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 Zavelsky Family of Glukhov
Ancestral home of the Zavelsky family


If we could go back in time to the early 1600's, we would find our ancestors living in Poland, most probably in the region that was then Lithuania. Today, most Jews live in countries where their ancestors moved less than 150 years ago.

Frequently, family historians declare that their family came from Guberniya or from the town of "Chernigov guberniya." This is a common misconception. There is no such place; Guberniya is simply the Russian word for "province." When immigrant ancestors said they came from Chernigov guberniya, it meant they came from the region or province of Chernigov.

The Chernigov province of Russia (today it is in Ukraine) where our ancestors lived from the late 1700's on, had almost no Jewish settlement from 1648 through 1795. Throughout that period, Jews were prohibited from living in the Russian Empire with the exception of those whose father's or grandfather's had served in the army. Many regulations made it impossible for Jews to come into Russia. The last regulation appeared on December 4, 1762, in a manifesto signed by Catherine the Great proclaiming that:
"Henceforth all foreigners were permitted to live in Russia, '...krome zhidov' (except the Jews)"


Between 1772 and 1815, the map of Eastern Europe changed dramatically as a result of three partitions of Poland and the Napoleonic wars. In 1772 and 1793, portions of Poland were ceded to Prussia, Austria and Russia. In 1795, the final partition of Poland ceded the balance to these three countries; Poland ceased to exist as an independent country until 1918 in the aftermath of World War I and the Treaty of Versailles. As a result of the territories annexed by Russia in the 18th Century, a massive Jewish population abruptly became subjects of the Russian Czar.

Jews for the most part were permitted to live only in a defined area of the Russian Empire. This area became known as the Pale of Settlement. The term pale (from the Latin Palus, "stake") is used to designate a district set off by distinct boundaries. The province of Chernigov was included within the Pale of Settlement. After the boundaries were established, there was a continual movement of Jews from the north to the south.


In southern Russia, the first outbreak of pogroms in the spring of 1881 spread quickly to Chernigov province. The communities of Konotop and Nezhin were the most severely effected. Pogrom is a Russian word designating an attack, accompanied by destruction, the looting of property, murder, and rape, perpetrated by one section of the population against another. The attacks were carried out in Russia, mainly by the Christian population against the Jews between 1881 and 1921, while the civil and military authorities remained neutral and occasionally provided their cover, and even open support.

The second wave of pogroms took place from 1903 to 1906. The most serious pogroms took place in Odessa and Kishinev. Altogether, pogroms were carried out in 64 towns, and several were in Chernigov.

After the start of the pogroms, the exodus of Jews began from the Pale of Settlement to America, Australia, Europe, South America and Palestine. There were many reasons for this mass exodus of the Jewish population, but the official sanction of pogroms was the major cause. Mandatory military service was another reason that many young Jewish men departed from Russia. Jewish boys as young as eight or nine were forced into military service for as long as twenty-five years. To evade the draft, some boys would damage their own bodies. They would puncture their eardrums, give themselves a hernia, or chop off the finger used for firing a gun.


In 1917, after the Russian Revolutions, Chernigov was included in the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. The third wave of pogroms took place at this time, and many were carried out in Ukraine after the declaration of its independence. The communities of Novgorod-Severski and Glukhov were the most severely affected. In 1922, the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic became part of the Soviet Union. Hundreds of thousands of Jews living in Ukraine during World War II were killed in the Holocaust. In 1991, Ukraine declared its independence. It became part of the Commonwealth of Independent States. Chernigov still lies within Ukraine today.

#1...Town map of Glukhov in the 1700s
#2...Town map of Glukhov 1746
#3...Early motto for the town of Glukhov
#4...Our first glimpse of Nezhin in 1995, that certainly could have been 1895
#5...Town map of Glukhov 1897
#6...Postcard titled "After The Pogrom."
#7...1995 photo of the Zavelsky candy factory, that today is a private home. Note the addition to the front of the house (post Zavelsky era) and the door on the side that once led to the candy store.