The Wissotzky/Высоцкий family

One pogrom victim in the death records, written about in the newspapers, who was brutally murdered by the police, was Leon Victor Vysotsky, 26, a teacher and member of the Self Defence League. An excerpt from the article in the Jewish Chronicle is in the blog entry Who was or wasn’t on the pogrom death list? Where did they live? Stories from the reports and newspapers.

 Jewish Chronicle 15 December 1905

A Jewish female teacher was hastening to the house of her parents in Peressip when she was stopped by a ruffian who, assuring her he was not going to do any harm, asked her to show him her teeth. To humour him she opened her mouth into which he immediately fired, killing her on the spot. Another incident is now corroborated by a Sister of Charity. A man named Leon Vyssotosky was wounded while fighting front rank of the defenders. He was placed on an ambulance to be removed, when he was violently dragged to the ground by soldiers and then handed over to a disguised policeman, who put an end to his sufferings. Vyssotosky was one of the most energetic members of the Self Defence League, and was a remarkable orator. It is presumed that he was known to the police as such, and this was the reason of his being murdered.

Yet another horrible story. In Prochovskaya Street, while the pillage went on, a Sister of Mercy drove along with a wounded old man in her carriage. Four little children ran crying in the middle of the street, begging her to take them to their parents, whom they could not find. Before they could reach the carriage, two were shot and the other two run through by bayonets. In the same street five children were thrown out of third story windows. Two of them, one two months and the other 12 months old, died immediately.

 Yet again, there is evidence of many children being killed while so few were registered in the Jewish records. It seems that possibly someone wanted to hide the extreme horror of this massacre, or the great loss, not just of men, but women and children.

When I first wrote about Leon Vysotsky, I looked up his name in Odessa directories and found that there was a large Moscow tea company with a warehouse and tea packing factory in Odessa called В Высоцкий & Ко, (V. Vysotsky & Co or Wissotzky & Co). There was a possibility that Leon Victor was related to this family but I didn’t look into it further. Then, a few weeks ago, information about my own family brought me back to the first pages of my great aunt’s memoir where she describes her grandfather and his eight children. She makes the comment that he was not so lucky in his sons but that two of his daughters married well – one to a very well off textile merchant from Bialystok, Leon Sackheim, and the other to the son of one of the richest merchants in Moscow, Wisozki, the Moscow Tea King. Many years ago I had tried looking up this Moscow tea company using the wrong spelling and had not got anywhere but now I found quite a few histories of the Wissotzky tea company online and several family trees. It is the only Russian tea company from that time that is still operating. It moved to Israel in the 1930s having left Russia for other European countries after the revolution. From the early 1900s it had had offices in Warsaw, London, Paris, New York and Philadelphia.

visotsky house 2Vysotsky house Moscow

Vysocky_3Vysotsky tea advertisement

From the online family trees, I discovered that the founder, Kalman Wolf Yakov Wissotzky, who was from Zagare in Lithuania, had only one son, David, in 1861. On the family trees, his wife was Anna Borisovna. His wife’s maiden name was unknown except on one family tree where it was Sackheim. David Wissotzky supported many artists in Moscow and his wife was painted twice by Leonid Pasternak, a close family friend. His son, Boris Pasternak, tutored the Wissotzky children one summer after he had left school, and was inspired by his love for one of the daughters, Ida, to become a poet. The name on Anna’s 1911 portrait is AB Vysotskaya-Gotz, so I assumed that Anna was a member of the Gotz family, a family one of her daughters also married into, producing two famous revolutionary sons, Mikhail and Abram Gots. One way or another she did not seem to be my great great aunt, as her surname was Piker.

