Monday, January 11, 2016

Client File #1: Mrs. F Mother's Mysterious Letter

I'd like to talk about some of the amazing finds I have been privileged to share with the patrons I have worked with as a part time genealogy librarian in a public library here on Long Island. In order to write these posts I am going to alter the names of those involved in an effort to conceal their real identities. Its a matter of privacy.

As a librarian it is my responcibility to ensure my patrons' right to privacy. You have the right to open inquiry without your interests being examined or scrutinized or spread about town. "You know that girl over there was looking up information on abortion." Guess what? Mine is not to judge and it's nobody's business but your own what you research in a library. I am here to help you find the information YOU want/need. Librarians protect your right to read and research without your motivations being questions. And family history research is a personal matter. I take that responsibility very seriously but on the other hand some of the lessons learned in researching are just too remarkable and enlightening not to share. And so, let me tell you about Mrs. F.'s letter.

Mrs. F wanted to know more about her mother who had come to the U.S. in about 1920 from Czechoslovakia. In 1993 Czechoslovakia was dissolved into two sovereign states; the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Mrs. F. had in her possession a few pictures, postcards, and a letter that belonged to her mother. She was not absolutely sure of the town her mother came from. Family lore had it that Mrs. F's mother left her homeland under scandal. That she was supposed to marry but instead ran away to America. The letter was in what we thought was Czech and Mrs. F believed to be a letter from her grandfather to her mother disowning his daughter.

I tried Google Translate but not knowing the language made it difficult to read the handwriting. And Czech and Slovak both have characters that aren't on my keyboard. It is an amazing tool, Google Translate, but for this it just didn't work for me.

Then I tried looking for a human translator. I have a friend who is Bulgarian and works for the European Economic Union so I though maybe she knew someone through her job who could translate the letter. I also contacted a cousin I know through genealogy research who had been to my ancestors' hometown in the Czech Republic, so maybe she knew someone. She did put me in touch with someone who was willing to translate the letter for me for a fee but told me for free that it was in 2 languages; Slokav and Hungarian. Hungarian! 

So after months of trying to find a human translator I reached out to a close friend of mine who is Hungarian. She in turn found someone who was able to reveal that the letter was from the scorned boyfriend to Mrs. F's mom. From the tone we can only suspect that it was his last letter before taking his own life.

Reading the translation brought both me and Mrs. F to tears. The portion that was in Hungarian were song lyrics he included which read:
You have ignited my heart into flames 
Only to crush it down to the dirt 
If you were able to teach me that life and love is only a dream 

Now teach me how to forget you 
The love filled summer has ended 
Butterfly wings always take your desires to someone else 

Clouds cover my heart 
As I gaze at the star filled sky and cry
Even the most beautiful dreams have come to an end.

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