(A Survey of the Life and Times of Pavaloch, Ukraine)



Pavalitch has been known by many names over the centuries, depending on which country was in power at the time and who was doing the naming: Pavalitch, Pawolotsch, Povolitch and Pavalich are some of them. The source of the name is Pavalochi River, which runs through the town and is a tributary of the nearby and better known Rastavitsa River. The Russian version of the town name is Pavaloch and that’s how the town is known today.

So where the heck is Pavalitch? Well, to be specific, it’s coordinates are: 49° 52’ N / 29° 27’E…and it is located about 30 miles east of Berdicev, 15 miles north of Skvira and 60 miles southwest of Kiev. It now is officially in the Zhitomir Oblast of the Ukraine, but in the time of our ancestors it was in the Skvira district of Kiev Gubernia.

The soil there is good and farming has always been a major activity in that area. (However, since Jews were forbidden to farm the land for much of history, our ancestors tended to work in the support trades. For example, in the early 20th century, one Jewish Pavolocher owned an iron goods/hardware store that made and repaired farm implements.) Although a good soil for farming, the Pavalitch ground turned into a thick grunge during bitter winter rains and snow. (Later, when a former Pavlocher was faced with bad weather in Chicago, she would say her yard reminded her of the "Pavalitch mud".)


Early History

Beginning in the early 14th century, the area surrounding Pavalitch was owned and governed by Polish noble dynasties, which included the Daskovitch, Tiskeritchem and Patatsky families. About 200 years later, a Tatar castle with a surrounding moat was built next to the town. It was another 100 years (early 1600s) before the first Jews were known to live there. They often got the jobs of being tax collectors and middlemen for the Polish nobles. Of course, the Jews also had to pay hefty taxes to the nobles.

In 1648, bands of Ukrainian serfs led by Bodgnan Chemielnitzki began a rebellion against their Polish landlords. Called Cossacks, these bands attacked Jews as well as Poles in towns throughout eastern Poland and the Ukraine. (They felt the Jews were "agents" of their hated Polish oppressors.)

By 1683 only three Jews were left in Pavalitch. However, eventually Jews did return to this townlet. By 1736 there were at least 100 or more Jews, although in that year another 35 of them were killed in a Haidemak pogram. (*Haidemaks were roving bands of armed

peasants, similar to Cossacks, who attacked travelers and Jews in small towns throughout Polish Ukraine.) Two years later, the surviving families filed a court suit for damages including 125,000 zlotys (Polish dollars) stolen by the Haidemaks, but were unsuccessful.

Despite adversity, the Jewish population continued to increase. A 1765 census listed 1,041 poll-tax paying Jews in the greater Pavalitch area. In 1795 Czarina Catherine the Great established a "Pale of Settlement" in which all the Jews of Russia were required to live. The Pale region, which included Pavalitch, consisted of the new western borderlands of Russia, which Catherine had just acquired from the former Polish empire. Even within the Pale, travel by Jews was severely restricted.

The 1847 census listed 2,113 Jews residing in Pavaloch. A few years later (1851), there were only 1,695 Jews---out of a total population of 4,562---but I don’t know the reason for the drop. (As an aside, Judah Leib ben Isaac Singerman, one of the great scholars to come out of the Ukraine, was born in Pavalitch in 1863.) The Jewish population of Pavalitch reached its peak in 1897 where the census recorded 3,391 Jews out of a total of 8,053 people.


Late 19th and Early 20th Century History

This is the time period when most of our ancestors were known to be living in Pavalitch. Therefore, the rest of the description and history that follows comes from the stories of relatives and from records recently obtained from Ukrainian archives, as well as historical books and articles.

1880 to 1917: Though a "shtetl" by today’s standards, Pavalitch was a relatively good -sized town for its day. The town was the volost (district) center, and was part of Skvira uyezd (county) in Kiev gubernia (state). At this time, although part of Russia, the town was almost on top of the Polish border.

Located on a highway major enough to be cobblestoned, the town also had a large main street. Pavalitch supported a Jewish synagogue plus two additional prayer houses, in addition to the Russian Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches there. There were 10 mills in the area and 36 shops in "downtown." Every Sunday a major market was set up on a huge empty lot. The marketplace drew people, many dressed in fancy peasant costume, from all the surrounding farms and villages. Eight "amusement fairs" were held annually in Pavalitch. The townspeople of Pavalitch had a reputation throughout the region for being warm, fun-loving and kind to travelers.



