My Grandfather- Who he was and what brought him to Rockaway,New Jersey

I found another journal, with only one , but quite exciting, entry.  It was a narrative of my grandfather’s early life and journey to America. Reading his story made me realize how difficult it must have been to return to his homeland in 1931- a decision I am sure he did not take lightly.  It was written February 14, 1975 .

Our father, Vassili Wardamasky, was born in 1878 in a small village, Baraysheva, in White Russia. Father had 5 brothers, and all are deceased, and 2 sisters, both deceased.  Our grandfather, Sylvester, had a small farm not like Mother’s.  So father and his brothers had to work for the rich landowner.  They got very little pay.

Father went to the army where he servd 3 years as a guard for the officers of Czar Nicholas II.  He got a discharge when the democrats came to power.  It was dangerous to work as a guard at that time.

He went abroad to Paris, France where he worked for a year in a chemical plant.  Then he went to South America and worked there for a very rich farmer.  He lived there three years.  In the meantime, he traveled all through South America with the farmer. After South America, father came to North America to New York after a one month journey.

In New York, a Russian priest took Father in temporarily until he found a job. He was his sponsor and responsible for Father.

The priest said to him, “You should be grateful and pray to God that he brought you alone across the ocean to America.’

 Father didn’t agree with him and didn’t care to attend his sermons. Father told the priest that he was sick of listening to his sermons. All he wanted was a good bowl of his borscht soup because he didn’t have it in a long time.

One day he met a man in a restaurant in New York.  This man came from Rockaway, New Jersey to New York to meet his friend coming from Russia.  Father got acquainted with him and asked where he was from, etc.  He also asked him whether he could go to Rockaway with him, and the man said, “Yes, come along.”

Then father said that he is staying with the priest here in New York and he left all his money, suitcase and belongings there.  The man said he could go back for them.

Father went with the man without saying anything to the priest.  The priest thought that Father had escaped from him and he was looking for him and worrying about where he had disappeared.

Father showed up after three days disappearance and went back to the priest and told him the whole story of his disappearance.  He asked the priest for his forgiveness for leaving without his permission.  He then told the priest that he found a job in Rockaway, New Jersey in a steel mill.  He asked the priest for his money, suitcase and his belongings.  He wanted the money to bring our mother and his brother (our Uncle Mark) to the USA.  

The priest understood his situation and returned everything to Father.  One man at work made a joke how Father told the priest he preferred a good bowl of borscht instead of his sermons.  The men all laughed at it.  He also told them how Fahter escaped from the priest to come to Rockaway, New Jersey.

Well, they all laughed at the story.  That was our father.

Keep in mind that during all these years living in Paris and Argentina, my grandmother heard nothing from him.  His abrupt disappearance was as mysterious to her as my grandfather’s disappearance was to the priest in New York- only much more alarming

How many of those out there reading this know the story of what brought your ancestors to this country?

  Grandfather Basil

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About kjw616

I am a genealogy detective. I have already written one book about my Irish family's journey from 19th century Ireland to the United States- a family history sprinkled with personal anecdotes. My second book was intended to be a similar story about my Russian ancestors. Instead, it turned into a tale of just my father's immediate family. It is the tale of what happens when 6 children from New Jersey are moved to the Soviet Union by their Russian-born parents during the Great Depression. It details who lives, who dies, and who is able to return to NJ during a time when leaving the USSR was not an easy endeavor, particularly during World War II and the Cold War. It is my hope that those interested in history during this time period will find this story fascinating as well as those fellow amateur family historians who will learn some of the tools such as ancestry.com, visits to the National Archives, and local libraries I used to uncover this story.
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3 Responses to My Grandfather- Who he was and what brought him to Rockaway,New Jersey

  1. Jenn O. says:

    I wish I knew what brought my ancestors to North America! Great post!

  2. archecotech says:

    It’s great that you found that diary. Out of curiosity in what place was it hiding for so long and what happened that you found it. Discovering our roots is away a daunting task, looks like your detective work is paying off. From our last visit I did look to see if there was such a thing as white pages, asked my wife, check a bit on the internet but not much luck. Things are very different here in that regard.

    • kjw616 says:

      After my dad died 5 years ago, I started looking through his dresser, recalling that he always said, “I have the documents to prove it.”
      “It” referred to the various stories he told us over the years, but I never took the time to challenge him. The diary, along with a lot of letters written to him from the State Department,Army and embassies, were all hidden among his clothes. I wish I had known about this when I could have sat down and spoken to him about it.

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