was trying to help us in our quest.
They informed us that after WW2 many of the village residents were declared “Enemies of the Nation” by the Soviets and deported to Siberia for a term of up to 15 years. Their “crime” was that they owned two cows or two horses, which was deemed to be capitalistic. These “affluent” farmers were termed as Kulacs by the Soviets. Millions of Kulacs were deported to sparsely populated areas of Russia and it is estimated that several millions died from the harsh living conditions there.
The woman we talked with was a retired teacher of the French language at the local school and her grandfather and other family members had been deported as well. She told us that many did not survive the terrible conditions there, but that her grandfather had and returned to the village after working off most of his time in Siberia as a lineman for the electric services. It was a pleasant meeting with more pictures and an exchange of farewells, this time in French, as I was able to speak a bit of French with her. As we were leaving there was a man standing atop a cart that was harnessed to a horse and he was talking on his cell phone, giving such a strong juxtaposition of time and place.
On our way back to Hlyboka we called another cousin, Peter Tonenchuk, who I had previously contacted through Facebook. Peter is a 1st cousin of Tania Tonenchuk and another 4th cousin, twice removed to me. It was very nice of Peter to take the time off work to meet us and it was great to meet another Tonenchuk cousin.
Peter runs a successful business Florium.ua out of his Hlyboka facility, dealing in large quantities of bulbs, plants, roses, etc. Peter, like Sergiy, Tania’s husband and Andriy Dorosh are representatives of the younger generation of Ukrainian entrepreneurs who are building strong local businesses in modern Ukraine.
We returned to say farewell to our family and although we told them not to prepare more food, the table was set and the vodka was ready for another round of family and farewell toasts. Being the ever ready genetic genealogist, I had brought several DNA kits along and I was nervous to ask Anastasia if she would be willing to let me swab her cheeks. She had seen this procedure on television and so was ready to oblige. I will certainly be keen to see the results of this test, as it will be my closest link to my Ukrainian family and the common ancestor, Teodor Monax, our common great grandfather.
Before leaving, we asked for a tour of their farm and met their bull and cow, two pigs, as well as their flock of chickens. We saw their land plots and Victor was very proud of his tractor that he uses to cultivate his fields. Like many families in Ukraine they grow most of their own food and work very hard.
But now the time came to say goodbye and it was with heavy hearts, many hugs and tear filled eyes that we said goodbye to them. The time together was all too short. We were indeed sad to leave, but buoyed by the feeling that we could not have asked for a warmer, more loving reception from our dear relatives. Now that the loop has been closed we will keep in touch with them through email and letters, I will send them pictures of our reunion and of our time there. They will be in our hearts and minds now that we have reconnected our families. I had been told that Ukrainians and especially western Ukrainians have a very strong sense of family and the ties once made are lasting and I hope that this will be the case with our own dear family.
Closing the loop. Day 14
We arrived in Kolomyya around noon at the tail end of a military parade. The town square was filled with people and armored cars, tanks and other weapons, a grim reminder that the most easterly part of Ukrainian is presently under a state of war with Russian backed separatists who want to split from Ukraine and join the Russian Federation. One would never know that this was the case here in western Ukraine. We walked about the city for a brief look around and then went to lunch at a nice cafe that Andriy had picked out.
After lunch we walked to the Hutsul Museum to take a guided tour with Vita. The building that houses the museum was built in the early part of the 1900s and is quite a nice structure and the stained glass front entrance is particularly impressive. We met Vita who works at the museum and she was very enthusiastic about the collection and gave a great tour. The museum is a good size and houses many colorful and interesting Hutsul artifacts.
We learned that the Hutsuls are fiercely independent Ukrainians living primarily in the Carpathian mountain region. They think of themselves as a Rusyn ethnic minority and as Ukrainian highlanders. Their Hutsul language is considered a dialect of Ukrainian. They are noted for their colorful crafts, intricate woodcarving, rug weaving, woodworking, metalwork, pottery and egg decorating. They are also noted for their traditional songs and dances. Their society was based on forestry and logging, as well as sheep and cattle breeding.
The museum collection featured many examples of their fine woodcarving craftsmanship, pottery, metalwork, including an axe, known as a bartok, which were traditionally carried by Hutsul men. Their work and clothing is highly ornamented and very colorful. We were told that the pottery dishes were for decoration and not used for everyday meals. Their clothing is bright, colorful and highly decorated. Many of the displays are in glass cases in a brightly lit room and so it was difficult to take pictures without reflections.
Many homes were and still are heated by heavy masonry stoves decorated with colorful tiles. These stoves provide a massive heat sink that radiates much of the heat out into the home. These stoves provided the Hutsul people yet another opportunity for elaborate decoration within their homes. One very interesting painting showed three different faces when viewed from the right, directly on center and from the left. You can see this in the attached pictures.
