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  • Trevor Greenway

Finding my family

I’m trying to find my Ukrainian family.

With the world on the brink of war after Russia invaded Ukraine last week, my family and I realize that we may have distant relatives caught in the violence. But we have no idea who, where or if they are still alive.

A 20-minute phone call with my grandma Olga revealed how little I know about my family history. But what’s fascinating – and frustrating – is that nobody in my family truly knows where the Gzechowski family bloodline begins.

That’s all I had to go on — various spellings of the name Gzechowski (Chicowski, Czechowski). My aunt couldn’t even remember her grandpa’s name (though she thought it may have been Klehm) — and neither did my dad. But they did know grandma Annie. So I began digging around online grave listings for Annie Gzechowski, Chicowski or Czechowski in Hamilton and within a few minutes, I spotted what I was looking for: “Gzechowski. In Loving Memory Of: Klymens (1894-1959) Annie (1900-1997) At Rest.

Tears began to well in my eyes. Of joy. Of shame.

Knowing that I spent close to 40 years without knowing the names of my great-grandpa and grandma is heartbreaking. I was 14 years old when my great-grandma Annie died, and I was clearly more interested in hockey and video games to take notice.

As a father of two, I could have spent the last decade educating my kids on their Ukrainian heritage — telling them the stories that I’m learning now (like the time my dad and his siblings found a deer carcass on the side of the road and brought it into the house for supper because they couldn’t afford a proper meal).