I have been going crazy trying to figure out where my grandfather Alex Kowal was born. First I found a marriage certificate but couldn’t read what it said. Was it Charmuze? Then I got my hands on a World War II draft registration form that said Charza. Neither one of those names turned up anywhere. But finally I have a real lead. Alex’s 1940 petition for naturalization, which came in the mail yesterday, identifies his place of birth as Harucza and Charucza (spelled two different ways in the same document, naturally). So the marriage certificate probably read Charucze.
My excitement was short lived, however, as there was no sign of a Harucza either. So I asked Vladimir to search phonetically for “Harucha” in Cyrillic letters (ХАРУЧА) and he found a weather forecast for a place that sounded like “Harucha Velka.” With the knowledge that there was really was a town named Harucza somewhere I persisted until I came across Kharucha Vel’ka!
Kharucha Vel’ka is in Rivnen’ska oblast in the northwest corner of Ukraine, halfway between Kyiv and L’viv, not far from the border with Belarus. It must be a pretty small place. When you zoom in on Google Maps you never see the name. But it’s definitely there.
Apparently, there used to be two villages in my grandfather’s time – Kharucha and Kharucha Mala (Little Kharucha) – that were combined into Kharucha Vel’ka (Greater Kharucha). From the satellite photo on Google there doesn’t seem to be much there. But I feel like I have found the right place. The task now will be to find a way to confirm this.
There were other incredible details from Alex’s naturalization papers that shed new light on his journey to America. That will be the subject of my next post.