In the early 1980s, the Maleys, a Belarusian family, moved into a house in Antonova Street in Grodno. When cleaning up the attic, people found two albums with old photos. The pictures dated back to pre-WWII years and were probably left there by the former tenants.
Since then Victor Maley has been trying to find relatives or descendants of the owners of the albums.
Most pictures that survived date between 1920-1930s. Victor Maley, whose brother lived in Antonova Street, managed to preserve about 50 photos.
Jews from ghetto might be the owners
Local historians believe that the albums belonged to Jews who lived in Grodno before or during WWII.
Some photos had inscriptions in Polish and Hebrew. Having translated them, Victor and enthusiasts who are helping the man in his search found out two names: Abraham Vazbutsky and Meil Wolfe Kanchuk (spelling might be different – note).
As there are several pictures of Meil Wolfe Kanchuk at different ages in the albums, the search team believes that photos had belonged to him and his family.
In 1921, according to the Treaty of Riga, western Belarus including Grodno was annexed by Poland. Men in one the of pictures wear the uniform of the Polish Army.
On the other picture there’s number 76 on the epaulette of one of the soldiers.
The number denoted the regiment of Ludwik Narbutt that was stationed in Grodno until 1939.
In 1941, two ghettos were created in Grodno, one of them – in Antonova street, that was called Iyerusalimskaya street at that time.
People from other parts of the city and the nearest towns were re-settled there. According to historians, it is highly likely that Polish Jews might have lived in Grodno’s ghettos, too.
Of 30,000 Jews who lived in Grodno before the war, only 180 people survived to celebrate the end of WWII.
Descendants in the USA?
Thanks to Ruth Markus, a Israeli citizen and descendant of Grodno’s Jews, it was found out that Abraham Vazbutsky and Meil Wolfe Kanchuk both died during the Holocaust years.
The search might have stopped there but for the two shots that had been sent to the owner of the album from New York, the USA, in 1932 and 1938.
The pictures show a father and two daughters.
Experts believe the man was a relative of someone from Grodno and had migrated to America before the war.
Victor Maley hopes that the descendants of the owners of the pictures he found in the attic of the house in Grodno still live somewhere in the USA and will eventually get their family’s memories back.