A.B.Visotskaya-Gotz_by_L.Pasternak_(1911)AB Vysotskaya-Gotz, Leonid Pasternak

I was interested that Anna was thought to belong to the Sackheim family, and began to investigate who Leon (Leib) Sackheim was. I found his birth record: he was born in Bialystok in 1848 to Khaim Ber Shmul and Kreina, and he died in 1905. I could not find his marriage but I found the birth of one of his children, Feiga, in 1879, born to Lev and Asna Zakheim. I originally found my great great aunt, Asna Piker, as an eight-year-old, on the 1858 revision list (tax census) from  Gorodische, near Novogrudok, Belarus, with her parents Meer Hirsh Piker (my great great grandfather), and Rivka, and her four siblings. So Asna was born in 1850 and would have been 29 when Feiga was born. Another four children were registered to a Leib Khaim Ber Zakheim between 1872 and 1884, Abram, Moisei, Dvora and Hersh. I then found the marriage certificate for David Vulf Visotzky (St Petersburg) and Khaia Khaim-Berko Zakheim (Bialystok) who married in Vilnius in 1876. In Russian, Khaia Khaim-Ber, became Anna  Borisova. So, it was not my great great aunt who married into the wealthy Wissotzky family, but Leon Zakheim’s sister and Asna Zakheim’s sister-in-law.

The Wissotzkys and Odessa

In the online Wissotzky  family trees, there is a puzzling 15 year gap in children between David’s 2 elder sisters born in the 1840s, and the 2 later children, David and another sister born in the early 1860s. The father and founder of the great tea company must have been desperate for sons to carry on his business and name, and I assume there must have been children in between who died, especially as none of the family names, such as Jacob and Rafael, Wolf’s father and grandfather, appear to have been used. Two sons-in-law and one sister went into the business with David. They also needed reliable people to run offices in other Russian cities and around the world. An especially important city was Odessa where the tea was shipped in, and from the 1890s, blended, and packed. The symbol of the Wissotzky  tea company was a ship as they were one of the first companies to take advantage of new shipping routes and being able to transport tea by sea rather than overland from China. So I began to wonder whether, if Wolf Wissotzky did not have a son to organise their business affairs in Odessa, other family members, nephews or cousins, had worked for him there.

wissotsky tea packing odessaWissotzky tea packing factory, Kanatnaya and Troitskaya

Wolf Wissotzky was also a Hebrew scholar and Zionist who belonged to a Zionist group in Odessa and funded a Zionist journal in the 1890s. The men he trusted with running his offices around the world were Zionists from Odessa merchant families. When the company became incorporated in the 1890s and he was able to set up a tea packing factory in Odessa, he hired a Zionist friend, Karl Tauer, to run the company, and other Zionist friends, Abraham Lubarsky and Asher Ginsberg, ran his offices in New York and London. However, previous to the 1890s, he would have needed someone in Odessa to keep charge of the affairs. Puzzling over why so many Odessans were hired to manage the foreign offices, I realised that only very successful established Jewish merchants were allowed to live in Moscow, so it would have been difficult to find people to train in the business there. Wissotzky managed to come to Moscow in the 1840s, before he had a business, and worked for a successful Jewish tea merchant, Botkin, and only set up his own company in 1853, when Botkin died. But in 1871 there were only about 8000 Jews in Moscow, and even in 1880 there were only 16,000 (8000 officially registered).

At the time of the 1905 pogrom, Abraham Lubarsky, the wealthy Odessa merchant who ran the Wissotzky company in New York, returned to Odessa and wrote of his experiences during the pogrom in a series of letters which were published in New York newspapers while he was also fundraising in America for the people affected by the pogrom. Lubarsky was involved with setting up the Jewish self defence league after the 1903 Kishinev pogrom, alongside other Zionists like Jabotinsky. Below is an excerpt from one of the newspaper articles:

