Monday, April 4, 2011

The Story of Unknown Filipowicz.

Jaskiewicze is a small village 3 km north of Indura (formerly Amdur) in the Grodno region of Belarus. Variations of the spelling are Yazkevichi, Jaskevichi, Jaskieviche and there are probably others. One day long ago around the year 1740 a male Filipowicz was born in this village. We don’t know his given name, or the names of his parents. Nor do we know his wife’s name who in 1763 would give birth to Peter and at some later date his brother George. There were probably more children but their names for now are lost in time.

Unknown Filipowicz, like his ancestors before him and several generations after him lived as bonded peasants on a huge estate owned by the family of Vandalin Voitekhovich Puslovski encompassing the village of Jaskiewicze and much of the Grodno region. The peasants had no rights; could not leave the estate without written permission from the landowner and could not even utilize the fruits of their labor with the exception of that which was given back to them by the landowner for their subsistence. Their condition was very close to that of the slaves in the United States during that same time period.

On February 13 1794 Unknown’s son George and his wife Kristina were parents to twins - Janush and Elizaveta. That apparently worked well for them so they did it again on August 27 in 1797 with Lavrentij and Viktorija. Perhaps the children were in answer to his brother Peter, who earlier with his wife (another Kristina) were parents to George (1785), Bartholomew (1786), and Victoria (1789). At this time there were two poor but thriving Filipowicz families in Jaskiewicze, with lots more births to follow. We won’t bother to detail all of them. The one we want to follow is Bartholomew’s son, Bartholomew B. Filipowicz who was born on July 17 1817. And here’s why.

In 1863 a land reform took place in the Grodno region. We don’t know the hows or whys of it, but the end result was that the peasants acquired title to plots of land. An official document transferring the land reads in part:

“According to the order of His Emperor Majesty, the purchasing documents was given to peasants of village Jaskievichi, the former dependant peasants of landowner Vandalin Voitekhovich Puslovski." Among the peasants named was:

"Varfolomej Varvolomeevich Filipovich (Bartholomew son-of-Bartholomew Filipowicz)…got a plot of land:

One garden lot - 953 sazhen (1 acre)
One tilling lot - 8 desjatin 1654 sazhen (23.5 acres)
One haying lot – 1 desjatin 791 sazhen (3.5 acres)
Total – 10 desjatin 998 sazhen (28 acres)

And just like that the Filipowiczes and other peasants were freed and became land owners. Though he had long ago passed on, Unknown Filipowicz would have been pleased.

Property owner Varfolomej Varvolomeevich Filipovich…well, let’s stay with Bartholomew B, along with his wife Rosalie went on to have five kids and many grand kids on their new land. One of them was Kasimir, born January 13 1862 who married Christine Lukaszewicz on November 7 1882. They were married at Trinity Catholic Church (constructed in 1825) in Indura. Jaskiewicze apparently didn’t have a Catholic church as all marriages and christenings took place in Indura.

Kasimir and Christine were parents to Mikhail, Ivan, Michelene, Ignatius, Cecelia, and Vikentiaj in that order, as shown by the first official Russian census of the region in 1897. The new-found freedom and land probably didn’t improve living conditions all that much and like many people during that era some of the Filipowiczes decided to find their fortune elsewhere. Of Kasimir’s children Ivan was the first followed by Mikhail and Cecelia, to try their luck in America, initially settling in Bellows Falls, Vermont. Michael (Mikhail) passed through Ellis Island on June 7 1910. He lived with his brother Ivan (John) and worked at a paper mill. Sometime later he returned to Jaskiewicze, married Theofila and again came through Ellis Island January 30 1913, though his bride didn’t arrive until six months later.

Theofila had just 5 years to enjoy her new life in America. She died on October 26 1918 at the age of 25 during a flu epidemic in Bellows Falls, but not before giving birth to Stanley, Henry and Edward. For whatever reason Michael with his boys left Bellows Falls shortly after his wife’s death, eventually settling in Milwaukee. Michael has passed on, as have his sons, but they left sons to carry on the line.

There are no Filipowiczes living in Jaskiewicze today. The village, never large is almost deserted. I can’t help but wonder what happened to those 28 acres. A few Filipowicz descendents are living in Indura, but they’re mostly older folks…the young have moved elsewhere.

I wonder if Unknown Filipowicz ever gave thought to the kind of life his descendants would have? Could he even imagine a life of freedom and land ownership for his progeny in Jaskiewicze, let alone later generations living a completely different life style in a foreign land? And of course he couldn’t know that some 270 years later a distant grandson living in Peru would be thinking and writing about him. Unknown Filipowicz was my great-great-great-great-great grandfather.


No comments:

Post a Comment