totland Roots


Ukraine to Chicago

Where did the Stotlands come from? The short answer is from Narodichi, Ukraine. Or at least the family of Stotlands that Gerry's grandmother was born into came from there. Of course, then it was part of the Russian empire. Later it was to become part of the Communist Soviet Union. But in both cases it seems that the Jewish members of the community spoke Yiddish amongst themselves and probably Russian to their non-Jewish neighbors. At this point in time we know of only a handful of living Stotlands who were born in Narodichi and of them only two are definitively related to Gerry.

There used to be many Stotlands in Narodichi. Gerry's grandmother, Ette, was once one of them. She married a man called Max Kozyrowsky who was probably from some nearby village. Max left for the United States accompanied by his oldest son Maurice in about 1912. Ette followed with their four other children in 1913 when Gerry's mother was three years old. It must have been quite a journey to undertake in those days with four children between the ages of one and eight years old. Horse cart to a railway junction. Train to the coast. Passage across the Atlantic Ocean in steerage. And then more train journeys to the final destination.

Economic conditions must have been bad or the attractions of this far off land very enticing to induce people to take such an arduous journey. It seems likely that Max was either accompanied by another part of the Stotland family, brother-in-law Shmuel and his family or met them once he got to the States. What is known is that the brother-in-law and his family returned to Narodichi after Ette's arrival and were trapped there by the First World War.

When World War II dawned, those Jews who could moved east ahead of the invading Nazi armies to places like Tashkent. Those who couldn't or didn't escape eastward and stayed in Narodichi were massacred by the Nazis. As far as we know our Stotlands either moved east or into essential war industries for the Soviet Union. The Komisar branch of the Stotlands escaped to Tashkent and then to Israel immediately after the end of World War II. Shmuel Stotland's family survived in Ukraine until the collapse of the Soviet Union finally brought them to the United States.

As if two world wars and invading Nazis were not enough, those that survived then were subject to a nuclear disaster. Narodichi is in zone B, and therefore suffered second order effects of the Chernobyl reactor accident. The village was officially declared uninhabitable some three or four years after the accident and the population told to evacuate. Many, but not all, did. Those who did were often replaced by new 'immigrants' who found the prospect of a free home and land tempting enough to risk the effects of radiation that could neither be seen nor felt. Some of those who stayed were the last Jewish family in Narodichi and active in village affairs. These last Jews happened to be called Stotland. They left Narodichi in late 2001 suffering sicknesses probably caused by radiation and we were lucky enough to find and meet them in their new home in the regional city of Zhytomyr. It seems possible they are related to Gerry and his branch of the family, as well as to the Komisars in Israel.

Stotland Roots | Israel | Ukraine

November 16, 2002