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From the Publisher's Desk: The man who saves the stories

A typical family home in Zablace. Photo courtesy of Mike Savoca
A typical family home in Zablace. Photo courtesy of Mike Savoca
There’s a man in New York City researching the genealogy of families from the small village on the Adriatic Coast where my father was born. The man’s name is Mike Savoca and his Facebook page, “Zablace Genealogy,” has 143 members and nearly 200 old photographs.

I was supposed to spend Valentine’s Day with my granddaughter, but I caught a cold and had to stay home. I ended up spending hours on Mike’s site, amazed at how many faces and names I recognized as I clicked through the photos and comments.

I saw my dad’s cousin Joe looking exactly as I remember him 50 years ago. One year Joe wore striped pajamas to take us kids trick or treating. Then I thought he was just funny, but now I realize Joe came with us to make sure we were safe. 

Then and now. Memories and guilt flooded over me. I went off to college, to Hawaii, to Oregon, to here and there, and didn’t set my roots down in San Pedro with the rest of my clan. The second and third cousins I grew up with still hang together and know each other’s children and grandchildren. I haven’t seen most of them since my father’s funeral in 1981. Mike’s page put me back on track.

I contacted cousins over the weekend, taking the first small step in reconnecting with them. I sent Mike some information and now my father, my children and even my granddaughter are on the Zablace family tree.

I e-mailed Mike to thank him for doing this work. This was his response:

Stone houses with shutters on their windows are common in Zablace, Croatia. Photo courtesy of Mike Savoca
Stone houses with shutters on their windows are common in Zablace, Croatia. Photo courtesy of Mike Savoca
“As a kid I always had a big interest in history, and was always asking questions about my own family's history. I began to work on my own family tree at about age 9, and it just went from there. The first time I went to Zablace was in 2002, and I fell in love with it. There was something about these old women all in black, the stone homes with fading green shutters and sun-bleached tile roofs that spoke to me.

  I found that my family tree included three-fourths of Zablace, and I figured I might as well work on all of Zablace. Naturally, names and dates are not enough. I want to get a feel for the culture of the area, the traditions, songs, and history of our little town. I go back every summer, and get more research done. This summer will be big for me, because of this Facebook group, more people know what I am doing. I would like to interview some people and get more pictures.

 I want to make sure these treasures are taken care of, so many of my generation, and even my mom's generation have no idea who are in pictures, much less the names of long gone ancestors. No one should be forgotten, and that is part of why I am doing this, to keep those who can't tell their stories alive for the future.”

Did I mention that Mike Savoca is only 19? He was born 10 years after my father’s death, yet this Mike—that was my father’s name, too—is setting the stage for my father’s immortality so my granddaughter and her children will know his story.

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