This is my grandfather, Hilary Gawlowski. Or Dziadek, in Polish, which is how I knew him. This is his photo when he was in the Polish Home Army (the Polish resistance in World War II)-- tell me he doesn't look like Gene Kelly. You can tell me that, but I'll just tell you he's handsomer. He died when I was four, but the memories I have are strong. And his shadow in my family is stronger.
Dan, my husband, and I went to Poland on our honeymoon to connect with my-- and now Dan's-- family heritage, and deeply ingrained throughout was the connection with this amazing man who has played such a role in my life, whether or not he's physically been around.
I'll tell you more about him in the coming days, as present events have prompted me to do so. You see, I'm going to Moscow in a week to meet Dziadek's long-lost half-brother, my great-uncle.
Here's the short version: my great-grandfather, being a landowner (a farmer), was banished to Siberia during the Boshevik Revolution. After decades, having lost his wife, unable to go home, and thinking he lost everyone else, he started a new family in Siberia.
Dziadek found out about all of this in the 1950s, after he'd already come to the U.S. with my grandmother and dad. Via relatives in Poland, they exchanged family portraits, and he learned of his brother and sister across the globe. He was never able to meet them.
I tried to find them before we went to Poland, but no luck. The contacts had died with my grandfather's generation; no one knew how to reach our family out there, and it seemed that all was lost to time.
Then, a month ago, I received a message through this very website. A man named Timo Laakso asked if I knew Hilarj Gavlovskij. He said someone was trying to reach him, and he had further information to share. Naturally, I assumed he wanted my bank account number. But, for whatever reason, I wrote him back. He sent me a link to a Russian reality TV show, where a man named Vladislav Gavlovskij had posted a photo-- of my grandparents, my dad, and my aunt. A photo I've seen before. He wrote (says Google Translate) of how he is looking for his brother, who he's never met. The story checked out. Tears ensued.
So, long story short, Dan and I have booked tickets to fly to Moscow to appear on Russian reality TV to surprise my great-uncle, who thinks he's just there to announce his search and ask for clues. (I realize how surreal this sounds, and I'm not sure I can process it yet, either...) My brothers Andrew and Danny, and Danny's wife and son, will all be there, too. It's a family affair.
They also came to NYC to record my mom and dad and Dan and me, and my sister sent them a video of her family, too, at their request. These things help assure me that they won't be harvesting my organs.
I'll post updates, as I'm able. Kind of a story, yeah? More meaningful than I can say.