Montevideo and the Polatschek Family Tree
El 2 de Mayo de 2012
My Dear Family and Friends,
Forty years ago, in 1972, my father Otto decided to draw a Polatschek Family Tree. He wrote to his sister Ida Kiewe in London and to his cousins around the world to gather information.
Eventually, with pen and paper, Otto drew a chart. He included the names and dates of his relatives, past and present. In addition, he added as much information as possible about his many uncles, aunts and cousins who had “disappeared” during the Holocaust in Europe in the 1940’s.
When the large chart was complete, Otto mailed copies to his relatives in Europe, Canada, California, South America, South Africa and Israel.
Over the years, my father and I discussed our Family Tree. I was curious about where his (my) relatives had lived in Europe and where their descendants were now living.
My father passed away quietly in 2007 at the age of 91. Soon after, I decided to honor his work on the Family Tree and continue the tradition. But after forty years, surly there was an enormous amount of data to gather. I knew all the specifics about my own immediate family, but then what?
I began gathering information from my First Cousin Dorothy Kiewe Morris in London, England. Then I made contact with my second cousin Miryam Lauer in Binyamina, Israel. They each provided names and possible locations of other cousins.
The new Family Tree began to grow and like my father I took out pencil and paper. Then it hit me! Although I am a child of the Atomic Age, it’s now the Digital Age! I downloaded a family tree computer program and began to fill in the blanks. But there were still so many more blanks. What to do?
Using the original chart, Directory Assistance, Google, Skype, Facebook and my (very) basic computer skills, I filled in the blanks.
At the moment the Polatschek Family Tree is up to date. I found more than 130 living descendents of my Czech great grandparents Josef and Rosalie Poláček. We live in the United States, Canada, England, Switzerland, Italy, Norway, Israel, Australia, New Zealand and Thailand. (I hope this list is complete.)
Then, I had another brainstorm! Besides my small immediate family and my cousin Dorothy and her family in England, I had never met any of my other Polatschek (German spelling) cousins. So, I thought, “Why not try to visit everyone??!!”
My family quest is now a work in progress. On three occasions, I flew from Bangkok to Tel Aviv to visit Miryam and Moshe Lauer where I have met their three adult children and almost all of their eight grandchildren. From New York City, I drove to Toronto, Canada to meet my cousins Pamela Franks and Barbara Soskin.
Now I am in Montevideo, Uruguay where my cousin Diana Levy (second cousin, once removed) and her husband Guillermo Agazé are my most generous hosts. I am staying in the guest room of their spacious apartment in a lovely residential section of Montevideo.
How did I find them? I used Google to locate a Jewish organization in Montevideo. I had only a bit of information but they provided a telephone number for the Levy family.
Diana had no idea she had any relatives on her mother’s side of her family. My father had mailed the chart of the family tree to her grandmother, but it was buried in a stack of old papers. You can imagine Diana’s shock, surprise and delight when she answered her telephone one afternoon and I announced, “Hello, Diana, I am your cousin Jan!”
I also have met for the first time Diana’s sister Sylvia Levy, her husband Raúl López and their two charming university-age daughters Florencia Marisa and Alejandra Lucia. We all had a spirited dinner together at the Don Peperone restaurant.
Flo and Ale giggled a bit when I ordered my favorite pasta dish, Spaghetti Puttanesca. I must have been a hit with them. Soon after dinner ended, they invited me as a friend on Facebook.
Later this month, I look forward to meeting Diana’s son Alejandro Joel who lives in Tucumán, Argentina.
And so, with a few well-placed telephone calls using my little bit of Spanish, and after an overnight flight from Miami, I have added seven new members to my extended family in South America.
I am sure that my father Otto and his father, my grandfather Herman Poláček (Czech spelling) would be pleased that I have travelled so far to meet our relatives. (Diana and Sylvia are the great granddaughters of Herman’s brother Alois.)
Certainly my own great grandfather Josef Poláček would be astonished to know of their existence and of the successes of his many descendents.
Baruch ha Shem.
“Primo Juan” … Cousin Jan
PS G-d willing, my Polatschek family quest will continue in June when I plan to visit my Polson-Polatschek cousins in Portland, Oregon, USA.