A Little Bit of Family History
Janina was born on Christmas Eve in 1924 in a village in Belarus. Her mother Olga married twice and Janina had three half-brothers — Wladyslaw, Felicjan and Jozef. By the age of three Janina had lost both her parents. Just few years after her parents’ death, she lost her brothers, too. In 1943 Jozef and Wladyslaw were killed fighting for the Fatherland; this must have been a painful blow to Janina, who was only nineteen at that time.
During WW2, Janina joined the ‘Women’s Auxiliary Service’, and as its member she served in a number of jobs including that of clerk, cook and telephonist. Soon after, she met her husband Antoni. They lived in Italy and Germany before settling down in England. Janina worked in a sewing factory in London until she retired and moved to Nottingham.
Janina passed away on January 9, 2016 in a nursing home in Nottingham, where she had lived out the remaining years of her life. As she did not have any children and her husband died over forty years ago, the only family that she had been known to speak about was in Poland. They were sending each other letters for years and, as far as the staff and the residents were aware, she did not have any relatives in the UK.
Our team of dedicated researchers are always willing to go the extra mile and try different methods in order to locate missing heirs. This case in particular, with no surviving relatives in the UK, required thinking ‘outside the box’. Janina’s case was handed to our Polish Cases Manager, Marta Samulak, who was eager and well-equipped to take on the challenge.
‘Mokre’, a small village in north-central Poland with a population of 900, was the place where the letters were sent to and from for many years. In small villages like this, people feel attached to each other and church is the heart of the community. Our researcher decided that this church was the place to turn for help to track down this missing family.
Having established contact with the church, the details of our unusual enquiry were passed to the Vicar who set about locating what family members there were — everything now was in his hands and the wait began. Much to the team’s surprise, it did not take long and two days later the phone in our office rang. While the persons that Janina had been corresponding with for years were not entitled relatives, there was one sole beneficiary who stood to inherit Janina’s estate; Stanislaw, the son of her brother Jozef, who was still living in Mokre.
Stanislaw was able to confirm his relationship with Janina and there was no doubt that our search for the heirs of this estate was over.
Meeting the Heir
Having now found and made contact with Janina’s only heir, our Cases Manager took the trip to Mokre while in Poland visiting her family, travelling over 300 miles by car to meet face-to-face with the heir. The personal visit helped to fill in the gaps in the family tree, to provide the personal history we have summarised above and to collect the supporting documentation required to prove Stanislaw’s legal right to claim the estate.
‘Janka’, as her friends and family called her, was fondly remembered by Stanislaw and his wife as a chatty, ‘full of life’ woman, who will always be remembered for her famous laughter. Although they were aware of her deteriorating health, which was the reason why they lost contact with her, the news about the death came as a shock. Despite the sad circumstances surrounding our visit, they were happy to share their memories of her with us and are grateful to her for the unexpected gift.
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