Finding Grandpa in Slovakia!

It wasn’t long before we turned down a dirt road and came upon a sign which read: “Nedašovce.” I had, indeed, arrived on the moon, or so I felt! Driving down the main street, City Hall wasn’t hard to find. We parked and entered the building; a clerk detained us while he informed the mayor we had arrived. Mayor Elena greeted us and welcomed us into her office. I couldn’t understand a word she said, but Miloš and his daughters translated for me. Elena called a longtime local resident, who quickly joined us. The elderly man, dressed in camouflage pants, talked and talked, and the girls translated. How could there be so many Slovak words and so few English ones in the translation?! I sat silently, watching and listening, understanding nothing! As I watched, Lydia’s face lit up. I hoped for good news. The Diviš family, our new friend remembered, had lived nearby, Lydia translated. Their house was empty now, but during their time, it was well kept and they were good people. Our historian shared that Jozef, (1892-1960) a younger brother of my Grandfather, made shoes for a living. Jozef’s marker was in the local cemetery. Lydia reached for my hand in excitement. While he talked on, the mayor left our group and began making more phone calls. By now it was well past 5 p.m., and our historian finished sharing his memories. We prepared to leave, eager to find this house. The mayor locked the door and joined us for the short expedition.

After pausing for a few photos with the mayor in front of her office, we walked down the main road, turned a corner and soon found the house. The postal clerk in me looked for an address, but saw none. The house looked like a small duplex. It indeed had seen better days, but considering the home’s age of more than 100 years, it was in reasonable condition. The local historian, who did not join us, had mentioned that there had been two families living in this house at the same time. After taking pictures, we walked a few more blocks, past the local school to the village cemetery. One of Elena’s phone calls had been to an acquaintance for help locating Jozef’s headstone, which we quickly discovered. Although we searched for more Diviš markers, Jozef’s was the only one we found.

Before our historian had ended his visit and before I repeatedly spoke the only word I knew to say to him (“Ďakujem, Ďakujem, ĎAKUJEM!” – Thank you, Thank you, THANK YOU!), he had given us the name and address of Anna, Jozef’s daughter. Anna would be my father’s first cousin, hence, my second cousin; as Jozef, brother of my grandfather, was my great-uncle. By that time, it was nearly 6 p.m., and the mayor needed to head home. Before we said goodbye (dovidenia zbohom) the time had come for me to share the Slovak words I had been practicing with Hedwi, with my students in class AND in the car driving to Nedašovce: “Dakujem za váš čas” (Thank you for your time), I said to the mayor slowly, with great care. She smiled and nodded acknowledgement of my efforts to thank her in her own tongue. Having invested so much into this treasure hunt, my team and I could not give up now, so we left in search of a nearby town called Partizánske, to find Anna. In no time, we were there; however, she was not. My second cousin was not living at the facility that our historian mentioned, but another one close by, so we drove to the second location and convinced the nurses to take us to her room. Anna, spry and alert, in her 80s, was surprised to see us. Talkative (all in Slovak, remember!) and eager to show us family pictures, she said she didn’t remember much of her father’s history except that an uncle had moved to the U.S. I saw a lot of family resemblance, especially in the picture of her daughter Zuzanna, who lives in Bratislava. Though I would have liked to visit more with her, our adventure was now in its fourth hour. We needed to catch up with my American team, who were visiting the Bojnice Castle so that I could return to Martin on the bus with them, and Miloš and his daughters could finally get to their own home. I left my name and information with Anna in hopes that her daughter would use it to contact me. Anna told us she was one of five sisters and gave Miloš the phone number of Margita, who lives in Nováky.

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6 Responses to Finding Grandpa in Slovakia!

  1. Shirlee Evans says:

    Enjoyed this to the very last sentence. What an amazing adventure our the Lord led you on, opening doors for you all along the way.

  2. Dave and Lois Klostreich says:

    Great story and one that we can relate to. We are members of St. Andrews Lutheran in Mahtomedi, Minnesota and have served on 5 mission trips to Martin teaching VBS and teaching English. We both have found villages where our grandparents immigrated from in Germany and Norway. It is a thrill to find living relatives, stories and learn of the town and culture. After each visit, we felt like we really belonged or “this is where we came from.” I’m sure you probably felt the same. The Slovaks are such wonderful people. Thanks for sharing a wonderful adventure and your time in Slovakia will always be cherished!! You need to go back soon. God is good.
    Dave and Lois

    • marie says:

      Thanks for sharing! Yes, I did feel like I was “coming home”. I look forward to my next trip – maybe I’ll see you there!


  3. Rae Harman says:

    Enjoyed reading your interesting adventure. Thank you Marie for sharing it!

  4. Nancy Andrew says:

    Marie. What a beautifully written story about your adventure to Slovakia. Enjoyed this so much.

  5. Frankie Edmonds says:

    Beautifully written and such a journey you travel. Thank you for sharing how the Lord is leading you!!!

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