It all started last year. After learning about my friend’s fragmented family history with lots of stories and legends I was asked to investigate it. Inna (my friend) was mostly interested in “finding the relatives in USA and piecing it all together”. She suspected that there were relatives in America but never knew where and how to start the search.
And the story goes like this. In early 1900s there was a family of 5 brothers Klavarsky who lived in Seduva, Lithuania. Four brothers with families moved to America. The money was slowly collected for each family and one by one they all left by 1909, except for Berel (Inna’s great-grandfather). In August 1914 the World War I started. Borders were closed.
Due to the rapid onset of the German army Russian military administration issued the orders for immediate deportation of all local Jews (Russian citizens) living to the west of Kovno, Yanov, Vilkomir , Rogovo , Ponevezh , Posvol’ , Bausk. A total of about 40 thousand people from Courland province and about 150 to 160 thousand people from Kovno province were deported in May 1915 to their new places of settlement in different districts of Poltavskaya, Ekaterinoslavskaya and Tavricheskya gubernias (to name a few). The government and the Army were falsely accusing them of political disloyalty, suspicion of espionage and aiding the enemy.
From the family stories, Inna’s family was the lucky one as they travelled in the first cattle train to Perm. They were able to exchange the necessities for the food at some stops along the way. When the doors of following trains were opened, there were dead bodies inside. There was no more food left in small villages after the first train passed.
Inna’s ancestors (Berel and his wife) were moved to Perm in Ural and had no choice but to stay in Russia. There was no way out but Berel continued communication with his brothers by letters until 1933. In 1938 he became a victim of political repressions in Russia and was killed near Perm the same year.
Forward 80 years and Feige from America is desperately searching for lost relatives in Russia. In 1998 (15 years ago) she posted a message on jewishgen.org and no one ever, not even once, contacted her. She continued her search but without success. At the time of connection she was flying to Germany to find if there was a record of possible relatives in ITS Bad Arolsen Archive. Not a good perspective but what a desperation!
At the end of the day it was all about the surname. The message Feige posted on jewishgen.org stood out for me because of the surname. She listed two possible variations – Klavarski and Kolovarski from Seduva.
As I have done the family research, I knew that the original and most correct surname in Lithuania at the beginning of 20th century was Kalavarsky, Klavarsky and its many variations. However, many years ago in Perm in Siberia the surname Kalavarsky was changed to Kolovarskiy. And only close relatives knew about this surname change, as there was only one family in Russia who changed it.
At the same time four other brothers in America also changed their surname and there was no way families would ever find each other just by checking the phone books and social sites.
I have advised Inna to contact Feige from USA straight away and she did. Long emails, exchange of photos, long conversations on Skype followed. There is a photo in their photo albums which confirmed the undisputable connection (exactly the same photo but in two different families across many oceans).
Inna and Feige are both interested to find out what happened to all brothers nearly 105 years ago and why they separated. They put little bits of information, family stories and knowledge of Russian history together to uncover the hidden story of the family. The families are finally back together and embraced each other.
And yes I have forgotten to mention how my life changed as well. Few months ago Inna was invited to visit Feige in USA. Inna, being a friend, pulled me into this trip as well. So I was a witness to a tearful reunion of both families. The most amazing was seeing two hands together – one of Inna -great-granddaugther of Berel- and her 94 year old uncle Irv (son of Berel’s brother William).
See it for yourself.
Published with the permission of Inna and Feige.