Sunday, August 9, 2015

Putting History together with family stories - Paternal grandmother and great grandparent's memories

Lately, I haven't been around as much. Besides, trying to find employment, I've been researching and trying to make sense of some stories which were told to family. Sometimes its from the person who immigrated to the new country and sometimes its a memory of what was said or told to them by people who immigrated. It doesn't really matter who told the story, as long as these stories were and are not forgotten.

By talking to the older generation still with us, we can find out things their parents and grandparents told them. It could be a memory, a grunt with a few words... anything. Each of these memories - no matter how short they are all add up to things that mattered enough in their lives for them to remember them.

In fact, I have a few stories which I'll share about my paternal grandmother's side of the family. I knew my grandmother growing up and she's the only grandmother I do remember other than the few visits with my maternal grandmother.

1979 My paternal grandmother and myself in Newburgh, NY
Some of the stories are:

Story: Grandma kept saying "There are German soldiers on every block, so be quiet and watch out." - Her granddaughter, Theresa, shortly before Genowfa passed away.

Fact: She grew up in Poland, which was occupied by both German and Polish soldiers. When Ober Ost was created in 1914, (my grandmother would have been 4 years old at this stage) it controlled everything with an iron fist. You could not move without a solider asking you want you were doing and why. In fact, this meant you could not visit friends or
even family without a good reason. This was the reason why my grandmother talked about German soldiers on very block - to make sure you weren't leaving the district. It must have been very difficult for them as they lived near the edge of the lands that made up the Ober Ost.

The lived approximately 75 miles or 105 km away from Brest Litovsk (in the red on the lower left side).

Story: I know when I was growing up she used to say when she was my age they always had Germans, Bolshevist's, KGB agents around.

New-York tribune. (New York [N.Y.]), 19 Sept. 1914 Part of letter to editor
Fact: This is due to the ongoing in fighting between the Germans and Russians. Prior to 1914, the land my grandmother lived on was claimed as Russian - as it had been for over 100 years (since the 3rd and last partition). Then from about 1914 until about 1917 it was German territory, and then it went back to Russian only for the land to be set back to an independent Poland in 1919 but it wasn't until 1920 it was formally acknowledged. 

Story: My grandfather (my grandmother's father) used to sit there and curse the Bolsheviks and Russians.

Fact: This is due to the armies coming through the towns and being terrorized by them. Many people had been killed or disappeared just because they were thought to have said something against the Russian or Bolsheviks. They would tell the press and governments they were doing doing something good, only for the opposite to be true and the only ones to know it would be the people who lived there.

And the stories go on and on. Do you have stories like these for your family? I would recommend to either write them down or record them on either video or voice recorder. This is so you can have the story and use history to actually put fact with the stories you are told.

The Sydney Morning Herald, Monday 7 October 1918 

What if they are not true?
Many times people might actually either mistake what's been said or have lied all together. Why? Well it could be they only wanted "good" things to be told, they embellished them so their life would seem exciting, or third, and not a good one, would be to try and throw you off of where they grew up for some reason unknown to you.

In my experiences, I've had all of these either done to me or known of people who have had them done to them. In some cases, we just don't know and either the person is gone or is not willing to talk about why they did something. You can either keep it inside of you and let it simmer away which does nothing but anger and upset you or you can let it go and try and understand why they've done it and let it go. Most of us do the first and after awhile, hopefully, we can do the latter.

Is it easy to do? Of course not! However, I know I have bigger and better things to do with my emotions and energy than on something that's happened and I cannot change.

That being said, even the untrue or tainted stories ARE still apart of your history. You have to embrace it, note it, and then let everyone know that it is not true and your reasons for discounting it. You never know, something might have happened and its not until years later when information is released or found, it might just turn out to be correct after all.

Sept 2007 at Movie World in Queensland Australia
Genealogy is a roller coaster - just hang on and enjoy the ride!