Armed with a list of my grandfather’s parents, his siblings, pictures, and his birth certificate, printed in Slovak, I was eager to embark on my journey. Nedašovce or not, at least I would get to Slovakia, land of my grandfather. That alone was miracle enough. Opening the door to Nedašovce would be a bonus that only God could provide. It is a 10-hour flight from Portland, Oregon to Amsterdam, and we then flew to Budapest. Ah, Hungary, I thought, possible homeland of Grandma Divish. Alas – that must wait for another time! On to Martin, via a four-hour bus ride. Can we say “jetlag?” The journey was long and tiring. The town and school staff was so happy to see us they threw a welcome party – quite literally, complete with fireworks – it was, after all, the Fourth of July. It was my first glimpse of a people who welcomed us with hearts and arms wide open.
Once in Martin, there was much to do to prepare for opening day at the school, and then classes five hours each day. One of the school staff, Hedwi (pronounced “Hed-v”) heard of my ambitious hunt, and picked up my plight with a passion. Hedwiga Tkáčová is a petite redhead with a bright smile and heavy accent when speaking English. She did some research on Slovak surnames and concluded my family’s name was most likely “Diviš” minus the “H,” a name not uncommon in Slovakia. Nedašovce, Hedwi discovered, is part of the online community with its own website, all in the Slovak language, mind you, with contact info for the village mayor. Don’t think “mayor” as in mayor of Chicago. Even the small villages in Slovakia have a paid position of mayor.
Hedwi emailed and called Mayor Elena, and explained my desire to visit and possibly discover traces of the Diviš family. Together Hedwi and I searched train and bus schedules to the little village. Though a reasonable drive in a car from Martin, nothing worked to travel there and back with public transportation in the short amount of time I had available after teaching. The first week of school over, the days were passing quickly, and with them, my hope of making this dream happen. I shared my story with the students in my class, a mix of youths and adults. I was amazed and overwhelmed when Miloš Krpelanov, one of my adult students, offered to drive me to Nedašovce. He lives west of Martin, and Nedašovce is an hour west of his village. Hedwi again called Mayor Elena to confirm a visit. And so we planned the adventure on the only afternoon I was free to wander, which, providentially, was the only day of the week the mayor’s office was open late enough for us to arrive before she closed the doors.
Clutching my cache of pictures and documents, Miloš, his daughter Lydia and I piled into their car shortly after our class finished, at about 2:45 p.m., on Wednesday, July 15. We made a quick stop at his village, where we met his wife and daughter, Ivana, who joined our search team, and followed his wife as she biked to their home. Waving goodbye to her, we continued on the back country roads, in search of Nedašovce. The roads were narrow and winding, and we drove through the beautiful rural countryside.