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       Date Last Updated: 18-May-2012

Vitebsk Families Stories and Pictures


The Reiken and Polotovksy Families

This information was donated by MG.

My grandmother, Irene (Osna) Rykin Menkin, was born in Vitebsk on 10 Tevet, probably Dec. 1893, though there is some uncertainty about the year. Her family name was originally Polotovsky. However, when her father came to America, he changed his name to Reiken, which was his wife's maiden name, supposedly because Polotovsky was too difficult to pronounce for Americans. And my grandmother's own last name (though not those of her siblings) was spelled Rykin when she registered for school. Below is a Russian passport photo of my great-grandfather, Nathan Reiken (Polotovksy) with my grandmother's two older sisters, Annie (Chana) and Fanny (Frayda), from Vitebsk in 1899, as well as some of the pages of the passport. Also, below, there is a picture of Nathan & Feiga taken around 1905.

Nathan, Fanny + Annie

Nathan & Feiga

The passport identifies Nathan as "Avram Kan", which was the name of his wife's half-brother. However, it is clear from other photos of Nathan and Avram, that this is really Nathan, who I suppose had not served in the Russian army before he left Russia, so was travelling under a false name. That might be another reason why he did not use the name Polotovsky when he came to America.

The pictures below are correspondence from Avraham Vaiman. The first one is a statement written in 12/28/46 in Russian.

Avraham_Vaiman statement_12-28-46_Russian

Below is that same statement as above, but written in Yiddish.

Avraham_Vaiman statement_12-28-46_Yiddish


The next picture is a letter from Avraham Vaiman written in August of 1947.

Letter 08-1947


The next picture is a letter from Avraham Vaiman written in October of 1947.

Letter 10-1947

The next picture is the envelope from Avraham Vaiman.



The next picture is the address from Avraham Vaiman letter.


Below is a business card used by Avram Kan (Abe Cohen) in Vitebsk. Unfortunately I do not have a photo of him from Vitebsk, but below there is a photo of him and his family taken much later (1933) in New York, where he was known as Abe Cohen. (Abe is in the upper right part of the picture)

Abe BC

Abe 1933

These are all the documents I have from Vitebsk. Below are photos of Feiga's sister Pesha (Bessie) Raiken and then a picture with her husband Abe, who was originally named Gosolovsky (or Kassolovsky?) but used a false passport when he left Russia, with the name Raiken, because he had not served in the Russian army. These pictures were taken about 1920, in Newark, New Jersey, where they lived.



They started the Raiken Monument business in Newark and New York, where Nathan Reiken also worked eventually, after starting out as a garment worker. Below is a photo of Nathan's brother, Mordecai Polotowsky, who did not change his name, with his second wife Chaya Ruchel, and some of his children, also taken around 1920, in New York. From left to right, Sarah, Mordecai, Chaya Ruchel, Arthur, and Sam."


Below is a picture of Ida (Chaya Breina) Cohen. This is my great-great-grandmother, the one whose husband was murdered by highwaymen in the story my grandmother wrote up in 1963. The picture was taken about 1920, when she was already living in Newark, NJ, with her daughter Pesha Raiken. In Newark, she worked in a factory caning chairs until two years before she died in 1930, in her late 80s or early 90s. She lived to be a great-great-grandmother, since one of my second cousins on that side was born before she died.

Ida Cohen


Below is a photo of my grandmother in her 8th grade graduation photo from 1908 (in Brooklyn, NY)

Irene 8th grade

Below is a picture of my grandmother that was taken in 1974, not long before Michele taped the interview. With my grandmother was her sister Libby Reiken Sobelman, who was also born in Vitebsk and figures in some of the stories, and was a pretty good source of family history information herself.


Below is a picture that shows my Irene Rykin Menkin with Michele, who did the interview, Michele's brother Marc, and their father Stanley Milgram

Irene 1974.

Click here to see a transcription of a taped interview that my cousin Michele Milgram (then 11) did with my grandmother, Irene Rykin Menkin, in 1976, about her childhood in Vitebsk.

Click here to see Irene Rykin Menkin's stories about Vitebsk written in 1963.

Click here for information on the family of Nathan's and Mordecai's sister Tsurel Polotovsky Vaiman (Wyman).

Daniel Polotovsky had descendents, who remained in Vitebsk until WWII. One of them was run over by a German tank when he was trying to flee the city. Several of them did survive the Holocaust, and some of those came to the US in the 1980s.

Click here to see the Gillin Family Tree.

Click here to the Polotovsky Family Tree.