The State Archive in Bialystok
It appears that this location has an extensive amount of information, but I quickly learned that it will not be easy to reserach my husband's history. I could not have made it through the door without his fluent Polish explaining what we were looking for. We learned that to accomplish anything, you must be able to provide a name, date, city/village/region/parrish and religion. Most of the information is filed by religion and then by region and what they have is greater than 100 years old (more current information is located at the local town halls, parrishes, etc).
The first problem is the borders of Poland have changed so much over the years as well as the Voivodeships (Provinces/Regions). It has been difficult to find the history of a tiny village that has switched between Russia and Poland control over the years.
The second problem is that most of the information is hand written in Old Russian, which is very difficult to read even for one who is fluent in Russian.
We were interested in finding the birth records for Greg's grandfather, Filip Osipiuk. We are 99% sure he was born in Klejniki, a small village south east of Bialystok (about an hour drive). The book we were guided to research was the Pasynki Parrish, but had no luck. We believe Klejniki could have belonged to two other Parrishes, but decided it would be better if we could confirm dates and locations before we spent too much time blindly attempting to find the name Filip Osipiuk amongst a ledger of an unfamiliar language.
I was a bit disappointed that I was not more prepared, as I had lots of free time in the two weeks we spent in Bialystok.
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Another lead we had was that a daughter of Emilian Kasjaniuk, Greg's great-grandfather, was buried in Bialystok. We located the Orthodox Cemetery (Cmentarz Parafii Prawoslawnej - All Saints Cemetery) and fortunately were able to talk an Orthodox Priest into helping us find the gravesite. The information was hand written into about a 5 x7 size ledger and included lots of information about each person. We searched through about five years of listings, hoping we were in the right date range (we were not). We found Wiktor Rudczyk, the son of Pelagia and Maksim Rudczyk and were told by family that the parents were buried nearby. The problem: too much snow. It was impossible to stroll row by row and even if we could, each headstone was blanketed in snow almost always covering the names. I desparately wanted to go back and ask if we could search through some more of the ledgers, but it was obivous that this is not a common practice and appeared as an inconvenience to them.
Orthodox Cemetery in Bialystok, located on Wladyslawa Wysockiego
Headstone of Wiktor Rudczyk (notice it is written in Belarussian, yet another challenge)
My husband, knee deep in snow, trying to unveil the names on a headstone near Wiktor Rudczyk.
A future trip to Bialystok is obviously on the genealogy 'to-do' list, but I at least learned my limitations without knowing the language and know what information I have to gather for my next visit.