|An Exchange of Emails
Hello, I have been looking at tracing my Polish roots. My father was born in Germany in 1946 to Polish parents, and his mother's name was Maria Urbanowicz. When I saw your page on Olga Urbanowicz, I was struck by the coincidence in that my grandmother Maria Urbanowicz -- who came with her mother Julia Urbanowicz to Australia as a displaced person after the second world war (also with my father, his brother, and my grandmother's husband) -- came from Pinsk which she spoke of, and I know that her father's name was Joseph and that she had a brother Stanislaw (who married a Maria and they remained in Poland). Now, the only thing that differs is that my grandmother's birth date was January 2, 1914, and this does not match the one on the page. I am not able to confirm Julia Urbanowicz's maiden name either; we may have it on some papers in Australia. However I am currently in London. My grandmother spoke of having many brothers and sisters; however, she said she had lost them during the war. I was just wondering whether you had any further knowledge of Maria, Stanislaw, or Julia (I notice you say that Maria and Julia were missing after 1941 which would fit my story) to see whether this story may fit or whether it is an amazing coincidence. Thanks for your help.
Am I to understand that you are Australian? That you are the child of a man who ended up in Australia as a displaced person? It had always been believed that Julia (born 1875) had been taken into the interior of Russia by the Soviets, and it was presumed that she died there. In 1941, she would have been 66 years old; she had borne NINE children! So the assumption was that she would not have survived long under Soviet "care."
I am attaching three photos, which might be the best proof of match at this great distance of time and space. The photos are (1) Julia, (2) Marisha, and (3) a group photo. Obviously, the first is Julia, the mother of Olga; the second is Marisha (or Marya), the sister of Olga. The third is the group photo that the other two were cropped from. The group photo shows the mother (Julia). On one side of the mother is her daughter Nadia (by then married); on the other side is her son Stanislav. In the back, Marisha is on the left; Olga is on the right. The two children in the middle are the children of Nadia. Those photos must have been from about 1936, or so. Maybe, if your father is still living, he would recognize whether the woman (Marisha) was his mother or not? If it's a match, this would be just absolutely amazing!
YES that photo is of my grandmother Maria and that photo is of her mother Julia!!!!!!! how amazing i can't believe. My grandmother Maria lived in a town out of Melbourne in Australia and died in 1998. Her mother Julia also lived in Australia and died in her mid-80s. My father is 62 and lives in Melbourne Australia with my mother and sister, and he has one unmarried brother who is 60.
I am 25 and work in London, and had a sudden urge to learn more of my family as I had only heard a disjointed history of my family. My grandmother kept in touch with Stan her brother; it seemed she thought he was the only one living, and we have met his wife Maria who is now deceased; they lived in Northern Poland, and Stan had three children -- two male twins are still alive in their 60s and live in Poland. I will be in touch with more details, as I am at work but this is absolutely incredible!!!!
WOW! I hesitate getting my hopes up and forcing a match that is not there, but that instead might be just so many close coincidences. However, WOW! WOW! and another WOW! The photographs that I have were packed up and taken by Olga when she and her husband were forced to leave Pinsk, and the photographs have been carefully safeguarded all these decades. Olga came to the USA in 1949, with her husband and their two sons. They had spent the time after WW II in the refuge camp in Augsburg. It was the same place as the slave labor camp had been. Once in the USA, Olga and husband had another son.
According to research done at the National Historical Archive of Belarus (in Minsk, Belarus), Marisha/Maria/Marya URBANOWICZ moved to Pinsk on 20-October-1941, from Bialistock. She lived at various addresses: Topolevoi 18; Uzkoi 11; Maryanskoi 38; Goncharskoi 61. She was listed as a dressmaker at a clothing factory in 1942 in Pinsk. That last bit of information (that she was a dressmaker in 1942) was a suggestion to me that, perhaps, the woman was not removed by the Soviets in 1941 as Olga had believed. Obviously, IF Marisha and her mother were taken by the Soviets in 1941, why is information at the Archive reporting that she was working in Pinsk in 1942? The attached file is a translation of the information received from the Archive in Belarus. It arrived in Russian (or maybe Bylorussian). A Bylorussian woman in the USA translated it.
There are two more check points that could be verified before we set off the firworks in celebration:
I know that you say that the photo I sent is a photo of your grandmother, but I'd want to see a photo of the woman who was your grandmother before I felt for sure that it is a match. I'm just really cautious about declaring such things. ... For all of these years, all of Olga's children believed what she had told them: That her mother (Julia) did not survive the war, but rather was taken into the interior of Russia. So, the information is like resurrecting the dead, and I'm cautious to jump for joy and believe that the miracle of the internet has also produced the miracle of a "resurrection."
Thank you for writing, Jennifer! Let's try to verify things further so that we know for sure that this is a match.
Alice, the reason I know for sure that the photos are of my grandmother and great grandmother is that my father currently has that exact same group photo in his study at home. Incredible but true! That is why I instantly had no hesititation in identifying Maria and Julia and Stan. We have many other family photos also at home.
