Stanisławów Ancestral Trip




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Ancestral Trip



A Cyber-Memorial to the pre-WWII Jewish Communities of my Ancestors

May the memories of our ancestors live forever.
May their lives never be forgotten.

My Ancestral Trip

by Susannah Juni

I visited Ukraine in September, 1997 to see the places where my ancestors and all of our family members had once lived, worked, dreamed, and created. The trip was the culmination of my genealogical research hobby of eleven years. My brother and I grew up in Michigan, never knowing any cousins, or any relatives at all other than our immediate family. When we asked, we were told that the entire family had died in the Holocaust.


Stanislau Great Synagogue pre-WWI

We have since discovered a number of living relatives of all ages and together with our American born parents, we're learning about our ancestors' personal history. The purpose of these Web pages is not to publicize our family details, but rather to share certain information that we've gleaned along the way which may be of interest to others, particularly others who have ancestors from the same communities and who may share our interest in our mutual heritage.

The geographical area is currently in Southwestern Ukraine, just North of the Carpathian Mountains, and near the Eastern tip of Slovakia, and the Northern border of Rumania. The closest major city is Lviv (formerly, Lvov, Lwow or Lemberg). All of our towns were in Galicia, a now defunct region of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire, which dissolved in WWI. Between the two World Wars, our towns were annexed to Poland. In 1941, the area became part of the Ukrainian region of the Soviet Union. Fifty years later, Ukraine became the first Soviet state to achieve independance.

Click here for maps and more geographical information. The towns I visited are listed at the left. Please visit each site for a tour of some remnants of old Jewish Galicia. Of all of these towns, Stanislawow (Ivano-Frankivsk) was the largest, and Nizhnev the smallest.
May the fruits of our labor ensure that the Nazis' goal of eliminating our people be forever incomplete.

The trip was enriching and provided me with many images to share with my family and with others. To facilitate the trip, I engaged the services of a private researcher, guide, translator, driver. For details of the research materials that I used and discovered on this trip, see my article in Volume XIII, Number 4 issue of Avotaynu (shown below). I hope that this information and these photographic images are useful to others. I welcome any additional data from fellow researchers and travellers out there who may visit my Web pages. Should you have any related information in a computer readable format, I would be happy to consider linking it into these pages. My email link is below.

The cobblestone images in the background are taken from photographs of streets in our ancestral towns in Ukraine, September 1997. Take a walk...

May the fruits of our labor ensure that the Nazis' goal of eliminating our people be forever incomplete. We seek signs of the existence of our ancestral communities to highlight for all to see. Our people lived there, and our hearts are with them.

Ukrainian Research and Ancestral Travels

by Susannah R. Juni

This article originally appeared in the Winter, 1997 issue of Avotaynu, and is reprinted here with permission. The material was adapted from a Postscript presentation to the New York Genealogical Society in New York City, November, 1997.

The focal town in planning my ancestral tour of Southwestern Ukraine was not a small shtetl; rather it was a city of 150-200 thousand people. When my grandparents lived there, before World War I, it was officially known by its German name, Stanislau, and it was located in the region of the Austro-Hungarian Empire called Galicia of Austria-Hungary. Because of the large ethnic Polish population, the Polish town name, Stanislawow, was colloquially used by many people, in its shortened version of Stanislaw (pronounced Stanislav). The Austro-Hungarian Empire (and the province caled Galicia) ceased to exist after the end of World War I, and the city found itself within the borders of newly formed Poland, with the official name of Stanislawow. In 1941, Poland ceded this territory to the Ukrainian region of the Soviet Union, and the town name was changed to Ivano-Frankowsk. In 1991, after glastnost, Ukraine became the first state to separate from the USSR, and the town adopted its current name, Ivano-Frankivsk.
At least three of my grandparents were from Stanislau, and with varying degrees of certainty, I know of a dozen surrounding small villages that might have been home to other ancestors. I spent ten full days in Ivano-Frankivsk, and divided three days into short visits to Berezhany, Bogorodchany, Bolekhov, Delyatin, Kalush, Kolomyya, Nadvornaya (Nadworna), Nizhnev, and Tysmenitsa.

Planning for my trip meant searching eleven years' files of notes and research documents. In the past, I had focused research on names and relationships, but now I was searching for specific addresses and/or any clues to the exact locations of real estate that had played essential roles in my family’s lives. I had a precious pile of inter-War letters that had come from Europe to my grandparents in America; only two had surviving envelopes with return addresses.

