I love that my Ukrainian Jewish ancestors were called “Goloby”. Doves. Peace. When they came to America, via Ukraine + Poland + the Austro-Hungarian Empire, they changed their name to “Globy” and called themselves Germans, which they were not. When no one was convinced, they gave each other French first names. That, also, did not convince anyone of their “Westernness” when they moved to an Eastern European Jewish neighborhood in Philadelphia. They thought Globy sounded more English, but they couldn’t speak English, so they just married Hungarian Jews and gave up.

Their math equation of surnames looks like this:

Preslaur (Odessa, Ukraine)+ Borgos (Boryosh) (Budapest, Hungary and Tyszowce, Poland) + Goloby (Carpathian Mountains Shtetls)+ Gotlieb (Lyviv, Ukraine) + Josevitz (Bratislava, Slovakia)+ Goldlink (Tallin, Estonia) = Eastern European Jew

Everyone sort of forgot where the Globy’s came from until all their Eastern European unions resulted in a great++ grandchild who could speak Russian.

Their secret has been out since that one afternoon in Portland, when I was walking with my aunt and I said, “Grandma’s mother’s mother was named ‘Smith’, right?” A fact I had always been ashamed of. Who is “Smith”? Why not just call yourself Mr. and Mrs. Absolutely-Nothing.

“No!” said my aunt (of blessed memory). “That was Nana’s second husband’s name. He was German or something. She was a Globy.”

What a curious name. It’s almost like the Russian word for ‘dove’. “You mean ‘Goloby’? It’s the plural of doves,” I said. She didn’t know the answer to that.

I did the research. Found the original Cyrillic, and it was then that I started to think it wasn’t so cosmic that all those Ukrainians, Russians, Slavs, etc. walked up to me in random places, year after year, and said, “You are Slavic?” It happened to me only last week at Weis Markets. Only, I didn’t have enough Ukrainian yet, so when I answered in Russian, the old woman who’d asked me a question, turned quickly away from me and marched down the aisle.

I’ve been practicing my Ukrainian lately, so as not to offend the dead or the living. Turns out, it’s very natural for me and easier than the Russian I love and have been speaking/learning since 1991. I’m quite hooked. I went from beginning to intermediate in less than an hour a couple of weeks ago. I wonder why my ancestors chose this curious last name when Jews were required to pick surnames in the late 1800s? Was it a prayer while living in the Russian Empire? Or was it a joke? They were certainly not loyal to any of those places, and none of those places were loyal to them.

As I think about my time spent in Russia when I was young, my deep connection to Ukrainians–the people who taught me to speak thr language–my heart breaks. I am in constant contact with my dear ones in both places. It is too much to watch, to bear, sometimes. For them, the world is crashing. I can only offer my prayers and my support.

I can look to the animal my ancestors chose, the dove. Will she visit us in these days? I sure hope so.

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