Girl Gone International: Wait, I Have Roots in Lithuania!? (Part 2!)
Today seems like a good day to update y'all on a post I wrote a little over a year ago after a pretty wild revelation: I have roots in Lithuania. Or, more specifically, in Panevėžys, Lithuania's fifth largest city that at one point had a huge Jewish population.
Did I know this before moving to Lithuania? Nope, sure didn't! If you remember from my original post, I've walked around this country differently ever since that Panevėžys discovery. I'd scoured through Lithuanian birth, death, and tax records pointing to Panevėžys (Ponevezh in Yiddish), providing specific ancestors' names and occupations.
But I've come across a few missing links since then that paint an even fuller picture of my Lithuanian ancestors. My cells just keep rearranging this story!
Last July, I visited a newer friend in her hometown of Anykščiai, and she proudly took me to her favorite tree in the town. What's even funnier is that I documented this trip - and the tree! - in a post honoring my forever love of the Shehecheyanu blessing. I loved that tree, and I felt incredibly moved being there, like my ancestors were welcoming me, saying hi to me, motioning me to pay closer attention.
And I did - I recognized the safety and happiness I felt standing on the trunk of a statuesque tree that reminded me of the huge Live Oaks back home, but there was more. I couldn't put my finger on it, but it was obvious and reverberating. Spiritual, even.
Cut to September 2022.
As I apparently do, I went back into the JewishGen research on a whim - out of curiosity. I wondered if I could see information with fresh eyes, having been away for a few months. When I went back into the records, I noticed something interesting.
On some of the same records I'd looked at in February, a curious byline stood off to the side: Family from Anykščiai.
Wait, what!? I felt an answer rise in my gut: some number of people were most likely born in Anykščiai and eventually moved to Panevėžys - or at least traveled back and forth, married someone from there.
But I was stunned because this was the exact town I'd had that inner knowing, that spiritual sensation in - at the massive tree. Interesting how that worked out! I shared this new discovery with my Anykščiai friend, and The Scientist and I immediately made our way back to the town. Back in July, my friend had mentioned that at one point, Anykščiai had a larger Jewish population with numerous synagogues - so many that a downtown street was named Sinagogos gatvė. And since my friend grew up on that street, she showed us around. There it was: Sinagogos gatvė.
That same day, I also visited the old Anykščiai (Aniksht in Yiddish) cemetery, stomping through biting stinging nettles to the top of a hill with numerous tombstones - most too worn to read. Still, I felt the same sensation that I was experiencing myself in my ancestors' history. It was a new fractal in this ongoing journey.
Cut to a few days ago.
Once again, I decided to look up my ancestors on a whim - this time, a specific ancestor. And interestingly, this search led to a Baltimore-based article alllllll about my family, including this incredible photo of my ancestors (Lithuanian great-great-grandparents, great-grandma, and her siblings). This article also clearly states that my family left Lithuania due to poverty and anti-Semitism - a claim I'm apt to believe, given the period they left. (Read a past blog post with some shocking Užgavėnės elements that highlight a fraction of the - hopefully former - national consciousness around othering.)
Through a series of events, I got in touch with an in-law relative via this article, who kindly got me in touch with a cousin who's also researching our family. And more than that, he's written pages of text about them which I'm only just now diving into. I feel like I've hit the jackpot, between the information and the photos! They also confirm my suspicions that my ancestors were born in Anykščiai and eventually moved to Panevėžys. Also, people married into our family from the Utena, Vilnius, Raguva areas, and more. The faucet is completely open now, and my next steps are to head to the National Library or wherever I can get more information on homes and specific people.
Thanks to my family members for this photo and to the kind people of Reddit for helping restore an already mind-blowing photograph.
Below you'll find some photos of me in Anykščiai - a spiritual home for my bones.
Next time I come to you about this, I wonder what I'll have to say. I already feel so impacted by this newest discovery, these new faces and voices from my Lithuanian past. They connect so well with my Lithuanian present and future.
I guess we'll have to wait and see. :)
Has something like this ever happened to you!? Let me know!
As per usual, feel free to subscribe at the bottom of this page to receive a bi-weekly email from me on whatever's on my heart that day! And as always, I'll see you next time here at Into the Forests I Go - iki pasimatymo - see you soon!