I know that my grandmother was away from Pinsk for some time at the outbreak of war, staying possibly with a sister or friend, and she told us a story of being smuggled back into Pinsk something like several years later and she never gave us any idea of the timeframe of this, so she was not living in Pinsk during the whole period, and I know she was separated from her mother for quite a while as Julia believed her to be dead at some point and rejoiced when Maria made it back home safely.
My grandmother Maria/Marie's birthdate was Jan 02, 1914. I see that you have written Stan's birthday as Jan 2, so I am wondering if something possibly became mixed up and lost in translation. Her full name to my knowledge was Maria Veronica Urbanowiz though I am not sure exactly how her first names translated to English from Polish. I know little of any work she did in Poland, though we do have photos of her at school playing the mandolin, and she was very good at languages (spoke absolutely perfect English).
My grandmother, her husband Wlodzierj (Walter) Maksymczuk, and Julia were in a hard labour camp which she spoke of often; however, to be honest, I am not sure we have the details of which one it was, and I am not sure whether Stan and his wife were with them at the time. My grandmother did mention that a train or some method of transport became divided at some point of the journey when they were being taken to the camp and that she was permanently separated from relatives; however we had always thought that this was referring to my father's father's side of the family. Either way, my grandmother and Stan definitely stayed in contact until his death which I think was in the 1980s. For some reason Stan decided he wanted to stay in Poland and not go to Australia with them.
My father was born in Eckenforde, Germany, and my uncle was born two years later in Schleswig-Holstein. I believe they were in a displaced persons camp. They came by boat to Australia when my father was about three. They settled in Geelong, which is a small town an hour's drive from Melbourne on the South East coast of Australia. My dad's father worked at Ford motor company in the factory there; he unfortunately died after a few years in Australia. Julia lived with my grandmother, my grandfather, my dad and his brother until her death, in her early 80s. She is buried in Belmont Cemetery on a nice hill overlooking the town of Geelong, and my grandmother was buried on the same plot next to her when she passed away in 1998.
As for Stan, I know he married a Maria, whom I met in 2000 (when she was almost into her 90s and she has since passed away), as I went with my sister, my dad, and my Uncle to the wedding of the daughter of Stan's son. We spent a week with them. My mother and father also travelled to see them during the communist era in the 1980s, and I am not sure whether Stan was still alive at that point. My grandmother would write to Stan and their families, but we are unfortunately not in contact with them very often.
It seems really unbelievable, and I have not stopped looking at the photos you sent me because it seems incredible that someone on the other side of the world that we have never met has exactly the same photo, and I keep wanting to make sure that I haven't made a mistake.
We have always said that we must do something about documenting the family history, but nothing happened until I decided to do something about it last week and unbelievably it was as simple as typing maria urbanowicz pinsk into google and I came up with your page on Olga!!! I think my grandmother believed that an older sister was still alive in Poland when she left (possibly referring to Nadia?), and I think she genuinely believed that all her other brothers and sisters, with the exception of Stan, had not made it through the war. She spoke often of her life in Pinsk and during the war, however it was always in a very story-like way, and we unfortunately have very few hard facts about the period, and now that she has passed on we regret not documenting more. She really tried to move on with her life in Australia. She always spoke perfect English even to her sons at home, and she only really started to speak a lot in Polish again later in her life. I think she tried to block out a lot of the past, and for that reason there are periods that we don't know a lot about and details that she perhaps tried to omit.
Let me see if I can get some pictures for you in the next few days to make things from my end sound credible. It is fair enough that you want to try and validate things at this stage, as it is a pretty incredible story and I have contacted you completely out of the blue!
NOTE: The photograph that proved the match is now on the "Olga page." However, before the 2008 email connection, that photo had not been added to the page. Julia's death registration as filed in Geelong, Victoria, Australia, was further proof. That is HERE. Previous to this contact, Julia's maiden name was known to this researcher because of information that Olga had shared with her husband and children, and because of matching information from the Archive in Belarus. The information on the death registration matched.
UPDATE: After the surprising 2008 email exchange, the two sons of Maria Urbanowicz (who had grown up in Australia) and a son of Olga Urbanowicz (who had grown up in the USA) began communicating by telephone and by postal mail. Over the years, the 1st cousins got to know one another. Then, by 2016, scientific advancements allowed for absolute proof of what the men had come to believe -- that their mothers were sisters, and that they are first cousins: Maria's granddaughter (who had first reached out in 2008) and Olga's son did autosomal DNA tests. The tests showed a DNA share of 480 centimorgans (cM), an expected share for 1st-cousins once-removed. In the graphic below, the blue lines show where the matches are:
In 2019, Olga's son traveled to Australia and spent almost a month with Maria's sons. While there, one of Maria's sons did a DNA spit-test. Results show that Olga's son and Maria's son share 926 cM of their DNA, a clear match for 1st cousins.
Two sisters, taken by Nazis as young women and held as slave labor in Germany during World War II. Each left Germany as a displaced person after WW II, believing the other had died. One sister died in 1972; the other, in 1999. For all those years, each believed the other had died before 1945, and it was 2008 before the truth came out. In 2019, their sons finally met in Australia. From left to right: Czeslaw (71), Jozef (72), and Bogdan (73).
Their mothers were sisters, whose lives were separated in World War II when the wrong folks had control of all the guns. It took seven decades and many against-the-odds events for these cousins to meet.