When I first began to ask my grandmother, Pauline Rychly Haydak about her family, I was surprised to find that both of her grandmothers were named Barbara (Varvara).
As I started to construct a family tree for her family, the Rychlys, I realized that two great-grandmothers having the same name wasn’t that special—I discovered that there were FIVE women in the Rychly family by the name of Helen and all closely related! To simplify this, I am going to show how each woman was related to my grandmother.
I will start with Helen Rychly, my grandmother’s younger sister. She was the first Helen, although her name was originally spelled Olena. She was born in Bila, Ternopil’, Galicia, in 1906. She came to the United States in 1922, and settled in Minneapolis. Her first husband was Stephen Koshuba, who was the brother of my grandmother’s first husband, John Koshuba. Her second marriage was to Anthony Tkachyk. After her second marriage, she moved to Montana, raised a family, and lived there until her death in 1996.
The second Helen married my great uncle, Onofrey Rychly, she was my grandmother’s sister-in-law. She was born to John and Rosalia Tkachyk in 1908 in Franklin, Manitoba, Canada. (Her brother Anthony is mentioned in the paragraph above). Helen came to the United States with her family in 1910, and settled in Sheridan, Montana. They later moved to Scobey, Montana, where they had a farm. Helen worked in Scobey after she finished school, and moved Minneapolis about 1930-31. She met and married Onofrey around 1932; they had three children. The family lived in Minneapolis for many years, moving to Columbia Heights, MN, around 1956. Helen lived there until her death in July 2005. She was an artist and painted portraits of several family members, as well as a skilled seamstress and pysanka painter.
The next Helen, the daughter of Stanley and Maria Rychley, was born in 1920 in Minneapolis. She was my grandmother’s first cousin. Helen’s father, Stanley Rychley, was my grandmother's uncle. Helen was known for her beautiful singing voice and great memory. She never married, and lived in the same house for over 70 years. She died in July, 2000.
The fourth Helen Rychly was born in Canada in March 1930, the daughter of John and Teckla Rychly. She was my grandmother’s niece. John was one of my grandmother’s two brothers. He was born in Bila; he and his family immigrated to Canada in the 1920’s. The family moved to Anoka MN, in the late 1930’s. Helen married Erling (Ed) Grotberg and was survived by five children, 11 grandchildren and 5 great-grandchildren when she died in December 2010.
I do not have any pictures of Helen Rychly Grotberg.
The last Helen Rychly is the person that I know the least about. She was my grandmother’s sister-in-law. She was born Helen Hrymiak in Bila Ternopil’ and married Stephen Rychly. Stephen was one of my grandmother’s brothers. Both brothers, Stephen and John Rychly, stayed in Bila, farming the family property after the rest of the family immigrated to the United States. Stephen and Helen married around 1923 had two daughters, Kerava born in 1924, and Miroslava, born in 1927. Stephen was sent to Siberia during World War 2 and died there. Helen and her daughters continued to live in Ternopil’ and both girls raised families there. Again, no pictures of Helen Hrymiak Rychly.
You never know what you will find when you start a family tree. Looking through long lists of names is tedious, running into dead ends is common, and big finds are rare. But everyone in a while, a surprise comes along and makes all the hunting worthwhile!