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A few words about the Iliwicki family

Latest update: July 3, 2014


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Note: Below, I am using the Polish spellings of the surnames Iliwicki, Ilicki-Lewicki and Ilicki. In other languages the spelling may differ. The phonetic pronunciation of these names is Illivitzky (Ee-lee-veets-kee), Illitzky-Levitzky (Ee-leets-kee--Le-veets-kee) and Illitzky (Ee-leets-kee) respectively.

My knowledge on the origin and history of the Iliwicki family is limited and partially uncertain. What I know is that it was a rather large Jewish family and that at least a part of it lived in the town of Pińsk in what is now the Republic of Belarus, but was part of the Republic of Poland 1921-1939. During the Polish period, my father Józef Ilicki-Lewicki (#41), who was born in Pińsk 1914 as Józef Iliwicki, and his parents resided in a house on 7 Kozia Street (in Polish: ul. Kozia 7; during the first Soviet period of 1939-1941 the street was called Kirovskij pereulok; today it does not exist). According to documents found by me in Belorussian archives, the family seemed to have come to Pińsk from a small town called Kosava, a.k.a. Kosov, Kossovo etc. (in Polish Kosów Poleski) in the Slonim region, around 75 km. NW of Pińsk.

My father used to tell us that the original version of the family's surname was Ilicki-Lewicki (Lewicki being a remnant of the Levite origin), and that one of his ancestors "simplified" it by "merging" the two parts into one: Iliwicki. I don't know how far back in the family's history this might have happen. However, documents found by me in Belorussian archives support this story only partially. According to these documents, the family had two surnames: Iliwicki and Ilicki (so far, I didn't found any traces of Lewicki). On some pre-1939 Polish documents the family's surname was entered as "Iliwicki vel Ilicki" (vel ~= a.k.a.), and on a pre-1917 Russian document one of the family members, Chane-Golde Ilivitzkaya (#388), was described as "ona Ilivitzkaya, no ona tozhe i Ilitzkaya" ("she is a Ilivitzki, but she is also a Ilitzki").

During the WWII my father changed his name from Iliwicki to what he considered the original Ilicki-Lewicki. Thus, my younger brother Adam (#43) and I (#42) were born (after the war) with the surname Ilicki-Lewicki. Since our family on the daily basis was using only the first part of the name, Ilicki, my brother and I have formalized it in the late 1970's by changing our last name officially from Ilicki-Lewicki into Ilicki.

My father also used to tell us that according to the family history, the first part of the surname, Ilicki, had it origin in a landed property called Illitche. When the order came that all inhabitants of the Russian Empire should use surnames, all people living on that property, Jews and non-Jews alike, were assigned the name Illitzkij (Polish spelling Ilicki, literally "from Illitche"). However, I have no idea where in the Russian Empire this landed property Illitche could have been located.

As for my father's parents, his father and my paternal grandfather was Elias-Chaim "Eli" Iliwicki (#391, b. 1889) who worked as an accountant in a factory in Pińsk. His wife and my paternal grandmother was Zlate-Malke Pikman (#392, b. abt. 1892). I know nothing about her origin, except that her father's name was Shay Pikman, that she most probably had a brother called Hersh, and that she died 1931. They had three children: Josef (Polish spelling Józef, #41, my father, b. 1914), Hillel (#394, b. 1922) and Lane (#395, b. 1925). After Malke's (#392) death 1931 Eli (#391) remarried 1933 to the widow Pole Liwszyc née Glozman (#475, b. 1897) from Lahowice who had a son from her previous marriage, Aron (#489, b. 1926). Eli (#391) and Pola (#475) hade a child together, a girl called Chane (#479, b. 1934). When Germany attacked the Soviet Union in 1941, Eli (#391), who happend to be out of Pińsk, escaped to Kazakhstan, where he died of starvation the same year. All other members of this family with the exception of my father (#41) who was a soldier and later officer in combat units during the war, have perished in the Holocaust.

Most of the members of the "wider" family also perished in the Holocaust. As far as I know, the only people who survived the war were the sisters (and my father's cousins) Rubacha: Sonya (#420, b. abt. 1911), Chaya (#421, b. abt. 1912) and Pola (#423, b. abt 1915) who emigrated to the British mandate of Palestine in the 1930's; another cousin Michail "Misha" Ilivitzkij (#480, b. 1926) who stayed in Russia after the war, and during the 1980's or the 1990's emigrated to Israel; some or perhaps all of the cousins Ajngemachtz (#441-#444), also in the former Soviet Union (possibly in Dnepropetrovsk in Ukraine); and my father Józef (#41), who returned to Poland after the war.

When I was born, my given name was Ilya (Eel-ya), which is the Russian version of Elias (in Hebrew Eliyahu). I was named after my paternal grandfather Elias "Eli" Iliwicki (#391). Since, generally speaking, in the Polish languane only female first names end with an "a", this name caused some missunderstandings from time to time. Therefore, when I was 13 the decision was taken in the family to change my first name. I had been given the choice, and I chose Julian, which, as I assumed, was phonetically closest to Ilya. However, among close relatives and friends from my childhood, I am still called Ilek (Ee-lek), which is a Polish diminutive of the Russian name Ilya.