A stash of silver hidden in Ukraine by a family fleeing Soviet invaders during World War II has been found by their descendents some eight decades later — via a treasure map. The Glazewski family fled their home near Ivano-Frankivsk, in what was then eastern Poland, in September 1939, but not before before burying their family treasures for safe-keeping.
Only family patriarch Adam Glazewski stayed on the estate to face the Russians — who threw him off his land and nearly executed him before his staff intervened. Faced with life under Soviet rule if they returned, Adam’s four sons instead each settled in a different corner of the world — never to see their father again — but the memory of their buried treasure was not forgotten.
Now, Adam’s grandson — Jan Glazewski, 69 — has finally located the stash thanks to a map drawn up by his own father, Gustaw, who settled in South Africa after the war. Jan Glazewski said: “My father was getting old and I kind of nagged him. I said: ‘please draw me a map — one day I might be able to go to the estate and look for it.
“He gave me that map in 1989, accompanied by some instructions, and he drew it from memory 50 years after he had left.
“The last sentence of these instructions said ‘you must find our silver and my hunting guns.
“And when I read that, it was like a directive — and I got very emotional that I’ve got to fulfil this dream.”
Gustaw Glazewski died in 1991 — the same year that Ukraine gained its independence from the collapsing Soviet Union.
However, it would take his son Jan another ten years before he made his first visit to the family’s former estate, and it was only in 2019 that he began his “almost impossible” search.
Jan Glazewski — who is a retired professor of environmental law at the University of Cape Town — said: “It was a needle-in-a-haystack situation.
“On this map, [my father] drew where the original manor house was — it was destroyed by the Russians, by the way, but we found the foundations.
“But then there was a dotted line going across a cultivated field — today it’s just bush — it’s about 100 metres [328 feet] you had to walk, and then down a slope. And then his instructions said ‘where the forest starts, you must dig for our silver’.
“Of course, 80 years later, which is when I was there, one doesn’t know whether the forest has receded or come up the slope.”
Mr Glazewski — who was joined on his quest by his niece, Layla, and two Ukrainian metal detectorists — also faced the possibility that the hoard had already been discovered.
He said: “I thought ‘look, this is a bit of a wild goose chase’. The people who worked there would’ve seen that all of the silver was removed, they would have put two and two together. They would have gone down the slope and found it.”
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Mr Glazewski explained how he instinctively felt that his father and uncles wouldn’t have gone too far down the slope — where it became steeper and more overgrown — to bury their hoard.
This hunch proved correct when a metal detector carried by the little expedition came to life over the treasure. On making the discovery, Mr Glazewski said: “I was very, very emotional.”
Some of the items they found had likely been packed up by Jan’s mother, who fled Poland with her husband Gustaw, but died when Jan was only seven years old.
Mr Glazewski said: “One of the things we pulled out was a jewellery box, and inside were all kinds of trinkets. And my niece said ‘those were probably packed by your mother — that’s your mother’s jewellery.
“So here I was, touching stuff that she had packed away 80 years previously. So it was a very emotional thing for me.”
Mr Glazewski says that the long-lost hoard is valued at thousands of pounds — but he says that to him, the finds are priceless.
They include a Christening spoon engraved with his father’s name, as well as various artefacts sporting the initials of his grandmother, who died of the Spanish flu in 1918. The retired academic hopes that some of the treasure will one day be put on display in Ivano-Frankivsk.
Mr Glazewski concluded: “It’s a kind of fulfilment of a life dream, as a little boy, of finding the treasure. But more importantly, it’s fulfilling a directive from my father. It’s given me a great sense of satisfaction — I walk taller, I’m more confident.”
Mr Glazewski tells his story in his book, “Blood and Silver: A true story of survival and a son’s search for his family treasure”, which is available from Amazon (for Kindle) and Central Books (in paperback).
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