The Sun New York 17 November 1905

2 November: At dawn the massacre of Jews was renewed. They are now pillaging the Deribasovsky (the Broadway of Odessa) under the protection of the Cossacks, who are driving back the “Self-Defence” in order that the hooligans may pursue their bloody work without hindrance. A delegation of Jews visited Baron Kaulbars, the military commander, who is known as a rabid Jew baiter. After being told that the police are engaged in pillage and murder he said it was untrue and declared that he would take action only when he will be convinced by facts. The younger Wissetzky (a son of the largest tea merchant in Russia) took his life in his hands and ventured to the Jewish hospital where lay a “Self-Defence.” Wisetzky demanded of the authorities a certificate about their presence there. At first the Jewish doctors were fearful to sign a certificate of that kind, but they complied at last. Presently a military patrol with an officer came to remove the injured policemen. The younger Wissetzky demanded that the officer in charge of the patrol should also certify to the effect that he took away the injured. He did so. Armed with this evidence Wissetzky returned to Baron Kaulbars, and it was thought that the commander would keep his word and put down the massacre. But nothing-of the kind. The pillage and massacre is kept up to-day.

The ‘younger Wissotzky’ must refer to Wolf’s son David, although at first I thought it might refer to another son who was working in Odessa. David might have come to Odessa to meet with Lubarsky, or he had arrived because of the unrest in the city and fears for their factory. It is unknown whether he had any relations working for the business. His cousin, the revolutionary Mikhail Gots, who had belonged to the People’s Will from 1885 and had spent many years in Siberia, had been allowed to move to Odessa from Siberia in 1899 because of ill-health, and he had worked for the tea company until 1901 when he went abroad and continued his revolutionary activities. He died in 1906 from a spinal tumour which was thought to be caused by blows to his spine while he was in Siberia. But one wonders if David went to the hospital to see a member of the self-defence league because he knew Leon Vysotzky and heard that he had been attacked.

When Lubarsky returned to New York he was interviewed by the New York Times:

New York Times 5 March 1906

‘During the riot I got out of my carriage in front of my office. A policeman lifted his pistol as if to shoot me, and I brandished my cane as though I would strike him. Seeing me do this, he thought I must not be a Jew, for surely no Jew would threaten a policeman! But just then my employees began to shout my name ‘Lubarsky!’ from the windows. At that the officer knew I was really a Jew. As I went in the door he shot, but the bullet went past.

It was 1000 times worse in Moscow. A month and a half after the Odessa riots I left for Moscow. Three days later general Dubassov came to put down the revolution that he knew was going to take place. It did take place in three more days. The people were slaughtered by the hundred.’

It was interesting that Lubarsky commented on the revolution in Moscow, as one Wissotzky grandson, Alexander Wissotzky was involved in the 1905 Moscow uprising, and there were three other well-known revolutionaries in the family, grandchildren of Wolf Wissotzky, Mikhail Gots and his younger brother Abram Gots, plus the husband of Amalia Gavronsky, Ilya Fondaminsky, who went to France after the revolution and edited an emigre journal publishing the early work of Vladimir Nabokov.

Anna Wissotzky died in 1921 in Paris and her husband died in 1930. Several members of the Wissotzky family were deported from Paris to Auschwitz where they died. There was also an Isaac Sackheim, born in 1884 in Bialystok, the much younger brother of Anna Wissotzky, who was also deported to Auschwitz from Paris. On the Wissotzky online family tree one of Anna’s nieces, Vera Gots, married an unknown Sackheim who could have been Anna’s brother, Isaac. There was quite poignant detailed information online about his deportation. He left the Paris holding camp Drancy on 2 September 1943 and died on 7 September. He probably spent those five days travelling in the cattle cars and was immediately put to death in Auschwitz, as he was already in late middle age. Nothing is known about his wife or whether they had any children.

Quite a large number of emigrants from Odessa to Paris, mostly born in the 1890s and early 1900s, with names in the pogrom death records, were deported to Auschwitz – Groisman, Goichmann, Goldenberg, Guralnik, Meniock, Scher, Schneider, Segal, Tartakowsky.
To be continued…

