Zdynia, Poland

Konrad Fusiak
my great-grandfather

My paternal cousin has been doing a lot of research on our Ukrainian roots and has shared some of her discoveries with me. Our grandparents spoke Ukrainian and emigrated from there in 1909 and 1910, but it seems our grandmother’s parents were originally from elsewhere. I’ve always considered myself half Ukrainian and identifying 41% “Eastern Europe & Russia” on my DNA test seems to bear that out.

But Ukraine wasn’t showing up looking closer under that broad Eastern Europe grouping. Instead, my DNA was indicating “Poland, Slovakia, Hungary & Romania.” And then my aunt’s DNA was matched with another family from Poland! (Apparently the DNA was too diluted for my cousin and me to show up as DNA matches with these distant cousins of our great-grandfather, Konrad Fusiak.) Here’s the tentative line, yet to be proven with documents:

Piotr Fusiak (b. 1760 in Lug, Małopolskie, Poland)
Gregorius Fusiak (b. 1798 in Lug, Małopolskie, Poland)
Gabriel Fusiak (b. 1827 in Zdynia, Małopolskie, Poland)
Konrad Fusiak (b. 1855 in Zdynia, Małopolskie, Poland)
Katerina/Katherine Fusiak (my grandmother, b. 1887 in Luzhek Verkhniy, Lviv Oblast, Ukraine)

Orthodox church in Zdynia by Tomasz Bienias

The province of Małopolskie is also known as Lesser Poland, a historical region. Zdynia is a tiny village, population 220. I can’t seem to locate Lug. (Perhaps it is Ług in Podlaskie?) From what I can tell from a cursory search there were several ethnic groups living in southern Poland. When my grandmother Katherine came to this country in 1910 she identified as a Ruthenian on the passenger ship manifest. Another aunt told me that Katherine’s mother, Ludmila Karaseck, was born in Prague and came to Ukraine to work in the salt mines. Wonder how she met Konrad from Poland? So many questions!!!

So, I’ve ordered a book, The Reconstruction of Nations: Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus, 1569–1999 by Timothy Snyder, who “traces the emergence of Polish, Ukrainian, Lithuanian*, and Belarusian nationhood over four centuries.” I hope I can make some sense of the history of the region and gain some insight into my eastern European ancestry.

*Lithuania is a Baltic nation and in December 2019 I had 3% Baltic DNA. In September 2020 my son had 3% Baltic DNA and I didn’t show any. It seemed to be replaced with 3% Balkans. I suspect a mistake was made somewhere along the line. It will be interesting to see what shows up the next time they do an update/adjustment! See: ethnicity estimates.

Last Revised: 24 February 2022

30 thoughts on “Zdynia, Poland”

  1. Very interesting, Barbara! Although I shudder a bit at the thought of a woman working in salt mines. Perhaps she was a cook?

    I really like the photo of the Orthodox church. How do you pronounce Zdynia?

    And I didn’t know about ethnicity updates. Is that with Ancestry.com? I deleted my account after becoming alarmed about what information was being shared from there.

    Good luck figuring things out!

    1. OMG, Timi. I did a search for salt mines in western Ukraine and found this article about a mine in Lviv Oblast, where my grandmother Katherine was born. I suspect my great-grandmother Ludmila didn’t work in the mine after she got married because her husband Konrad owned a farm, where my aunt Mary grew up. That mine sounds like it was hell on earth.


      I have no idea how to pronounce Zdynia! Yes, Ancestry.com frequently fine tunes their ethnicity estimates — the more samples they get the better they can sort out where the different DNA might have originated. It’s an amazing tool, if one isn’t worried so much about privacy. 🙂 (I’m one of those folks who believe if you have nothing to hide then hide nothing!)

    1. Thanks, Melissa! I have to admit I’m feeling intimidated by the prospect of studying and trying to understand the history of this region. Who knows? It might even help me to understand what is happening there now in our times.

    1. It’s true, I held no hope at all of ever finding out anything about my father’s ancestors. My cousin’s persistence and DNA technology have worked together to open a big door!

  2. One of my uncles tried to do a genealogy search on our family, but he ran into problems when he learned records had perished in a fire. Better luck to you, Barbara, with your search!

