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Parajewski - Waselenczuk - Zerde - Zherdya
Created by Administrator Account in 12/27/2009 3:28:07 AM

 


... My research into my paternal Polish ancestors is going well however, I have run into some problems with my maternal Grandfather who was Ukrainian. He had listed on his petition for naturalization that he was born in Zerde. He had also mentioned to the family that when he was a boy he often crossed into Poland on family business (giving the impression that he lived rather close to what would be considered the Polish border). He spoke Ukrainian, Polish and Russian. I have not had any luck in finding a village, town or city named Zerde. Can anyone be of assistance on this?

I looked at a map of Ukraine and found only one place that seemed a likely candidate from a linguistic point of view: Zherdya, a little village a few km. northwest of Kam'anets'-Podil's'kiy, which the Poles called Kamieniec Podolski. This name could easily be modified into Zerde. The problem was, this place is nowhere near the Polish border.

But then the 3rd cup of coffee kicked in and my brain started to function. I said to myself, "You idiot, if she's talking about her maternal grandfather living there when he was a boy, it's not the current Polish border that matters. Where was the border earlier this century?" I looked at a historical map, and BINGO! Up until 1939 the Polish border extended east into western Ukraine, to within a few kilometers of Kamieniec Podolski (earlier in history, the border was even farther east, but by this century this land was no longer part of Polish territory). So if your grandfather lived near Zherdya from, say 1918-1939, the Polish border would, indeed, have been only a good walk away, maybe no more than an hour, if that much. So if I were a betting man, I'd bet good money Zherdya is the place you're looking for.

... Also, my Grandfather entered the U.S. through Canada in 1916. He settled in Cleveland, Ohio where he married and had a family. However, he was an illegal until 1945. On his petition he stated that he entered the U.S. under the name Vasil Parajevski but that his true name was Walter (Sava) Waselenchuk. I know that Waselenchuk is a Western Ukraine surname however, Parajevski sounds more Polish than Ukrainian to me. Does anyone have any insight into the surname Parajevski?

Waselenchuk is indeed a Ukrainian name, meaning basically "little Vasily's son." Parajewski could be Polish, linguistically it makes sense, but as of 1990 there was only one Parajewski in Poland, living in the province of Lodz. But the question is, how reliable is that spelling? We could very well be talking about Porajewski, the a and o are often confused. Just for the heck of it, I looked in the Slownik geograficzny, and found there was a village called either Parajówka or Porajówka in Kamieniec Podolski district -- in other words, not far from Zherdya -- served by both Catholic and Orthodox parishes in Czarnokozince, with some 420 inhabitants as of the turn of the century; the village took its name from its founder, Bishop Kobielski, who was of the Poraj clan and bore the Poraj coat of arms.

Linguistically speaking, Parajewski could very well have started as meaning "person from Parajówka or Porajówka." In Polish we often see names from -ówka ending up with adjectival forms in -ewski in Polish, even if -owski might technically be more correct, so that's not a major problem. I strongly suspect that's the origin of this surname, "person from Porajówka." It could be regarded as either Polish or Ukrainian, because in this particular case there would not be a major difference in how the name sounded, regardless of which language it came from. Most likely a more accurate rendering, however, would be a Ukrainian form, Porayevs'kiy or Parayevs'kiy (which would be spelled Porajewski or Parajewski by Poles), simply because the place from which the name derived is now in Ukraine and presumably ethnic Ukrainians were more numerous there than Poles. But as I said, in this case it doesn't make a dime's worth of difference, there would be very little difference in sound no matter which language the name started in.

Copyright © 1998 W.F. Hoffman. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

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