I had a collection of transcripts of birth records from old Stanislawow records now housed at the Urzad Stanu Cywilnego (civil registration) archives in Warsaw and collected for me by Miriam Weiner a few years ago. Some transcripts included street addresses, a detail I had overlooked previously. I had engaged a Jewish genealogical researcher based in Lviv, by the name of Alexander Dunai(1). I had met him via a letter of introduction that was published in The Galitzianer, the newsletter of Gesher Galicia, an organization of people researching Jewish Galician ancestry (2).

Dunai found a birth record in the Lviv archives that supplied the name of a great grandmother from . Determined to avoid overloading myself with more data than I could reasonably process before the trip, I decided to cease any further research and to devote my time to organizing my data and traveling details. Hah!

I was so excited that I could barely sleep more than 3-4 hours a night for the two months before the scheduled departure time. Obviously, this made me pretty exhausted. One such sleepless night, I curled up with a recent issue of AVOTAYNUand reread Jeffrey Cymbler’s article in the Spring 1997 issue about Polish Business Directories, refining my circles and arrows based on my new focus - street addresses. I read that the 1931 Polish Business Directory included an alphabetical listing of every street in Stanislawow, describing the location of each street in relation to its adjacent streets. I thought that might be really helpful on the trip. So I decided to break my self imposed restraint and go to the New York Public Library, where the NYC JGS had donated a microfilm copy, to print out "just those few pages." Well, after finding those pages, I couldn’t resist "just taking a peek" at the next section, the body of the business directory for Stanislawow. Right away, I saw a family name. I turned the page and there was another family name, and yet another! It became obvious that I had to print out the entire directory. I spent the rest of the weekend translating occupations with a Polish-English dictionary and marking family names where ever I found them. I had to return to my hectic work schedule Monday, and the clock was ticking. I panicked. How would I manage to tabulate all of this data into a workable format in time for the trip? The Business Directory was sorted by occupation, and I needed to sort it by street address to facilitate finding the buildings. It would be nice to be able to also sort the same data by surname so that I could better analyze the information within the context of my family. Clearly, this all needed to be typed into a computer. But how?

My mother, Rachel Juni, had expressed sincere regret that she was unable to accompany me on the trip, and had spoken words that were now ringing in my ears, "Let me know if there’s something I can do to be part of this trip." She had just gotten a PC four months earlier and was already proficient with email. We designed a plan. I shipped the printout of the Polish Business Directory to her, 750 miles away in Michigan. She typed up all the relevant family business addresses, including those on a 1923-1925 Polish Directory excerpt that my friend and possible relative, Joyce Field, had obtained from a collector in Bialystock ( We found the location of my great great grandfather’s paint store, my great uncle’s haberdashery, a previously unknown relative’s horse trading business and many more. We used a delineated database format which she sent to me via daily email. A "delineated database format" means that you identify, for the computer’s sake, each type of data with a special symbol. We used a semicolon. My mother consistently typed a semicolon between every field in this format:




Since every address was typed in the same sequence, I could tell a computer program to read everything before the first semicolon as a street address, everything after the first semicolon as the type of business, etc. for sorting purposes. She pasted the results of her typing into the body of email messages to send to me. Then, it was a simple matter to import the data into a spreadsheet program. I used Microsoft Excel. A database program, such as Microsoft Access might have been even better, but I was pressed for time and I felt that I had more familiarity with Excel. Needless to say, it was a great opportunity for my mother and I to work together on this project, a factor that made the project even more enriching. (See Fig. II for an example of the sorted chart we created.)

After we completed extracting the family names, she went back and gleaned all the remaining business addresses from the five streets that contained most of our family’s businesses. We wanted to put these additional records into the sort so that we could go down a busy street and recount the history of exactly what activity was housed in each building. Who and what were the stores and shops across the street from my great great grandfather’s paint store? Who on the block had the only telephone; so guess where they may have congregated? We added in all the businesses for a light industrial street that had contained the birthplace of one of my grandparents. I now know the exact location of their closest pre-war neighborhood grocery store. One final pass through the directory and we added in the Yiddish theater, Jewish schools, the emigration office, and other locations where our family might have walked. Fruit for juicy thoughts, intimate details imagined of a world otherwise vanished. We were painting a richly detailed picture of our family’s world.

