I got a letter from Germany last week. It was from one of my mom's cousins. It'd been more than seventy years since my mom and her had contact. Both women's fathers were shot in 1937 during Stalin's Great Terror. Adam Kuehn was my grandmother's youngest brother. He was born in 1909, in the village of Federofka, just like the rest of my mom's family.
Yesterday I visited my mom and shared this lost cousin's letter with her. It was another way to connect the dots of a picture messed up by time, geography, war and politics. We'll write back and share our information and photos. And in this way cousin Lilli's family will be able to put together the puzzle of the past on their side of the ocean.
I'm interested in these facts and family connections. But what touches me the most is not the facts, but the smells, the tears, and the little details that litter the musty trails of this past.
All of these connections wouldn't have been possible without the internet. And I have to thank one person in particular for letting me recreate my mom's childhood. Don Miller has been so important in my research. He led the tour when I went over there in 2004. He's done so much for the relatives of the families who were lost to communism and he's continuing to help those still recovering from communism's impact. It's a mess over there.
Don Miller is building a home for destitute widows in Pulin, Ukraine. My mom might be one of these women if hadn't been for my grandfather's effort to get his children out of the country.