Children of all faiths were required to attend the Russian-run school (scola). Jewish children (mostly boys) would get Hebrew instruction from private tutors.

With its proximity to the Polish border, Pavalitch was also the frequent site of military activity as Russia and Poland continually battled for control of the area. (The joke at the peasant market was, "What country are we living in this week?")

In 1914 the Russians secured their reign over the entire eastern Galician* region with a decisive victory over the Austrian/Polish empire. (*Galicia was the name given to the eastern Polish area that bordered present day Ukraine). Then in 1915 Russia abolished the "Pale of Settlement" restrictions. However, this "freedom" was very short lived because Germany, allied with Austria, invaded the area in 1916 and restored it to Polish rule.

In 1917 Czar Nicholas resigned under pressure from revolutionaries, and a provisional government took over that re-abolished the "pale" as well as other discriminatory laws against Jews. However, almost immediately thereafter, the Bolshevik revolutionaries seized power and the Russian Civil War was underway. Pavalitch found itself, like so many other Ukrainian towns, under siege from all factions. And pogroms against Jews were carried out by all the warring sides.

In 1918, the Ukrainian nationalist leader, Simon Petlyura, started a military campaign for independence that added to the Jewish bloodshed. Anna Rivkin remembers as a child when Petylura and his men came galloping towards the town amidst great gunfire. The townsfolk panicked thinking they were about to come under Polish attack, but they soon discovered the general had been defeated recently and was just passing through in retreat.

In 1919 a major pogrom in Pavalitch involved a mob of local Ukrainian peasants who looted and vandalized Jewish homes. Before the Civil War ended in 1921, over 520 Ukrainian Jewish communities were attacked---and a total of 60,000 Jews had been killed, with hundreds of thousands more wounded.

In addition to the pogroms, in 1919 all Soviet Jewish religious communities were "officially" dissolved by the government and most synagogues were shut down. Pavalitch went into understandable decline and most residents decided to leave. Nevertheless, a post-WWI census (1926) shows there were 1,837 Jews still in Pavalitch, over three quarters of the total population of 2,088.

In WWII, all the Jews who had remained in Pavalitch were exterminated by the Nazis. Indeed, by 1941 Pavalitch had become a killing field where over 1,300 Polish Jews were brought to be shot by the S.S. As of 1967, the population of Pavalitch was under 2,000 and no Jews were believed to live there.


Surname Summary: The following is a list of surnames known to me of Jewish people whose families came from Pavalitch. Abramowitz, Ayer, Cohen, Chester, Choyadof, Divinsky, Feldman, Gorstein, Greenberg, Kaplan, Landenson, Levine, Muzusiuk, Moses, Milstein (Miller), Medvediew, Piatagorsky (Gorsky), Polsky, Polansky, Rappaport, Rosen, Rusoff, Rubalsky, Rubin, Shanas, Shenfeld, Simon, Stepoy, Turnoff, Weinstein and Wolodocky.



(Author’s Warning: By no means have I summarized all history relevant to Pavalitch. For example, I have not described the details of the various anti-Semitic legislation and policies enacted by the Russian Czars over the last two centuries; these laws certainly influenced the nature of daily life for our Pavalitcher ancestors.)




Personal testimony from Anna Rivkin(Los Angeles), Max Miller(Los Angeles), Dudley Simborg(Culver City CA), Bert Shanas(New York), Sarah Faerman(Toronto), Maxine Gurvey(Winnipeg), and Florence Hirschfeld(Florida).

Black Book of Communities Destroyed Curing the Holocaust (AVOTAYNU)

Encyclopedia Judaica (1972) Volume 13, p.193

Jewish Timeline Encyclopedia (Kantor, 1992)

Russian American Genealogical Archival Service (RAGAS) Report

Russian Jewish Encyclopedia (1912)

Slownik Geograficzny (Polish Gazateer, 1886)

Timetables of Jewish History (Gribetz, 1993)


Compiled by Debra Katz 161 Galli Dr. Los Altos CA 94022 USA (Comments and corrections are always welcome.)

Updated: August 1999 (pavaloc.his)