The Hutsul Museum in Kolomyya is an amazing collection and very much worth seeing. A guided tour is highly recommended, as there is so much to learn from a knowledgeable explanation the exhibits, which our guide provided. We were pleased that Andriy picked another excellent guide for this part of our tour.
We left the Hutsul museum and traveled north to Ivano-Frankviska, which is a moderate sized city with a population of about 230,000 inhabitants. It is the administrative center for the Invano-Frankviska Oblast or province. The city’s architecture reflects the influences of the occupying nations, Austria, Poland and the Soviet Union.
We checked into our hotel and then went out for another wonderful Ukrainian meal. Like all the Ukrainian cities we have seen so far, Ivano-Frankviska had a very active nightlife. A festival was going on this weekend and the downtown areas were closed off and crowded with people of all ages. It was so nice to see this kind of activity in the downtown core of the city. We in North America could learn a lot about making our cities more people friendly and by not designing them so that cars have priority over people.
The festival was featuring music groups from many different Slavic nations, including Belarus and Georgia. The music was hard driving and a mix of rock and folk idioms. Dancers in traditional dress dotted the stage and performed their various regional dances. It was all very colorful and the crowd in front of the stage was large and appreciative of their efforts.
Closing the loop. Day 15
We came down from our room the next morning to find a very busy breakfast buffet. The music festival had brought many people into the city and the dining area was crowded with people jostling for coffee and all the wonderful offerings of the extensive Ukrainian breakfast. After breakfast we met Andriy in the parking lot of the hotel and made our plans for today’s tour of the Hutsul countryside, the Husul market and a private lunch with a Hutsul host in the Carpathian mountains.
The road took us back to Kolomyya and then up into the mountain area. We stopped to pick up our local guide a Hutsul woman by the name of Luba. She lives in the area and is very knowledgeable about the customs and people. It was a nice drive with lots of beautiful scenery along the way. On our route into the mountains we encountered a traffic backup. It was slow going, but no one was honking horns or getting impatient. We learned a bit down the road that we were behind a funeral procession. Everyone was very respectful and many just pulled over to the roadside to park until the traffic started moving again. I can’t imagine that happening here in Canada.
Our first stop was the Hutsul market and it was a colorful sight indeed. This is not a market just for tourists, but a market that the local people come to on a regular basis. Anything and everything can be bought here from chainsaw and car parts to foods, radios, and a huge selection of handicrafts, carvings and arts. We enjoyed looking at all the crafts and the wide array of foods, meats and other offerings. Luba was very helpful in making sure we purchased items that were made by Hutsuls in the area, as she told us that some vendors buy imported goods and sell them as local. We purchased several items, from embroidered shirts to handmade decorated tiles and a few carved items. We also bought a small clay bird that makes the most amazing bird sounds. By itself it just makes a high pitched tweet, but the trick is to put a bit of water inside and then blow on it. We left the market on route to our lunch appointment in the mountains.
Luba explained that today and tomorrow were very special days for Hutsuls, the celebration of St. George Day when the Hutsul shepherds go to the mountain pastures with their sheep. This evening they will burn fires outside their gates and the following day take the still lighted coals to the mountains with them where they will be used to start a fire that will be kept burning until the 21st of September. To let it go out is considered a very bad misfortune. A person is brought along whose sole role is to tend the fire and ensure that it never goes out. By the 21st of September the nights are too cool and there is not enough grass to feed the sheep. At this time they come back down the mountain. The previous day we saw an artistic depiction of the sheep going to the mountains in the Husul museum.
The countryside and vistas in the Carpathian mountains are really special. The roads wind through the mountains and each turn gives a new view of the hills and valleys, rivers and streams running through them. Along the way we passed some very interesting Hutsul beehives, sitting on the hillside. The Hutsul people never seem to miss an opportunity to decorate almost everything around them.
The winding road eventually brought us to our destination. Andriy told us we were in for some good food and some interesting sights and he was right. We met our host Svitlana who operates the business here. She is a weaver by trade and makes Hutsul blankets on her loom. But first we had to sit down to a lovey lunch of traditional Hutsul dishes, along with some Hutsul “moonshine,” flavored with horseradish and honey and pepper. All of the food was from the area and prepared by her family. It was excellent, beginning with a bowl of wild mushroom soup, cold cuts, tomatoes and freshly cooked traditional Hutsul banosh which was very rich and delicious. We of course had to make some toasts with our flavored drinks for which we had now learned the correct etiquette.
After lunch we toured Svitlana’s weaving operation. She cards her wool makes her yarn and weaves blankets on her loom. She also has a very interesting operation where water from the local river is channeled through the lower level of her weaving studio. This cascade is used to wash the wool blankets and shrink them to a certain size. She does this, not only for her own creations, but other weavers bring their blankets to her to have them washed. It is a very tricky operation and the degree of shrinkage depends on the water temperature, the length of time the blanket is in the water. Most often the various weavers are working to orders and want a specific size of blanket at the end of the washing operation. She must gauge the length of time and know the water temperature, given the changing seasons, in order to get them to come out to the correct size.