    1. Thank you, Debbie! Sadly, fires have destroyed many valuable records. My father told me all the Ukrainian records were probably lost during “the war.” If I was rich I’d hire a Ukrainian genealogist to at least try to look for some of them. Peasants didn’t leave too many records, except perhaps in the churches where they worshiped…

  3. I always smile when I see your genealogy posts–just because I can feel your love of discovering about the ancestors. Sounds like you’re learning a bit about Ukrainian history. I know practically nothing about it.

    1. The excitement of making new discoveries never seems to wane. 🙂 I’ve never seriously attempted to understand Ukrainian history. It seems too complicated. The area where my grandparents were born was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, then Poland, then the Soviet Union. My father used to say even the Vikings and Mongols swept through to rule the Breadbasket of Europe…

  4. How wonderful that you found this much out, Barbara, and that you have hopeful and fun times ahead piecing together your ancestry. The DNA tests and information that is out there these days is a treasure trove — have fun. Great photo of the Orthodox church and simply lovely for you to see your great-grandfather!

    1. Thank you, Jet! Since I was a little girl and my father told me all the records were destroyed in “the war” I had never held out any hope of finding out so much. The picture of my great-grandfather was all I had — it was brought over from Ukraine by my aunt, who grew up there with her grandparents. (Her parents came here and finally sent for her when she was 17.) I’m so glad she allowed me to take the picture to Staples to make some copies, back before we had our own scanners… I’m so grateful she told me all she knew, even though she was very reluctant to talk about it.

  5. Good for you! Please post updates. I find the history of this region and how the borders kept changing; hie entire cultural identities and homelands could be erased. Please update us as you make discoveries.

    1. Thank you, Linda! It will be interesting to see what insight the book might give me. The history of that area is so complicated!

  6. Wow, it must be challenging to research family history from a non-English speaking background. Do you find most documents are, or can be, translated? That would make it easier for you.

    1. Challenging to say the least. I have to say that after years of being a family history “hunter” in recent years I have become more of a “gatherer.” A man from this branch of the family did all this research and translating and posted it on Ancestry.com, along with pictures of the documents. My cousin found the data after her mother’s DNA matched up with this man’s DNA and then told me about it. I have merely added the basics to my own tree.

    1. Hi Chip, Thank you so much for the link. I’m thinking of getting a good historical map of the area. So nice to meet someone with ancestors from the same tiny village! If your family tree is online please let me know if I can take a look at it. I’m on Ancestry.com if you’d like to connect there, too.

  7. Hi Barbara,
    As Chip mentioned Ług was just northest of Zdynia in Uście Gorlickie, in what is now Gorlice district in Malopolskie, Poland.
    As you can see on this link (below) there were three Fusiak/Fusjak families in Ług in 1787 in the Austrian Cadastral Records.
    There are also Metrical (church) records for this village on the Przemysl and Krakow archive sites. While Zdynia still exists and hosts an annual Vatra Ług itself is a hard village to find information.
    A friend of mine hosts a map that shows where Lemkos who settled in Cohoes, NY came from and I find an Eva Fushak from Ług who married Peter Behuniak. Chomiak/ Homiak is also a familiar surname to us.
    If you are interested in getting help finding more about your Fusiak family you might consider joining the Lemko genealogy group on Facebook, Lemko Ancestry & DNA.
    To learn more about the culture I would suggest the Lemko Rusyns & Friends group on FB.
    Actually there is a bit of a division among these people between those who orient towards a Lemko-Ukrainian identity and those who consider themselves part of a separate Carpatho-Rusyn identity.
    The former is represented by the Lemko-OOL organization ( https://lemko-ool.com/?lang=en) and the later by the Carpatho-Rusyn Society (https://c-rs.org/).
    Or feel free to email me and I can share more information on where to find the Metrical records and other information.
    Bruce Romanchak

    1. Thank you, Bruce, for all the information and suggestions. I will look for the Facebook groups and check out the links. Chomiak was my maiden name. I wonder if it is Ukrainian or some other origin. I have to admit I find the language barrier daunting when thinking about looking at archive sites. My cousin is a bit more persistent so I will forward your ideas to her, too. Thanks so much for contacting me!

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