Meanwhile, I received an email from Alex Dunai in Lviv. He had just returned from a research trip to Ivano-Frankivsk where he was doing research for another client. He was also researching hotel options for me, a personalized service he rendered at no extra charge. Alex reported that he had discovered some records at the local town archive that he thought might be of interest to me. He had found records that the archivists themselves hadn’t even realized they had, or perhaps the archivists had simply never realized that anyone might be interested in them. They were August 1939 census records of Stanislawow. (See Fig. I. for details, and Fig. III for an example.) The light slowly dawned on me. I could spend the money I’d saved by getting a free plane ticket via a premium points program on some extra last minute research to get a nice batch of specific residential street addresses, not just for my immediate family, but for my extended family, too. We have a few common surnames in our family, but most are very uncommon names. Alex tells me that Jews in Galicia were not allowed to relocate between towns before 1863, increasing the likelihood that persons with like surnames in a town were related. I figured that even if I didn’t know how all these people were related, I could perhaps find out one day. Besides, the family members who’d lived there surely knew who their relatives were, and probably visited in each other’s homes. If I could capture these addresses to add to the others, I could truly walk in the footsteps of my family’s lost lives, recapturing a glimpse of memory in a uniquely personal and immediate sense. I emailed off a list of surnames to Alex, asking him to search for only specific people if they had common surnames, but all records for uncommon surnames. Imagine my shock and delight when I got the email saying he’d found 152 records! He sent me the translations on email, and a printed version with the document copies by express postal mail. I promptly shipped everything off to Michigan where my mother tabulated all of these along with the business addresses.

For years, I’d been collecting maps of the area and of the town, whenever I could find them. There is a tantalizing overview of the town plan incorporated in a 19th century German map series which is available at the Map Divisions of both the Library of Congress in Washington DC and at the New York Public Library, main branch. A nice overview showing the shape of the main streets is in another 19th century map series (Genealogy Unlimited, Inc. carries nice color reproductions in their ME200 series, Also, I’d found a beautifully detailed hand drawn town plan in a book at YIVO, "Endure, Defy, and Remember" by Jaochim Bachbar, 1970. Still, I worried that my maps might lack sufficient detail or area. So, one of my research requests to Alex Dunai was to try to find detailed town maps covering the various time periods and related sovereignties and languages. I was thrilled when he wrote that he had found old maps and made copies for me. Well, there was a small problem about finding a new, current map. Although he had found maps covering the Austro-Hungarian rule of the area, of the inter-war period, and even of the Soviet period, there were no maps published yet with the new, current Ukrainian street names. Also, the old Russian town maps were no longer in print and were actually hard to find. He had nonetheless tracked one down for me and had painstakingly written in by hand the old Polish street names for every single street on the Russian map. Obviously, he had to first search out a cross reference between the street names for the different time periods. When the map arrived, a week before my trip, I could see at a glance that almost all the old streets were intact; we would soon find out how many of the old houses were still standing.

Everything escalated at once. I had made a few email penpals in the past year or two of relatives and possible relatives who I met via the Jewish Genealogical Family Finder database ( We were sharing research costs and results for our common surnames and towns. We were pooling our resources to hire Alex for a variety of research projects. We received another batch of documents that we’d ordered. These were passport application records from Stanislawow including photographs. I quickly scanned the photographs into my computer before passing on the document copies to my cohorts. I typed in the addresses from these records into the research log. We got some 1890 and 1900 census records and I added in those addresses too.

My brother, Dr. Jack Juni, got involved with the project. A few years ago, my mother had transcribed my fifty or so taped family interviews onto an old Mac. We couldn’t read the files on our IBM PC’s. My brother converted all the files, sent me a disc, and I was able to take a nice binder full of family stories with me to read on the long plane flight. Yes, there were more clues about street addresses in those stories, too.

By the time we pulled all these addresses together from different sources, we had a research log notebook of hundreds of pages, including one section sorted by street address and another sorted by surname. Just before leaving, I had a few copies made of the log and sent a box to my parents, my brother, and to just a few close relatives and fellow researcher friends along with copies of the town maps, so they could vicariously follow along with me on the trip. It felt good to be able to include them in this way.

At the last possible minute, Joyce reminded me I could get information about Jewish cemetery conditions, town by town, via the AJGS Cemetery Project ( I downloaded a dozen recent reports describing the location and condition of each Jewish cemetery that I hoped to visit. I stuffed them in my satchel to bring with me, along with some additional last minute arrivals from Dunai; e.g., an excerpt from a 1930’s list of electors to the board of the Jewish Community in Lwow, an excerpt from a list of Jewish taxpayers with street addresses, birth dates, occupations, and amounts of zlotys paid by each in taxes. The people in these records are possible candidates to try to link into my family eventually, subject to more research. I decided that even if these people were never found to be my relatives, it would still make the trip more interesting for me to know which houses were Jewish homes, exactly which streets were walked by the Jews of our ancestral communities.

