Today I Think About My Ukrainian Grandfather and What He Would Have Thought of This War
Lately, I have been thinking about my Ukrainian heritage. I am 1/4 Ukrainian from my grandfather. He passed away in 1992 but I have been thinking about him for the last few months. He was like a dad to me. He was calm while my dad had a fiery temper.
He visited us once a week. He had big hearing aids and a quiet voice but he was always a source of calm in our home. He was at our home for Easter and Thanksgiving every year, sharing with my mom how to make golumpki (known now as stuffed cabbage) as his Ukrainian mom had made.
He also brought babka bread that he got from the bakery. It was one of my favorite treats during the holidays.
While my dad was half Italian (from his mother), and had a temper at times, Grandpa Popeye was 100% Ukrainian and quiet. And a big mystery to me.
His wife, the love of his life, my grandmother Elsie, had died from lung cancer in the late 1970s. She had been a smoker and her diagnosis came swiftly and cruely. It was too late for her to get treatment and she died within a few months.
Grandpa Popeye visited his sons weekly, bringing stories and babka bread. My mom loved to hear about the old country and about his love of ice skating on the Erie Canal, driving a trolley, or working at General Electric.
My mom, curious like me, managed to get out the one detail he did not talk about a lot. Or ever. Something buried in his past.
In the 1980s, I was a kid and had overheard the word bootlegger but did not know what it was. As I got older, my career consisted of writing, blogging, and a lot of genealogy, my true passion.
I learned in school about the 18th Amendment, the Volstead Act, passed in 1919 and went out of favor in 1933. This caused the increase in the illegal production and sale of liquor known as “bootlegging,” the proliferation of speakeasies (illegal drinking spots), and the accompanying rise in gang violence.