Saturday, 12 December 2009

Relatively Relative

I discovered a distant, elderly relative in the Ukraine. At least I think I have, if she's still alive.

It felt odd writing a letter to her. I was told the Poles/Ukrainians like 'care' in a letter, as if I should write it asking how's the cat?—or how's the woman next door's burst boil? But how do you create a 'cosy' letter to what is effectively a total stranger, and across cultures at that?

And it felt odd writing to a woman who might have passed away.

Of course, if that's the case, I'm hoping she's left family behind, and they might get in touch and help with my search for the Michalczyk family tree. Or maybe they'll think who's this barn-pot Englishman with his daft obsession with the past, and barely glance up from their Wodka?

I have to say I'm very impressed with Google's translator. I joined a Polish online forum a while back, and one of the regulars on that forum kindly translated a draft of my letter for me. I ran it through Google to see how the translation back into English held up, and it was near perfect. It gave me confidence to add to my original letter using Google's Polish.

Now I wait to see if there's any reply. I included an email address—I wonder if there's Internet in rural Ukraine? Not that I'd expect my octogenarian relative to be using it (although, having said that, my dad is 85 and he's just had broadband installed—he's the oldest net-head in town :-).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This post is charming. I wish you well and hope your cosy, cross-culture letter finds her.