12 thoughts on “The Wissotzky/Высоцкий family

  1. I just wrote a long long comment and by mistake pressed something on the computer so it either was erased or sent. I therefor try once more in case it was not sent! My family was part of Kalonimus Kalman Wolf Zeev Vasily Basil Wissotzky’s family tree. I have made extensive research about my grandmother Anna Sacks ancestors. Many details in your Post about the Wissotskies might solve some trouble I had in finding my ancestors. The name Abelson could have been a suffix my family used or was added to them by a clerk in some government office! I never thought about it until reading Your post now. My ggg grandfather Leib Sack (Sackheim) also went under the name Leon or Leo. He was a son of Abel Abli Abraham Zak of Telz and Salant also called the King of Telz. Leib Sack married my gg grandmother named Chava Zabludowsky. She goes on some documents in Switzerland as Hanne Zabludowsky Sack . She and Leib had 8 children. 3 died young .The others were Chaim Herman Sack in Davos , Baronesse Amalie von Taube in Kursk Russia , Berl Sack in Libau in Latvia, Mina Sacks in Kovno and this mysterious aunt in St Petersburg whom I do not know the name of. Chava Hovah was a daughter of Jehiel Michael Zabludowsky from Bialystok .Jehial Michael was a son of Chaim Zabludowsky who was the brother of Itke Isaac Zabludowsky widely known simply as the Ritch man. Chava had a sister Golda who married Sergei Scmariahu Zeitlin, who was Kalman Wissotskies lawyer.Their son Joseph Zeitlin married Anna one of Kalman Wissotskies daughters. Joseph and Anna Zeitlin got only one child named Michael named after my ggg grandfather Jehiel Michael (Michel) Zabludowsky. The Zabludowskies started the Textile production and owned big Silk factories in Bialystok. And some of their descendants moved to America and opened textile factories there. Kalmans son David married Anna Sack or Sackheim. I always thought she was my Grandmothers missing aunt. But she could also have been a younger cousin of my gg grandfather Leon Sack. My grandmother Anna Sack lived by this aunt in St Petersburg when she studied opera at the Academy of Music (The Concervatorium). But my Grandmother never mentioned this aunts first name so I could never find her or any of her descendants. My grandmother mentioned that she had a cousin who was named Asna, there were actually two sisters she said, the other was named Vesla.I always though that was a mistake since Vesla means little or the small one in Norwegian. (My Grandmothers language after she married and moved to Norway in 1919 ). So I thought this might perhaps be just Asna meaning that she was younger than my grandmother who was born in 1891. I guessed this missing aunt was named Anna after her great grandmother Khane Zak who was Abel Sacks mother. This missing aunt was very stiff and wealthy and kept that times behavior rules very strictly, so my Grandmother was only allowed to answer her with Madame or Aunt ,never with her name! That would have been seen as unpolite. Easy to say she was not so fond of this aunt, and never told my mother her name. David Wissotzky and his brother in law Joseph Zeitlin worked together in the Tea firm ! They were painted together. Most of the family were painted! When the Czar closed Moskwas University and forced all the Jews out of Moskwa in 1904. (I believe he did that so he could pay for the expensive Japanese War by confiscating Jewish property. The Wissotzkies staid longer than most Jews in Moskwa but eventually had to move out and they moved the Business to Odessa and Warshaw . And my other Moskwa families moved to Koenigsberg, Leipzig, Dresden, Berlin Bern Zurich or Paris. All what you wrote in your Posts fit my family information ,so we might be related, have you taken a DNA test?My oldest son and mother did it by ” 23 and me”, so we will have more chances to find the missing family! I would like to get in contact with you ! I put my Family tree up in GENi com and you can find me under my name. You can find Gots in my tree as well and all descendants of Kalman’s children. Goichman was also one of the family names in my tree. I still am puzzled by the name Anna Borisovna .It could also have been a name that my grandmother Anna could have used since she her father was named Berl. Leib Zaks grandfather was named Betzalel Zak and I believe the name Berl came from him. .His wife Khane was the one who gave name to the many Anna’s in my Family tree. He must have used the name Berl or Bernhard ! Ber Berl and Berel means bear in German, Dov is the sweetname of David in Hebrew and also means Bear, so it is often used together, Dov Ber or Dov Berl or David Bernhard. It was again often translated to Dmitri Boris in Russian. They all had names fitting the many languages they spoke and it was not unusual that they spoke 8 languages! So their names figure now in various documents in many countries and it sounds like so many different people ! It is hard to understand it is the same person! So very confusing! Well please contact me! Best regards from Nehirah Kadosh


