After viewing dozens of shoe samples made through the years, we finished our tour. Signing the guest book, we bid the director “ďakujem” & “dovidenia” and began our walk back to city hall, thanking Lenka for her help. Where next? Miloš suggested we visit the town of Topol’čany, 20km/13 miles from Partizánske to visit the state archive office. In Topol’čany archive, records date from, 1895 – 1905. Miloš called the office to verify someone would be there to talk with us. That’s all we needed to hear – we were on our way!
We passed green corn fields and yellow wheat fields as we made our way east on this sunny afternoon. Combines could be seen crisscrossing the wheat fields. Big rounds of hay dotted many fields; others had yet to be cut. But, alas, no sunflowers, my iconic picture of Slovakia! There were also fields of sugar beets and hops. I remembered Grandpa Stefan’s farm in Michigan raising sugar beets and my own father talking about life on the farm. I see how it got into our blood! Topol’čany, Miloš told me, is known for its beer brewing with locally grown hops.
Arriving at Topol’čany, we found the Archive office to be a small nondescript building in a modest, somewhat run down part of town. The sign on its wall read:
- Ministerstvo vnútra Slovenskej republiky
- Štátny archív v Nitre so sídlom v Ivanke pri Nitre
- Pracovisko Archív Topol’čany
The door was locked, so we rang the buzzer to announce our arrival. A receptionist greeted us and took us to the office of Mgr. Lucia Macalíková. We explained our search and showed her the documents I brought. She asked for my grandfather’s death certificate to authenticate my legal connection to him and right to see his documents. I had a copy of his birth certificate, but did not bring his death certificate. Examining my passport, Lucia decided to initiate my search. I filled out numerous forms. She copied my documents and family information. I gave her a copy of the story of last year’s visit, in Slovak. We left feeling satisfied that we had spread paperwork near and far in the office and turned over as many stones as possible! Lucia would later confirm in an email to me what Ladislav had uncovered about the grandfather of Stefan (my Great Great grandfather!!) Jakub Diviš died on August 8, 1899 in the city of Oponice 27 km/17 miles from Partizánske. Nedašovce, Rybany, Batanvy, Partizánske, Oponice….all in the same region of Slovakia, and all connected to my family. What a miracle God dropped a student named Miloš into my class 4 years ago, who just happened to live in this same area. I wondered….are we related??? By heart if not by blood! “Till now the Lord has helped us.”
With the afternoon quickly fading, we began to our retrace our steps back to the Krpelans home. Nedašovce wasn’t far off our path, and there was still time for a quick stop. Miloš asked me if I would like to see Grandpa’s house “one more time?” Of course I would! It had become my treasure moment on each trip to Slovakia, a visual reminder and thrill to return to Grandpa’s village and feast my eyes on his house. It reminded me of how far he had journeyed and how far I had come!
And now – here we stood – and the house was GONE!