The Traveling Diary

The diary I stumbled upon in Dad’s dresser drawer turned out to be the key to unlocking many of the mysteries of his life prior to marrying my mother.  I have reread it countless times since discovering it four years ago, and each time, I find something new. Because some is written in English, and some in Russian, I  had to enlist the aid of a translator.

The most amazing part about this diary is the fact that it has traveled so far and for so long, which is why it is so important to me.

It appears that it belonged to my father’s three sisters, Anna, Helen, and Nancy.  It took its first journey with Anna when she and my grandfather’s brother sailed on the Mauretania enroute to Leningrad.  The contents can be read in the post,  Anna: The First to Leave- March 1931.

Apparently, it was sent back to New Jersey for the return voyage in December of that year. One of my other two aunts provided more details of that trip, which I describe in The Importance of Reading Between the Lines.

Sometime between 1939 and 1940, the diary accompanied Dad’s family to Novgorod, where they were exiled for refusing to become Soviet citizens.  Shortly after Germany’s surprise invasion of the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, the diary spent 5 months traveling to Kuibyshev, where part of the family was evacuated after Hitler’s forces attacked Novgorod.

It wasn’t until 1945 that the diary finally returned to New Jersey (I won’t say with whom yet), but I will say that it was a very difficult trip home. The return route was through Iran, the Persian Gulf, Suez Canal, Mediterranean Sea, and Atlantic Ocean. It remained in New Jersey for many years, then was moved to Florida, back to New Jersey, and finally, to my home in South Carolina.

It is filled with what happened to my father’s family during World War II- so much suffering and heartache as well as recipes for Rice Crispy Treats and my grandmother’s Dandelion Wine.

Stay tuned.


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, visits to the National Archives, and local libraries I used to uncover this story.
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