I have always been interested in visiting Ukraine. Ever since I was a child, I would listen to the many stories of my grandmother. I tucked these stories away, remembering the village name, knowing one day I would see where my grandmother lived.
When Ukraine declared its independence, I was a young mother and grandma was in her 80s. She shared her stories once again and I knew that I needed to ask as many questions as possible: relatives’ names, etc. Through my own research, I was able to find 2 documents that gave me the names of my great-great-grandparents. Nothing else was available or scanned.
In 2019, I planned to go on a cruise along the Dnipro River. I was looking forward to my first visit to Ukraine even though I would not be anywhere near where my grandmother grew up. Then the Covid 19 pandemic hit and my dream was not realized.
All was not lost. During the pandemic, I began participating in genealogical webinars. I knew that I wanted to hire someone in Ukraine to help me put together my family tree. But who? There were many recommendations with mixed reviews. The UHEC in New Jersey invited Andriy Dorosh to speak about his genealogical research and tours. Listening to his presentation and how he answered questions convinced me that he was the one that could help me find out about my Ukrainian relatives.
Andriy and Svitlana researched the archives and put together a family tree from my ancestral villages of Vyspa and Liubsha. I received a 137 page report; corresponding birth, marriage and death scans; and family trees! From this wealth of information, I was able to understand how I am related to my cousins that live here in the United States.
Six months later, I decided that I would like Andriy and Svitlana to visit the villages. There were many options: a written report, a photo set with explanations, or a video. I decided on the photos as I am an ameteur photographer and in charge of the family photos.
Unfortunately, the war broke out in Ukraine. The photos were no longer important or an option. The safety of Ukraine and its people, along with providing aid and assistance, was paramount. It was as if I was reliving all of the stories told by my grandmother in the interwar period. How could this be, history repeating itself? Andriy went to work helping the refugees from the east. He provided updates through pictures, stories and videos.
By late spring, Andriy felt it was safe enough to travel and continue work. I drafted a letter of introduction for the trip to the villages. In early July, Andriy had a photoset of over 300 pictures. Although the villages are sparsely populated now, he was able to get pictures of the house my grandmother grew up in, along with the church and school she attended. Lucky for me, a cousin was visiting with her mother while the researcher was there! I can’t even begin to describe the beauty of the villages! I have stories of my great-grandmother and aunt from the researcher’s talk with my cousin and other villagers. There is also a book written about the village that I now have a copy of!
From this visit, I now have a cousin to meet in Lviv and an invitation to visit when Ukraine wins the war. I cannot thank Andriy and his team enough for all they have done. I will be in touch again when I plan my visit to Ukraine.