18
Aug-2017

How Debora traced her family roots in Ukraine

We received this story from one of our American guests and found it so enticing that we absolutely had to share it with you. It is a story about Debora Nagurski, an American citizen, with Ukrainian roots. A story, that lasted for a hundred years until one eventful summer of 2017…

My grandparents had left Ukraine in the early 1900s.  My grandfather was quoted in the local newspaper in 1938 saying he wanted to go back for a visit.  In 2016 I found a photo of him boarding a plane for New York on his way to Poland.  Doing boat records research I discovered that he returned to the US in mid-August 1939.  I wondered why there were no family stories nor stories in the local paper following his visit.  The family story was he was unsuccessful finding anyone, and things were worse then he thought it would be.

This lit a fire in me to visit Ukraine.  Since I knew that the village they were from no longer existed, I decided it would be important simply to touch the earth from the area they were from.  Not knowing what else would be possible, I first considered doing a hiking or backpacking trip as well.

I googled hiking in Ukraine and found the Active Ukraine site.  I contacted them to find out if these two things would be possible.   We emailed back and forth, and Volodymyr  Matkovskyi helped me plan my trip.  He so generously searched and found some people with my family name and arranged for me to meet them.  I wanted to do a walking tour of LVIV, and he suggested that I also visit the Carpathian crafts area and stay with a family.  I was hesitant about that not really knowing what kind of experience that would be not speaking Ukrainian but trusted his wisdom.  All of the things I did were very meaningful and special in their own way.  By meeting with the same name family who so generously invited me into their home, shared their stories, listened with interest to mine,  they gave me a history of life in Ukraine during the time my grandparents were there, of the years of occupation and famines and a sense of culture and life style. This would not have been possible without the help and translation abilities of Volodymyr.

During the driving time, Volodymyr  included meaningful stops at Churches and Museums, including one church that I had a post card photo of,  that I had found with my grandfathers photo. I had a special treat of going the school he attended and met with the School Psychologist (similar profession as me).

And, what ended up being so very special was staying with the family! The first day was a school graduation ceremony and I went with my host (who did not speak English).  The ceremony was filled with traditions and honoring the students who were leaving as well as welcoming the new young children beginning their education journey.  It seemed liked the whole village showed up. I met the English teacher and we became immediate friends on Facebook.  I hiked, I learned to paint eggs (Pysanky) and watched a spoon maker craftman make spoons.  My host, her husband and daughter were wonderful to share time with, and when we did not have a translator present, we used an English-Ukraine dictionary to communicate.

I truly appreciate and value the experience I packed into the 5 days. As a woman traveling solo, I never once felt unsafe.

Thank You, Volodymyr and Active Ukraine.

Deb Nagurski

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