She said she started learning the whole process at the age of five from her grandmother and now she does it on her own. It was quite amazing to see it in operation with the water cascading down into the washing pit and the blankets churning in the water. She also sells blankets as part of her home operated business. There is no industry in the area and the Hutsul people rely on their skills as craftspeople to make a living. From what we saw there, they are certainly making a success of it. As we left the operation we passed a large concrete tank where they have a small trout farm. We then made our way back to the main road and then said goodbye to Luba who had told us so much about Hutsul life and lore. It was a very interesting and informative day, for sure.
We drove back to our hotel in Ivano-Frankivsk and the music festival was in full swing. The three of us went out to a nice dinner at a local restaurant.
Closing the loop. Day 16
Our last day of the tour! We began the day in Ivano-Frankvisk with another lavish breakfast at the hotel. All of our hotels on this tour included a complementary breakfast and what breakfasts they were! Not just a coffee and croissant, but a full breakfast with sausages, cabbage rolls, sliced meats, cooked vegetable dishes, various porridge types, fruit, kefir, yogurt, bacon, cheese, many versions of cooked eggs, tomatoes, French toast, variety of sweets, etc. etc. On the whole Ukrainians are a tall and slim people and I would very much like to know their secret as to how they do this with such large quantities of foods for almost every meal.
We decided to pass on the the last tour, which was to be of the open air museum in Skansen. We had previously seen a similar display in Chernivtsi with our cousin Tania, but by this time in our tour schedule we were running low on energy. For a couple in their mid-seventies, we felt we had done fairly well on all these tours, but we just didn’t have the energy left to complete this final tour. However, we had a very nice drive back to Lviv and had most interesting discussions on a range of topics, including family history and DNA testing. Andriy is keenly interested in all of this. In looking back at our tour, some of our best moments on the trip were these far ranging discussions with a good exchange of ideas and experiences. Andriy is such a kind and caring person and as genuine as anyone could be. It was an honor and a great pleasure to travel with him.
We had received many gifts from our cousins in Hlyboka and bought crafts from the Hutsul market, so we had to stop to buy an additional suitcase to carry them back to Canada. The every helpful Andriy took us to a nice mall in the suburbs of Lviv where we were able to find just the right suitcase at the right price. We then had lunch and from there drove to the Astoria hotel. Although our tour had ended we still have two days left in Lviv and a few more gifts to buy.
The time had come to say farewell to Andriy and here we were in the Astoria lobby doing just that.
Patti and I have to admit that it was with a lot of emotion that we parted company with our new friend. Over the course of our twelve day tour we had shared some of the best experiences of our lives. I will never forget the ease with which he facilitated our meeting with our cousins in Hlyboka. Those were tough days for him with many hours of simultaneous translation, not only with our relatives, but with the local dignitaries who wished to meet the returning Monax family. The extensive road tour and meeting with family far exceeded our expectations by a huge margin and Andriy’s organization of the tour, his attention to details, his driving skills over crazy Ukrainian roads, his translation abilities and much more, made the trip one we will never forget. He was always there, checking to make sure things were right with us. He made sure that each of our hotel rooms were up to his high standards. We felt pampered and cared for throughout our tour. Thank you Andriy, from the bottom of our hearts for making this a once in a lifetime experience for both of us.
Closing the loop. Days 17 & 18
Back in Lviv we stayed once again at the Astoria Hotel, our favorite hotel of the trip. The staff there was ever helpful and it really began to feel like our home away from home. Our room this time was a bit larger with a balcony overlooking the street five floors below. We decided to eat in the fine hotel restaurant and had a nice fillet mignon steak of Ukrainian beef, which was delicious and cooked to perfection. We had decided that we would spend a few days to wind down after the road tour, rather than rushing to the airport to leave. We greatly enjoyed Lviv and it was nice to spend another couple of days here. We took time to shop for some gifts to bring home. The chocolate and coffee are excellent and we found shops where we were able to get some nice gift packs of both.
The following day we lunched at the Bachevski restaurant again amid the greenery, the songful canaries and with an excellent accordion player and singer duo adding atmosphere. When they played the canaries joined in with their songs. It was quite enjoyable. It was a lovely venue in which to enjoy our last lunch in Lviv. We visited the shop in the restaurant where they had many variants of vodka and we bought a couple of bottles to bring home as gifts.