    • Dear Nehirah Kadosh,

      I read with great interest your contribution above that you are part of the Wissotzky family tree. I am as well, though with a missing piece. My grandmother Matla/Matilda–b. 1873 in Zhagare, Lithuania–who died before I was born, was orphaned as a teenager and was raised, according to my late aunt, by her Wissotzky uncles, more likely granduncles, considering birth dates. Note the plural. Her maiden name was Zaks (or Sacks/Sachs). From her headstone, I read her father’s name as Gershon (Gersh), which with the Russian alphabet could also be Hersh. (My aunt remembered the Wissotzkys visiting her family in Siauliai/Shavel and I have a few photos of them.)

      I am simply trying to track down exactly how Matilda was related to the Wissotzkys and get the missing names. Knowing that a Zaks/Sack/Sackheim was married into the Wissotzky family at least now strongly suggests to me she was related on her father’s side. If you have a Zaks tree, that might solve my mystery. I will appreciate any help you can provide.

      With many thanks and regards,

      Marda Winnick

      P.S. Many in the Wissotzky family were painted by Leonid Pasternak, a prominent Russian impressionist artist, father of writer Boris Pasternak, and good friend of Kalman Wissotzky.


  2. Dear Sir, Would You be so kind as to submit any information about Wissozky Tea advertisement You published above? I am writing an article about tea in art and would like to include that photo.


  3. Hello Mr Houlez Thanks you for contacting me. I added David Wissotzky to my familytree in GENi com. long time ago. He had 4 children with Anna Sackheim. And it seems David was married twice and had two children from a second wife. A son and daughter, Which branch is yours? I don’t see any son named Sergei. know that several of Ossip (Joseph) Zeitlin and Khana Wissotzky”s children came to Paris. And descendants still live there today. Josephs father was named Sergei (Schmariahu) Zeitlin. So there could be grandchildren named Sergei in that Branch that I am not aware of? I’m looking forward to hear more. Please join my GENi Tree. I spell the family name according to documents . Some times Wissotzky or Wissotzki or Wissotzsky. If you join Try to spell the Wissotzky name the same way as I do, then we will not make copies of the same persons. Because the Geni com program does’t not recognize several ways of spelling a familyname! Greetings from Nehirah


  4. I am Susan Sackheim Cohen. My father, George Sackheim, did extensive research on our family and had told me of the Wissotsky connection.


    • Dear Susan
      Nice to get in touch with you!
      I used to write so much with your dear father. And over the years we tried to connect our families and the different Zaks that showed up when members of Jewish gen started translating documents from the different archives in Latvia and Lithuania! But we did not succeed in combining our Sack and Sackheim families even though they seem to have lived in the same towns. The problem could be that the old family members and people from other Sack /Zak/Sackheim branches that we interviewed mixed up information or names on ancestors! Many were around 80 – 90 years old and might have had some level of Dementia.
      Last time I wrote with your father he told me he was trying to make a new edition of the Sacred Seeds and it would fill 19 volumes instead of the original 2. Did he ever finish that goal?
      I miss him and the nice correspondence we had.
      Big hug from Nehirah

      Stay healthy in this troubled time!


      • Thank you so much for your reply. We have not published the second edition and there are indeed numerous volumes.
        If you can give me some names to look up, I can check to see if he ever made a connection.


  5. Hello! I was very excited to find this blog. My husband’s family are descendants of Kolonimos Ze’ev (Wolf) Wissotzky through his daughter, Rachel Freida Wissotzky, who married Shlioma Rafael Abramovitch Gots (one of Wolf Wissotzky’s business partners). Rachel and Shlioma’s daughter, Mere (Marie) Gots, married Hermann Heller, and Hermann and Marie’s daughter, Helena Heller, was my husband’s grandmother.

