Back in 2016, I blogged about a family story my maternal grandmother told me about a church, Our Lady of the Snows, in what was then Austria-Hungary. It was a remarkable story that, as an adult, I wanted to investigate.
As I always recommend, I looked through the paraphernalia I’ve collected from family over the years and found the postcard pictured above. On the back was a cryptic handwritten message in blue ink to my grandmother that said, “Where Anna used to walk when she went on pilgrimage.”
I assumed Anna would be my maternal great-grandmother who I lived with in childhood. I had no idea she had gone on any pilgrimages. Unfortunately, the postcard was not signed nor did it state where the church was located. The only clue was the postmark – I was aware my great Aunt Barbara and my Aunt Anne Marie, named after her grandmother and mother, had gone to what was then Yugoslavia, to visit. I have no handwriting samples from my Aunt Barbara, though I do from my Aunt Anne Marie. The writing didn’t match Anne Marie’s and so I guessed it was written by Barbara. What I don’t understand is why she would not have written “Where Mom use to walk…” instead of using her mother’s given name. Since both are deceased I’ll never know for sure; possibly, since it was a postcard that anyone could read, she wanted to disclose no personal information. She was a private person who never shared any genealogical information with me when she was alive.
In my blog about the story, I asked readers if they could identify the church. No one responded. I’d already asked family and they had no idea, either. I searched online but turned up nothing.
Last week, I began corresponding with a Croatian genealogist who promptly wrote that it is called Marija Bistrica and it is about a 12-hour walk from my family’s ancestral village of Dubranec. My great-grandmother was quite a fast walker in her 80s so I can picture her climbing hills quickly to reach the site from her home.
Lidija, the genealogist, provided me a link to the site and at one time, the church was called Our Lady of the Snows. The “miracle” at Marija Bistrica does not match the story that my grandmother told me of her village church but it does involve a war in which she told other tales.
I was also informed that the village church was nearly destroyed in a devasting earthquake two years ago. That saddens me as 400 years of my maternal lines are buried there.
I have been blogging lately about ways to overcome your brick walls and I’m adding to my ever-expanding list what just happened to me – contact a genealogist or historian in the area you are researching. I could have had my answer seven years ago had I just reached out to someone knowledgeable about the area where my ancestor’s resided. Now I’m planning my own pilgrimage to this sacred site!