The love story of my great grandfather and great grandmother Bondar Dmytro and Melania was a real hush hush mystery for everybody until I started researching my ancestors. I knew that my maiden name was of Polish origin and decided to learn more about my family tree. In the process, I uncovered a number of monumental family secrets and found out that the American writer Deborah Stevens is my relative.
By Tetiana Stetsiuk. She also provided the photographs
My great grandmother was mentioned in all of the old documents as Melania Bondar. And the same last name she got when she married my great grandfather. Although it wasn’t unheard of when almost the whole village had the same last name, I stubbornly continued to look for Melania’s maiden name. So, I started asking my relatives about it, but they kept silent or pretended to know nothing. And I didn’t know why.
When I practically gave up hope, the right papers came into my hands at last. From these old documents, I found out that Dmytro and Melania’s fathers were brothers, so my great grandfather and great grandmother were cousins. So, that’s why their children have been keeping this secret for three generations!
Great grandfather Dmytro Bondar
Great grandmother Melania Bondar
No matter what, Dmytro and Melania were happily married. He was 12 years older than Melania. They had 9 healthy kids, 11 grandkids, and 17 great grandkids.
Bondar family, around 1900. In this photo, you can see Bondar Dmytro (sitting in the front), his brother Nick (standing in the back), their sister who died soon after the picture was made, and mother. This photograph is from the family archive of Antoinette Morales
By the way, my family was sure that Dmytro and Melania gave birth to 8 children, and during my research, I found out there was another daughter Nadiya who was born in 1923. She was the firstborn, but we know nothing about her, except the date of birth, so she probably died at a young age. This was totally new info for us.
It’s awful but firstborn babies often died in Eastern Europe up until the late 20th century. There are even stories about mothers telling their daughters to stop worrying about their first child. They said something like, “It’s ok that he/she is frail, firstborns are supposed to die – they’re usually weak. Your next kids will be stronger”.
Another interesting fact I’ve found out during my research is that we have relatives in Michigan, the US. Great granddad Dmytro visited his older brother Nick in America in 1910, before getting married. He lived a few years in Michigan but then, returned home to Ukraine. And his brother stayed in the US for the rest of his life, had kids and grandkids. With the help of a private investigator, I was able to find two of his granddaughters. One of them is the American writer Deborah Stevens and another one is a professor of the University of Michigan Antoinette Morales. I’m very proud of my family and happy that I could learn so much about it. And I discovered all that thanks to the secret of my great grandparents’ wedding story.
Nick Bondar, brother of Dmytro, with his wife
Nick Bondar’s granddaughter Antoinette Morales and her parents