Oct 072014
 
Who Am I?

As I’ve become obsessed with the news from Ukraine, first the Maidan revolution and now Russia’s invasion, I’ve found I can turn almost any conversation with any group of people into a discussion about Ukraine and its politics. And so I’m often asked, “Are you Ukrainian?” The correct answer would seem to be no. No, […Read more]

Mar 262014
 
I Wish I Were Polish

  Traveling to Poland and learning more about the Solidarity movement and the Warsaw Uprising gave me a whole new view of the Poles … and makes me want to claim some Polish heritage. It’s embarrassing to admit how little I realized the significance of Poland’s Solidarity movement in the 1980s to the ultimate fall […Read more]

Mar 142014
 
In Search of an Elusive Ancestral Town

Dripping blood, missing rental car, taxi careening through traffic—as I told the rental car agency guy (when we finally found him), “We’ve had a hard time leaving Warsaw this morning.” Once we were on the road though, things proceeded smoothly. Roads were clearly marked and matched my maps from Google. We drove straight to my […Read more]

Dec 222013
 

I think it was the smallest commercial plane I’ve ever been on. Every seat was a window seat … and an aisle seat. Sitting in 1A, I could just about reach out and touch the pilot. None of that bothered me. I’ve been on small planes before. It was when I realized that the “flight […Read more]

Oct 202013
 
Fading Family Roots

I went to a funeral last week and met my childhood. The funeral celebrated the 94 years of life of my friend Sharon’s father. It was held in the church where I grew up, in the neighborhood where I grew up. I recently moved close to my old Ballard neighborhood. Current-day Ballard is a trendy […Read more]

Aug 022013
 
Ancestral Village Homecoming

I’ve found a new reason to love Greece. Of course I love it because I lived there years ago. When you experience daily life somewhere—grocery shopping with a phrasebook in hand so you don’t create a dinner disaster or enduring a monthly bill paying ritual with your landlady because you don’t have time to stand […Read more]

Mar 062012
 
...and a Night in Teplitz

The hospitality was bounteous, if not terribly personalized. A short visit with the mayor and his wife, then they handed us over to the guesthouse where we’d be staying that night. As with every Ukrainian meal, plates of food covered every square inch of the table’s surface. But the guesthouse owner hovered over us like […Read more]

Mar 032012
 
A Day in Benkendorf...

The stout, kerchiefed woman took one look at the Americans appearing in her village and whisked herself away from the group gathering around our van. It couldn’t be something we’d said, because we hadn’t said a word. At least, not one she would have understood. The four of us stood by as Serge our interpreter […Read more]

Jan 172011
 
No Way Out

If you’re stuck in a blizzard, there are worse places to be than a cozy house overlooking a snow-covered lake, with internet access, satellite TV, and a well-stocked freezer and pantry. My ancestors who settled on these prairies had a much tougher time when they encountered blizzard conditions—crammed together in a sod house, the sheet […Read more]