I click the green button to accept the call. The faint connection grows stronger until an image of a forty-something-year-old man with closely cropped hair and wire-rim glasses comes into focus. I am aware that my unwashed hair pulled back into a barrette coupled with a repeated bout of neurotic eyebrow rubbing probably does not make the best first impression.
“Hello,” the voice announces in a deep-throated Eastern European accent. Aside from his greeting, the only sound coming from the other side of the world is shuffling books and papers splayed around his desk. He pauses before speaking once more, “My name is Roman Pinyazhko, and you are Anna Sochocky.”
I nod a little too enthusiastically. Out of sight of the screen, my fingers alternate between drumming patterns on the desk’s surface and smoothing the wrinkles creased in the thigh of my gym pants.
“I am glad you and I have an opportunity to speak,” I begin clearing my throat more than once. Before I have an opportunity to continue, Roman seizes the nascent conversation with authority.
“My mother works at L’viv Medical University with your cousin, Yaroslava. Yaroslava searches for you many years.” His English, broken into fragments, proceeds his detailed outline of each element of his dogged investigation.
“Your father’s name was Serhij. He was a member of the Polish Army and, later, the Ukrainian Division Galicia. He was born in the village Krugeiv. His father’s name was Michael. He was a lawyer. His mother, your grandmother’s name, was Irena. Your grandfather was a priest. Your father’s sister’s name is Olga. You have three cousins – Yaraslava, Zaraslavia, and Lydia.” (Zaraslava, my oldest cousin pictured)
Roman pauses to shuffle through a labyrinth of papers. The hesitation evaporates into another round of facts always known to me. “Your father was in Rimini camp? Roman does not wait for my ascent and continues. “After his detention in Rimini, he traveled to England.”
Sensing an opportunity to respond, I interject that after my father’s detention in Rimini, he was transferred to a processing camp at Redgrave Park, where he remained for two more years. Roman pauses to take in this information. “I can email you a photograph if you like,” reminded me of the fragments I still had in my possession.
“Your father worked as a doctor in Cambridge. He worked at a sanatorium in North Carolina and then South Dakota,” Roman regains his footing. “There is much I have to tell you.”
Ronan continues. “Your father died of a heart attack. You and your mother were in England, yes?”
I swallow. Hard. Our benign conversation has shifted. So few people knew that my mother and I were in England when my father passed. How on earth would a man I do not know have this information?
Yet, Roman’s following statement will rewrite the reasons why contact with my father’s family did not simply evaporate but was unknowingly severed by a woman who claimed to be a friend.