On our last night in Lviv we dined again at Amadeus and had a very nice meal on the outdoor patio in balmy temperatures for a early May night. Our server asked where we were from and we told her Canada, upon which she said, “Canadians are so nice, they are always smiling, not like Ukrainians who don’t smile very much.” I had heard before coming to Ukraine that indeed Ukrainians do not smile as much, at least at strangers. To do so would be considered odd by them. In general we found this to be true, not that they were unfriendly, just that they did not smile a lot in public. However, when we were with our family group this was certainly not true. Knowing all of this, it was nice to hear from our server that she actually enjoyed our smiling Canadian faces and didn’t find us odd.
Sitting across from us were two young women who were speaking in a language that I did not recognize. At one point they asked us if we spoke English and we began a conversation with them. They were from Turkey and visiting Lviv on a bit of a holiday. They had a few not so positive thoughts on the current head of their country and taught us a word in Turkish, which they laughed heartily at when we said it with their cell phones in hand while we attempted to pronounce it. I have no idea what it meant and it probably ended up on their social media site somewhere in Turkey. Just before leaving the restaurant they asked if they could get a picture with me and I obliged. We finished as much as we could of our very fine meal and made our way back to the Astoria.
We have come to our final day in Lviv. During the writing of this blog I have been privileged to be in contact with many of you who are following our travels. Stefka Lytwyn, who was born in England of Ukrainian parents, was one of those who contacted us and suggested meeting up with us. She presently lives and works in Lviv. We invited her to join us for our final breakfast at the Astoria. She is a delightful and energetic person and we enjoyed meeting and talking with her. She is presently working with a Canadian company that organizes tours to Ukraine, primarily for members of Ukrainian dance groups who are touring Ukraine. We learned that she is also a Ukrainian dancer. After we parted company we returned to our room to pack our bags and get ready for the long flight back home. Just prior to getting picked up for our trip to the airport, I made one quick tour of a few antique shops in a quest to find a unique artifact to bring home with me.
Our flight from Lviv to Warsaw on LOT Polish Airlines was on time and we made our connection to Toronto with time to spare. The flight to Toronto was about eight hours long and we were both very tired, but elated at the same time. Our journey to “close the loop” and reunite our family with our Ukrainian families had been a great success. We brought home many wonderful memories of our tour, our time with Andriy and meeting and getting to know our cousins in Hlyboka and Chernivtsi. We are grateful to them for the warm and loving reception, the laughter and the wonderful food and let’s not forget all those great cakes. We know, deep in our hearts, that although our stay could have been longer, it could not have been better. We have so much to tell our family here in Canada and the US, so many adventures to share with them and we are looking forward to doing just that..
Closing the loop – Postscript
Our journey to Ukraine to meet our family there has been one of the highlights of our lives. We are part of the Ukrainian diaspora and reconnecting with our “lost” past is important to us. Unlike many Ukrainians who went to live in new countries, our family did not keep many of the Ukrainian traditions. After arriving in Canada in 1914 and spending three years in Lachine Quebec, my family settled in a small Ontario town that had very few immigrants at that time. To be of foreign origin was a distinct disadvantage for my family and they wanted to distance themselves from their Austrian-Ukrainian origins. They were largely shunned by the local community and played amongst themselves. My father related to me that he did not know how to speak English when he first attended school, having spoken only Ukrainian at home with his family.
When I began to search for my eastern European roots in the early 1980s, I had few resources at hand. My father, aunts and uncles, did not know the names of their grandparents, or who their cousins were. I knew only the name of my grandfather’s brother, Nikolai Monax and that my grandmother’s maiden name was Tonenchuk. Fortunately, my uncle Alex had recorded an interview with my grandmother and so I knew some details of her life and the village from which she came. At that time none of the records were available and the Iron Curtain, as it was called, prevented any contact with our family there.
With the collapse of the Soviet Union, all that changed. In the early 2000s the records were microfilmed by the LDS Church and eventually made available online at their Family History Centers. My research into these records gave me many problems to sort through, including the language barriers. Because my family was from Bukovina and of the Orthodox faith I had to learn to read names in Church Slavonic, Russian and Ukrainian, Romanian and strange mixtures of the two languages, in order to make sense of the records. However, it was both exhausting and exhilarating, as I made discovery after discovery about my family. Finding my father’s “real” name was a high point. We had know him as Patrick Maurice, but his baptismal name was Miron Monax. I discovered who his grandparents were and their parents as well. The family tree grew from less than 10 of Ukrainian origin to over 1000 individuals and is still growing. I have not ended this quest to find the many members of my family in Ukraine. For me, family history is more than a collection of birth, marriages and death records. I want to know about the times in which they lived, the circumstances that shaped their lives, their struggles, their heartbreaks and their successes. My journey to close the loop and reconnect our families has given me so much joy and I have learned so much about the history and times in which my family lived. This journey back to the homeland of my ancestors has been so much more than a trip or vacation, it has been a rekindling and reconnecting of my lost Ukrainian heritage and one that I will cherish deeply for the rest of my life.
Terry Monax Maurice