There’s no place like home. No, I’m not writing about Dorothy. I am writing about my paternal grandfather, Taras William Troyanenkov. I am writing about a man of many homes, a man of honor, perseverance, and a family man. I never knew my Grandpa Troyan. He passed away a year after I was born. But I heard his stories and his legacy lingers.
The first home he knew was in Kiev, Ukraine. Taras and his family became engulfed in fear as Ukraine endured chaos, revolution, and international and civil war with factions competing for power in the early 1900’s. Coming from a big family during these tough times, he and most of his siblings migrated to the United States, only to be confronted with WWI.
Enter Camp Custer, Michigan. Taras found his next home in the 368th Bakery Company to serve his new country in WWI.
After the war, happier times came when he moved to Mayfield, Pennsylvania where he met his beautiful Polish wife, my grandmother, Elizabeth Ann Holeva.
Taking his new bride to Hamtramck, Michigan about 1923, he decided to pursue his baking skills. He remembered his parents’ business skills in the old country. They ran a hotel in Vladistovak where his father, Vasil, would travel to Japan to make purchases for it. Additionally, his parents raised and bred horses for the Cassach Army. Applying these basic business skills that had been passed down to him from his parents, Taras bought property and opened two bakeries at his new residence, a Slavic community.
Raising a family of three boys, playing the violin, writing music for the Detroit Symphony, and keeping up with his bakeries, Taras settled into his new home in Hamtramck. That is, until the Depression hit. And it hit this family hard. He lost his bakeries and desperation set in.
With courage and perseverance, Taras moved his young family to California where he found more homes in San Francisco, Santa Rosa, Eureka, and Finley. He opened more bakeries and raised his sons to work hard and to love their country. He was known as a man of honor, who never gave up, and made the necessary sacrifices to persevere no matter where his homes were physically located and no matter the challenges. His legacy lives on in our family.
Taras Troyan’s third son, Walter, is my father.
Do you have any special stories about family members from from past generations? I’d love to hear about them. Please feel free to share comments by scrolling below this blog. And let me know if I could share one of your own stories.
With permission from a very talented young lady, Anastasia Pagan, age 15, I would like to share a poem, below, that she wrote about her Great-Grandfather Taras in January of this year.
Troyanankovs in California
The slight warmth comes with unforgiving dryness
Then turns into temperatures beneath freezing
But it’s still home,
And it gets warmer.
Father speaks out against the Tsar
We are exiled to the place of banishment.
The place of punishment.
This new home is warmer.
The waves rock me to sleep,
Once again headed to a place
I’m getting warmer.
We dock in the New World.
I change my name,
Try and fit-in,
A strange feeling
But I think I’m getting close to home,
And still getting warmer.
I serve in their war
No. My war.
I’m surrounded by warmth
But I can’t feel it still.
Am I getting warmer?
I own a bakery,
I write music for an orchestra,
I play music on my own.
I’m still missing an important something
Something that will make me warmer.
I start a family and move west.
West, to the land of the Redwood.
To the land of the Giant Sequoia
We move around, across the state
We will never leave.
With the quail and the poppy,
I think I’ve gotten warmer.
I am a Troyanankov.
I traveled here.
I found my home.
I am warm.
As a family we traveled the world,
But we always come back,
To the old Sequoia.
The brown crowned quail.
The golden flowers flowing over the hills.
To us there is no better place but here,
By Anastasia Pagan
Becky, I am amazed (and happy) that you have so much information about your grandfather! I know lots about my grandparents, but they were born, lived, and died in the same little community in north Arkansas. That you can track Taras from Europe to America and then to different parts of America is wonderful! Thank you for sharing the story, the photos, and the poem. I love everything about this post!
Becky M Van Vleet
Thank you, Debbie. I bet you can tell I love family history. Not only that, but I enjoy keeping it “alive”!