My research into the story of Dad has refueled my belief that despite much of the horrific news that gets thrown at us much too often, the world is still filled with much kindness and generosity and the Internet and Facebook are wonderful tools when used properly. Blogging is a whole new world. Even if you don’t want to be a blogger, be a “bloggee”. There are so many interesting posts on such diverse subjects to read. For those researching their ancestors, it is possible to find someone researching a common ancestor detailing their search on a blog.
One day, I decided to check for blogs on the Trans-Siberian Railway. I found two women currently taking the train, but only one was traveling the route between Vladivostok and Moscow like Dad, albeit in the opposite direction.
Not only did that woman send me a message offering to take photos of the St. Petersburg cemetery, which is where my uncle was buried, she attempted to find his exact grave. I now know what an impossible undertaking that was. I gave her the name and address of the cemetery and also what I believed was the row and grave number based on a translation by my friend Pete from a book I found in Dad’s dresser. I felt guilty but incredibly touched in having a stranger from New Zealand traipsing around a cemetery in Russia for me here in the U.S. “St Petersburg IV – Looking for Tony” assuaged my guilt in the following email she sent to me:
Bumblebeetrails’ Bumblebee” here.
Well, as I said online, I visited the Serafimovskoje cemetery.
It was a huge place and beautiful. Most of the area was like a forest of yellowing trees with gravesites packed in amongst them often almost hidden by undergrowth.
A map at the entrance showed numbered areas and I assumed that your Row 31, Grave 11 description “row” must refer to one of these areas and that then perhaps the grave plots themselves would be marked. How wrong I was!
I do not know to this day if “row” meant “area” but when I got there, the graves certainly were not marked. There were hundreds in each area – some easy to identify and others, sadly, now nothing more than humps of earth covered in plants and occasionally with a heavy concrete cross fallen over onto them, too heavy for me to lift. That made me feel sad – that one of these may even be your uncle’s but that you might never know.
I wanted so much to find Tony’s grave for you …But please don’t worry that I am a crazy, or that I did this all just for you, I enjoy having adventures which are not typical touristy ones. It gives me a chance to see Russia for real, to practice my Russian (I love languages) and I always learn something. It also felt nice to do something meaningful for a change rather than just nosing around!
No wonder she could not find my uncle’s grave. I did a bit more reseach on Serafimovskoye Cemetery, and learned that by conservative estimates, there are 100,000 burials. Other guesses are as high as 300,000. The cemetery encompasses an area of 60 hectares, or about 148 acres in U.S measurements. According to another great genealogy search treasure, http://www.findagrave.com, in 1941, the Seraphimovskoe Cemetery served mainly for burials of residents of adjacent areas. During the Siege of Leningrad, it was the second largest site for mass burials of Leningraders after the Piskaryevskoe Memorial Cemetery.
A few more photos provided by Bumblebee:
More from Bumblebees adventures in the cemetery:
I was reminded that for all the museums about the Blockade of Leningrad or any other disasters or wars that I might see and be fascinated by, these are real family members and people that were killed and/or affected, and there is nothing glamorous at all about it. There were so so many graves, and not just a few people visiting also, and of course each one represents a person – with family and friends and a story – even those that are now barely able to be made out. Thanks for reminding me of that!
I counted XXX11 from the back right, back front, front right, front back, row eleven from the front, row eleven from the back, and sometimes just searched on gut instinct…no luck.
Finally I went to a small administration hut in the cemetery (there was also a church and a flower shop) and asked how to find the grave.
There was a little old lady at site 31 tending a grave, scraping it and even painting the fence around it. Some graves are fenced in and even have seats in their areas. She was there the whole time I was and I asked her for help but she did not know the name or how to find the site. When I left I realized that she was not just working on one grave, but had moved along to the next one or two. I just thought you would like to know. There was something very nice about her being there. It was a peaceful place.
It is nice to know my uncle has a final resting place. I know that there are other more distant family members supposedly buried there, but he should not have died so young. He should have returned home with Dad. While Bumblebee couldn’t find Tony’s exact grave, I was overwhelmed by this random act of kindness by an adventurous woman who took time from her travels to help me- a stranger from the other side of the world.