An Unexpected Contact

For those of you who have read this blog and possibly my book, you know that I spent a lot of time researching the story of my family’s years in Russia beginning in 1931. I did my best to be accurate, but have always known there may be mistakes, and there are still many missing pieces to this tragic tale.

I was recently surprised to be contacted by a woman who was a cousin of the man my aunt Nancy married while in Russia. She stumbled upon this blog while researching her family. This woman filled in a few pieces of the story as told by my aunt’s mother-in-law, Susanna.

I do not recall many details of her story about the war.  Only that they ran from city to city.  Aunt Susanna said that she was with her daughter Vera and son Walter trying to escape the coming Nazi’s bombing.  During the bombing she and Walter were separated from Vera. Vera had gone on before them in a vehicle if I recall correctly. 

So this may have solved a mystery in the family diary.

When my father’s family hurriedly evacuated the city of Novgorod the day before German forces attacked the city, the diary said “Family stayed in a barn- 7 in number.” That number seven never made sense because I could only account for five people: my grandparents and three aunts. Several letters from the State Department indicated that my uncle Pete had taken the family belongings and left by boat. One letter in particular was addressed to Uncle Pete and my aunt’s husband, which is what led me to believe they had left together.

However, a month after leaving Novgorod, there was a mysterious paragraph written in Russian:

September 19- They bombed Kiev and announced to us that the war had begun. Peacetime has come to any end. It is time for us to part. I promise to be faithful to you to the end. But be careful with my feelings.

The wheels of the rail cars clack as the train speeds on like an arrow. I am in the rail car. You are waving to me from the platform. One year will go by. I will meet you again. We will be together and will be happy then.

My new theory, based upon this very sorrowful note, along with the information from Susanna, is that the seven people staying in the barn may have included Susanna and her son, Waldemar—my aunt’s husband. Perhaps he stayed with her until the train came and then joined his sister Vera, my Uncle Pete, and Pete’s wife, Nona.

I do not know if my aunt ever saw her husband again.

Boarding Train

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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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