For this boomer, truth is stranger than fiction

Over the past year we have run a few pieces of writing by San Francisco’s Tania Romanov Amochaev, who has a history full of foreign links. And like a lot of baby boomers, she continues to learn more and more about her upbringing and her background. In other words, her roots. In this piece, she finds an ironic truth which is, as she puts it, stranger than fiction … once again.

It started off innocuously enough, with an email from The Economist magazine.

ECONOMIST: 6/2/2018 – Dear Armet Amochaev,
Welcome to The Economist. You can now look forward to independent thinking and a distinctive world view, every week. Your first print issue is on its way.

Except I hadn’t ordered a subscription to The Economist and wasn’t Armet. I decided to ignore it, but the next email included his address and requested confirmation for the credit card charge. Having just spent days researching my father’s background in Russia, I was intrigued by this rare reference to our last name and had forwarded the note to my brother Alex:

ME: 6/2 – Thought you might enjoy this. Do you think I should tell them they have the wrong email address?

ALEX: 6/2 – Sure. But maybe he’s related us. Can we get his email?

ME: 6/3 – I doubt it – but we could find his house! It’s near Moscow. And I have figured out that there’s a train stop at the village father was born in, on the line from Volgograd to Moscow. Want to go next summer?

ALEX: 6/4 – Maybe. Let’s see what develops.

Goat stature in Uryupinsk, Russia.

I then told the Economist of the error and in return got a robot who didn’t want to discuss the subject with me.

ECONOMIST: 6/5 – This is an automated response…

That inspired me to check on Facebook, where I found an Armet Amochaev from the correct town and sent him a message asking if he had subscribed to The Economist. He had, and had misspelled his last name in the email address. I did not find this surprising as transliteration from the Cyrillic is not an exact science. So we had an email exchange.

ME: 6/9 – By the way – my family were Don Cossacks from near Urupinsk. I don’t suppose we’re related?

My brother dressed as a Cossack Cadet with saluting Cossack in background, mid 1950s.

ARMET: 6/9 – Dear Tania, thank your a lot for the letter! It was my mistake, I wrote my email in a wrong way 🙂 You know, I think that we’re related. My grandfather was born in a khutor (small village, farm) near Urupinsk in 1935 and my ancestors also were Don Cossacks. Tania, I’ve visited your website and will definitely read all your literary works and I’m going to start with the story of your first trip to your father’s homeland. It must be very exciting! A few words about myself. I’m 28 years old. I live in a suburb of Moscow and work in a road-construction business. I am very pleased to meet you!

ME: 6/9 – Lovely to hear from you. My brother suggested I write you on the theory that we might be related. Our family are the only Amochaevs in America.

I actually want to write a book about my father. I don’t suppose your grandfather is still alive or that you know what village they came from? And I am impressed that a 28-year-old in Russia wants to read The Economist. I used to read it in my career as a business executive.

Only Amochaevs who fled the Don region, in Serbia early 1920s. Boys in Cossack Cadet Corpus or School uniforms.

ARMET: 6/12 – Dear Tania, I read your story in one breath. It made me excited and sad simultaneously. I’m excited because you mentioned some familiar places in the story. My grandfather was born in the collective farm “Serp i Molot” right near khutor Kulikov and stanitsa Jarizhenskaya (Ярыженская). I attached a peace of map.

Cossacks weren’t allow to live in their family khutors and villages because of the collectivization. But your story also reminds about very dark times in our history. A civil war is the most disgusting thing that can be. My grandfather lived after those events, but there were rough times too: the great famine in the region in 30’s and the WWII later. None of his siblings survived and he didn’t know much about his father. My grandfather was a very stubborn person. He managed to leave that place, worked and studied hard and become a major in the engineering troops. He served in many places of the Soviet Union and retired in Kharkov, Ukraine where he died 8 years ago.

A sign in town says, “We Love Uryupinsk.”

I wish I could ask him more about the family story. Tania, I think we’re related, but just from different branches. By the way, last September I was traveling to Urupinsk for a business purpose. I work in a company that supplies hi-end equipment and technologies for construction. This region is getting more attractive for the agriculture business and the local road network is being renovated.

Now there none of my relatives there, but I visited khutor Amochaev. Now it’s just 2 farms with no Amochaevs there. I also attached some photos from my trip. Interesting fact, I also didn’t have a hot shower in my hotel in Urupinsk 🙂 some trouble with heating. I think that writing a book about your father is a great idea! Now I’m getting my executive master degree at the Moscow Higher School of Economics. I already have the engineering one and I do believe it will be useful for my further career. That’s why I’m reading the Economist. Besides, I try to get an information from different sources.

ME: 6/13 – I’m afraid your note brought tears to my eyes. I would definitely like to meet you someday, and it would be fun to find out how closely related we are. If you’re interested, I could get you DNA tested on ‘23 and me’. My brother and cousin and I have all done it, and we could see how closely linked we might be.

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