I flew to Lviv from Warsaw and Alex met me at the airport. Per my request, we drove straight to Ivano-Frankivsk where we were booked at the Roxolana Hotel. Every morning, we left the hotel about 8am, returning only after dark when I could no longer take pictures. We walked street by street, with our maps and the research log. Note that our research log (Fig. II) included boxes to write in the roll number and shot numbers for my still film, as well as a place to jot down the videocassette number for the camcorder I’d brought along. It was a slow and thoughtful process, documenting every photograph and trying to read some of a person or family’s personal details from the research log into the camcorder as we documented each address. We found ourselves in every single neighborhood in town. I have no desire to leave my comfortable life in America, so I was surprised by the strong feeling that this town was home.

We contacted the local Rabbi, born in Ivano-Frankivsk after W.W.II. He was kind, gracious, and helpful. I asked if he knew where there were any records of the Jewish Community of Stanislawow and surrounding towns. He asked us to follow him in Alex’s car to his home. Over good strong coffee, he pulled out folders of various records to show us. (See Fig. I.) The Kalush birth records knocked me off my seat. I’d been searching for those very records for years, as they include the record of a great great grandfather’s birth. We’d all thought they were lost. He said "someone" had found this book and given it to him. There is such validity in the Ukrainian people’s mistrust of government, based on the long period of Soviet rule, that I did not even ask why he had not submitted the book to any official archive. I just asked Alex to be sure to get permission to return to research and to make copies for people.

The Rabbi has been working for years to restore whatever Jewish tombstones are remaining to the Jewish cemetery. He is cataloguing them in his own hand, carefully noting the exact sector and area number of each. He allowed me to peruse the list and I found ten family surnames. He spend an entire afternoon with us, helping us find each of these tombstones. See Fig I for a general list of the other records he has. Alex agreed to prepare a detailed inventory list in the future. I had too many family addresses to search for to take the time to do what could be done later by someone else. I had decided in advance that I was not going to try to do any research myself while on location. I could always hire a researcher to do that, but no one else can experience the feeling of walking down the block where, say, my grandmother lived in 1920 during her last five months in Europe, before marrying my grandfather and emigrating to America.

We accomplished a lot. We visited most, but not all, of the addresses on our research log before we ran out of time. Most, but not all, of the addresses we found contained the old original buildings from the time of my family’s lives there. One afternoon, on one of my last days in Ivano-Frankivsk, I asked Alex to pull over to the side of the road so I could scan the research log to be sure we weren’t inadvertently missing some of the most important addresses. It would be a shame to spend the last few hours searching for houses of unknown possible relatives when we could have found, say, the house of my grandfather’s first cousin. I circled the remaining priority addresses and called them out to Alex so he could pinpoint the streets on the map, plotting out our route through the city streets. Remember that for each Polish street name that I called out, he had to look first at a handwritten cross-reference table to get the Russian Street name. Then, we had to find the street on the Russian map and look for the Ukrainian street name, which would match the current street signs, on another chart. My eyes stopped when I got to Smolki Street, number 2 in the log. This was the home of a close family branch. I had a picture back home of the entire family, including every person who was listed on the 1939 census record from which we’d gotten this address. (See Fig. III.) I’d often stayed up late at night, gazing at this picture, imagining the voices of these people. Here was their address and I was anxious to find it. Alex turned his charts over and over in his hands, against the steering wheel. "I’m very sorry," he said, "but I cannot find Smolki Street anywhere on these lists. It is possible that maybe this street no longer exists. You remember that we have found a few small streets that no longer exist?" Yes, I remembered all right, but I wasn’t ready to give up. Suddenly, I remembered that excerpt from the 1931 Polish Business Directory that lists all the street names and their locations in alphabetical order. I pulled out my copy and found Smolki Street. I read that it intersected with Sobieskiego Street, a large, easy to find street. Then, I pulled out the map from the book I’d found years ago at YIVO. I scanned the length of Sobieskiego, and sure enough there was a tiny street called Smolki. We almost tore the Russian map because we both pulled it out so quickly to see if that tiny street was marked, and so it was. The street was still there! Alex turned on the motor and off we went. We found the building. It was still standing. We went inside and even went into two apartments. It was a grand old building, just off a central square. Oddly, there was a Ukrainian rap music group performing on the square.

It was an experience I’ll never forget; one that made the phrase "following along the paper trail" really come alive.

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