February 1, 2023

US Ukraine: Woman tracks down rightful owners of long-lost photo album in war-torn city

4 min read


Some have opened their homes to refugees or promised donations for emergency appeals.

Others have tried to support Ukrainian businesses. They include New Yorker Chelsea Brown.

While she was trolling for online ideas, Brown, 29, stumbled upon a vintage reseller list in Zaporizhzhia, southeastern Ukraine.

that thing? A large, green photo album filled with black and white photographs of Soviet-era Ukraine.

Not the most obvious way to express solidarity, but one way that made perfect sense for Brown – an interior designer and author who used genealogy in his spare time to find out. Because she describes herself as the “real” owner of the family inheritance that she gets by scoring. Ancient fairs, flea markets and online.

“I saw it and immediately knew it was special and needed to be returned to the family,” he told CNN.

“I was trying to find a way to support small businesses in Ukraine. The photo album popped up and I clicked on it and it took me to the eBay list.”

It took three weeks for the album to arrive by mail from Zaporizhzhia, but in the meantime Brown used some little information to trace the descendants of the people in the pictures.

But the album – which featured photographs from the 1920s to the 1970s – had some hints.

Hereditary hunter Chelsea Brown spent weeks trying to find people's offspring on the album.

“All captions are in Russian, which makes the research very difficult,” Brown told CNN.

Contacts on social media helped him translate some of the names into English, while Brown also tapped into Google Translate.

“I was researching that night without a lead. I was anxious to find this family!” she said.

He had to go by only two names: Vadim Danilovich and Yuri Vadimovich, some of which were inscribed in Cyrillic script below the pictures. He suspected that the Ukrainian patronage tradition – where one part of the personal name is based on one’s father’s name – meant Yuri Wadim’s son. There was only one mention of the nickname in the album: Makowski.

Kremlin-related children grew up in countries whose societies claim to be rejected by their parents.

Fearlessly, Brown used an online Russian keyboard to search for names.

“He took me down the rabbit hole,” he told CNN. “I spent days trying to find any contact for this family.”

He eventually received an e-mail from Ivan Makowetsky – Yuri’s 29-year-old son and Vadim’s grandson. She told Brown that her grandfather had died in 2008.

He lives in the central Ukrainian city of Dnipropetrovsk with his parents and the widow of his grandmother, Vadim.

Prior to the Russian invasion in February, Makovetskyi was an English teacher in “one of the city’s most prestigious schools,” he told CNN, while the family printing business catered to theaters and cultural institutions. But as soon as he stopped working, so did the family business.

Makowski has recently been hired as a local spokesman for an Italian humanitarian organization working in Ukraine, but otherwise the family has no income.

“We’re fine, we’re not hungry or anything like that, but the situation is very difficult at the moment,” he told CNN.

“My grandfather was a man of encyclopedic knowledge, a professor of human anatomy and even head of the department at our medical academy in the city of Danepro,” he wrote to Brown.

The late Vadim Danilovich is portrayed as a child.

The family is not clear on how the album came for sale, but it is suspected that it may have been lost when relatives moved in.

Although Makowski and his family were pleased to hear that it had been found, their immediate concern was with the current situation.

“It may sound blunt, but the memories here aren’t very valuable these days,” he wrote to Brown, describing urban life in Ukraine today as “serious.”

The sound of air strike warnings has become a regular feature of life for the family, who still live in the Dnipro building. It was the home of Makotsky’s grandfather, Vadim.

Vadim Danilovich is fondly remembered by his grandson Ivan Makovitsky.

“We are so used to hearing air sirens that nothing happens, that most people, including me, do not even bother to go to the basement or the shelter,” he said.

Makowski’s father, Yuri, is seriously ill, but due to conditions in Ukraine, he is not receiving the treatment he needs. Meanwhile, the closure of the family business has put them in financial trouble.

After finding the family, Brown felt compelled to act. He has since sent them financial support and hopes the album will be returned in person once the war is over.

A photograph provided by the Makovetskyi family shows Ivan as a child with his father Yuri (L) and grandfather Vadim (R).

Ivan Makowetsky told CNN in an email that his family was initially skeptical of Brown’s support, especially since he had always been “proud and independent.”

“The difficulties we are facing due to the lack of work and the constant threat of long-range rocket attacks have certainly made us reluctant to accept this help without question, but the other response,” he said. Was coming with pride

But that eventually changed, according to Makowski, who is now in regular contact with Brown.

He added: “I have never seen such a quick expression on the face of my parents, unless it has been met with reluctance, acceptance, gratitude and a sense of reality.”

Ivan Makovetskyi was an English teacher before the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Brown told CNN that he had “formed a relationship” with Makowski after studying his family’s lineage for so long.

“My heart and mind persuaded me to send money when I was able to contact the family and find out more about them,” she said.

“They are hardworking, proud, kind, grateful; and losing their jobs and income because of such a situation was a good reason for me.

“I can’t wait for the day when I can meet them all in person,” he said.



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