    Is there a Wissotzky Family website anywhere with more information that I could look at? I hope to learn more and look forward to hearing from other family members!


    • Hi dear Carol
      So thrilled that you write on this site . It is always exciting to find a new descendant or family member ! I don’t have a daughter named Mere between my Goetz information , but it could be that Vera Gotz was identical to Mere? Or perhaps I have not found all the siblings? I have 3 sons and 3 daughters of Raphael and Rachel Goetz /Gotz / Gatz . Actually I am excited about the family name Heller. Because that might connect another genealogists work to mine once more !
      Our ancestors prefered to marry cousins. This way the wealth staid in the family and no hidden genetic disorders, sicknesses or mental problems would be inherited without knowing.
      I spent many years trying to find information about Kalonimus Wissotzky and to track down all his different descendants. I added all of the names I found in my family tree here at home. But only some of them to my tree in Geni Com.
      When you use Geni Com , the spelling you write in the search perimeter is important, since Geni show only information of exactly that spelling . And everyone stand stiff on their own way of spelling is the most correct one. So it gives a lot of Doubles!
      Descendants didn’t spell the family names the same way and you need to try many variations of each family name to see what different nationalities added in ,(besides what I added). Members of My Heritage copied almost everything I added. I did not upload any of the documents I have collected to Geni !
      My prime interest was to find family and connect with them to find and share all available information. Kalonimus is not one of my direct ancestor. Another daughter of his Anna (Channe) married Ossip/ Joseph/ Esel Zetlin/Zeitlin/Tzeitlin (etc) He was a son of my GG grandmothers sister . I made this broad search in hope that someone on this side of the Family tree had information about my side. Since most of my Grandmothers family died in Holocaust, they also lost all property and belongings, and therefore we have almost no photographs and nobody who could tell anything about the family history! 40 years ago when my grandmother was alive, I didn’t know much and what to ask, and it wasn’t so easy for her to remember any longer being over 90. She mixed up names, so it was hard finding corresponding documents . Since the stories were so glorious compared to the living standard we had after the WW2 ,to tell the truth I didn’t believe in half of it. But when doing this detective work I found that she understated everything in the most modest way and the reality was far more grand!
      It has been really fun and extremely interesting to do the detective work and very gratifying each time a new branch or descendant was found and a whole well of information was uncovered.
      We each sit with a puzzle piece that fits together into a broader knowledge !
      Look at my name in GENi com and you may connect your family tree and Photographs to the tree I have uploaded . Or tell me and I will add the names you want to that tree !
      I did not make a Homepage about the Family yet.
      But now many Russians are interested in writing about Kalonimus’ life and you can find much in the Internet, even books!
      Best greetings from Nehirah Kadosh.


      • Hello Nehirah. Thank-you for your reply! My family tree can be found on Ancestry and FamilySearch. I have (very small) trees on GENI and My Heritage but found both those platforms harder to use than Ancestry and FamilySearch, so haven’t pursued them further. However, I will look to see if I can find your family tree on GENI.

        I have just been in contact with the host of this blog to share information on my husband’s branch of the Wissotzky family. If you are comfortable with the idea, I would be happy to correspond with you by separate email but prefer not to leave my e-mail in this blog for the world to find. I am willing to have the blog host share my e-mail address with you if you let the host know you wish to do the same with me.

        Should we end up corresponding, I have a family photo of Esel Zeitlin, his wife and children I found online that I’d be happy to send to you along with any other information I have that might be of interest.

        Kind regards,

        Carol (Torfason) Winston


      • Dear Carol
        Thanks for your kind reply. My Email address is my name in one word with a dot between pre and surname and then AT . Looking forward to correspond with you.
        I have all the online pictures. But thanks for the offer.
        Nice Islandic maiden name you have!
        Will look forward to your next letter.
        Best regards Nehirah Kadosh
        Stay healthy and have a nice weekend.


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