Old and New Family in Mlynarovce!

Trip Start Aug 26, 2008
Trip End Aug 17, 2009

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

After a long drive in the Eastern Slovakian countryside, we reached my Great-Great-Great Grandmother, Anna Prokop's, village of Mlynarovce, Svidnik Slovakia spelled on her passport as "Molinarovce, Visny Svidnik, Ceskoslovenska"

The road to the village was about the size of a driveway and roughly paved. Turing a bend in a picturesque hill valley, we came into the village of maybe 40 dwellings and 2 or 3 paved roads. We drove down the main road, attracting stares from a few elderly people who were outside tending to large gardens and blooming flower beds (in October, no less!). The houses seemed a mixture of modern concrete block and older brick houses with newer stucco plastered over the bricks.

When we reached the edge of the village, we turned around and parked in the gravel lot of a small bakery--the only commercial building we saw. We only knew it was a bakery from an open door showing racks of loaves of bread. Several people outside shook their heads at our questions in English, German, and Chinese. However, when we handed them Anna Prokop's passport, their faces lit up and they began talking excitedly amongst themselves.

We were led across the street to a small group of apartments in a medium-sized house. A lady somewhere between 80 and 100 came over and shook her head repeatedly as the name "Prokop" was repeated over and over.

We are still unsure, because of the communication barrier, but we believe that perhaps all the Prokops have moved out of Mlynarovce generations ago, perhaps just down the street to a neighboring village, or perhaps hundreds of miles away.

However, a family immediately invited us inside and treated us as if we were their own. We sat down and immediately the grandmother began preparing us a cold lunch of some sort of shredded ham on bread with sweet pickles. It was delicious. We were given big mugs of coffee and glasses of lemon soda. While we ate, we tried to describe where we had come from and why we were in town. I think that we communicated that Anna Prokop was my Great-Great-Great Grandmother and not likely to be in any living memory since she emigrated in the year 1900.

We drew maps of the United States and Taiwan. I pointed to Michigan, New Jersey, and Chicago and tried to relate my maternal family history as well as I could recall from my conversation with Nanny.

Eventually, after pictures and exchanging addresses we departed for a stroll of the village. We began taking pictures until we climbed a small hill and tried to photograph a valley.

We then heard a shout and a heavyset man in a sweater--let's call him Crazy Uncle Otto came tromping down the road telling us nvet photographie! No photographs. We smiled, we waved, we showed him our photos, we tried all three of our Slovak phrases, all to no avail. Crazy Uncle Otto wanted us to leave, so leave we did.

As we were walking back, Crazy Uncle Otto followed in his car, thinking he would run us out of town. It is difficult to tell, but I believe he was either asking us if we were the police, asking us if we needed police help, telling us he was the police, or threatening to call the police--on the town's single pay phone.

Perhaps Crazy Uncle Otto followed through on his threat. I would certainly have liked to be privy to that conversation. I'll post how that call might have gone on the next entry, along with photos of Crazy Uncle Otto's Super-Secret Cow Farm and it's exact geographical  location for the whole world to see. :)

After all, there shouldn't be any secrets amongst family. Oh, and if you're really interested, Google Earth has far higher 0.5-meter resolution photograhs of Crazy Uncle Otto's Secret Cow Sheds than I could take.

After being chased by Crazy Uncle Otto, we returned to say goodbye to our hosts. After hugs, we fled the town in our Diesel sedan, at 30 kph, snapping photographs all the way.
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