Thursday, October 7, 2010

Treasure Chest Thursday: The river

After the collapse of the Soviet Union my father, aunt, sister and I went to Europe to see if we could reconnect with the families of my grandparents. While my aunt had maintained contact with my grandmother's family in eastern Czechoslovakia (now Slovakia), we had lost all contact with my grandfather's family. 

We were successful beyond any dreams we had. We visited Baba's nieces and nephews, her village of Prislop, saw family graves and met family we thought never to meet. Through a cousin relay I still don't understand we made contact with my grandfather's family. We visited cousins living in Czechoslovakia and Hungary and were smuggled across the border into the Ukraine (we had no visas). There we visited family in Uzhgorod, Khust and my grandfather's village, known today as Berezovo. It was enormously moving, an experience I still have trouble writing about.

While we were there a cousin gave us this small painting. I believe it is of the river running by Berezovo - the Rika. My cousin's husband painted it in 1989. It's what I have of my grandfather's home.

Source:  Untitled painting, Vasil Britnak, 1989. Digital Image.  Privately held by Nolichucky Roots [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE], 2001.


  1. It's a beautiful painting and a very interesting story. I'm so glad you were able to make contact with your grandfather's family.

    Smuggled across the border...sounds like that could make for a very interesting story all by itself!

  2. wow! I would love to be able to hear the details of this story! Do you think you'll write more about it? I have a friend who spent 10 years in the czech republic recently, teaching english. he spent his vacations traveling around the region. He doesn't travel like a tourist and wrote up some of his adventures. It is the first time that region of the world came to life for me. I like the painting too. looks so peaceful.

  3. i would love to hear the rest of this story. do you think you will write it? The painting is so peaceful.

  4. Fascinating. I'm with the others, I want to hear ALL the details about the border. But don't name names! LOL Just, friend "X" did this, and cousin "Z" did this. LOL

  5. No chance of using real names if I do write it, that's for sure! The border crossing was pretty anticlimactic - though stressful for us law-abiding Yanks. Just like crossing from Michigan to Canada ;-) My cousin simply bribed the border guards. He knew some of them well from running a black market gasoline venture. We smiled nicely and kept our mouths shut. We are, it seems, an enterprising family.

    The rest of it - I don't know. It's still so raw.

  6. Wonderful story; hope to hear more. And I love the painting - the landscape is very similar to that depicted in a couple of paintings at church that were brought back from Slovakia.

  7. Who has the picture of the birch trees?
    As a biased friend, I too am moved by your stories. Still waiting for the church story.


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