The Old Country

Husiatyn, the Old Countryzeilinski, zilinski, zelinski

The Story of our family is formed by shifting borders and displaced people – and is especially impacted by the turmoil in middle Europe from the late 19th century right through the Second World War and post-war Communism.

Incredibly, we aren’t even sure about how to spell our family name. It varies radically, depending on which history you go with.

As a Polish name, it is usually spelled Zeilinski – probably derived from the Polish word “zeil” or “green”. It’s origin is not that of the colour green, but rather of the green trades – growing, or agricultural – destined to be farmers!

Zilinski is the common Ukrainian spelling, probably related to the Ukrainian word “zinlen” – or “zinc” in English. Again, this probably ties the family name to a trade or profession – as do most East European (non-aristocratic) names. Could be that our ancestors were zinc miners.

On it’s travels, the family name became variously Zelinsky, Zeilinsky, or Zilinski (one branch of our family in Canada – the Stan Zilinski family – uses this variation). It’s even harder to clear this up because early records are in Cyrillic characters – and often poorly inscribed. The Russian/Cyrillic characters can be read as either ‘i’ or ‘ei’ or ‘ie’ depending on usage. Ey-yi-yi. Plus not everyone was literate, or literate in Latin (English) letters so couldn’t correct things when they were spelt wrong on certificates or other official documents. Our grandpa Stephen signed documents with an ‘x’, and letters home were commissioned by people in the community who could read and write (usually the priest).

Anyways, for whatever reason, the majority of our family spells the name Zelinski. Usually. Some of us are faking – the official birth certificate for Victor Zelinski lists his family name as Zilinski, for example.

Where it all began – the Old Country:

Map of area late 19th centuryOur great grandparents were John and Sophia (nee Dzivir) Zeilinski from Leichkoves (now spelled Lychkivtsi or, in Polish, Liczkowce) on the confluence of the rivers Taina and Hnyta, in the province of Husiatyn, (Russian name Gusyatin, now spelled Husyatyn). This area, traditionally known as Galicia (or earlier, Rhuthenia orevenfurther back, as Ezdenithenia), then comprised part of Austria-Hungary.

Galicia became part of Poland after World War I, from 1920 – 1939. The brief return to Poland was seen as a ‘homecoming’, a return to the country and culture that most Galicians claimed as their culture heritage. This brief return “home” was ended by the Nazis, and the region of Galicia, strategically placed between the Nazi and Soviet powers, was particularly brutalized during the occupation. Husatyn, so close to our ancestral village, was not spared, as this testimonial describes.

After the Second World War, Galicia became part of the Ukrainian Soviet Republic until the breakup of the USSR and Ukraine’s declaration of independence in 1991. Today the village our grandparents came from is part of south-west Ukraine, near the border with Romania. These borders, hopefully, will have stopped shifting for a while at least…

This 19th century Austrian military map of a portion of Galicia shows the location of the village Liczkowce (Lychkivtsi in Ukrainian). The village is about 25 miles south of Ternopil, the nearest large city. Trybuchowce (Trybukhivtsi in Ukrainian) across the Gnila river was later merged into Lychkivtsi when the Soviets took over.

Stephen (Szchephan, Steve, Stephanus) Zelinski: Birth and Baptism Certificate


One of the very few physical records we have of Stephen. Here follows a rough translation of the Latin certificate, with current spellings of placenames added:

The document is called Testimonium nativatatis dt basptismi (Certificate of Birth and Baptism) issued  in 1930, by Officium Ljczkowce (latin spelling). Liskovice is the German spelling, Ljczkowce the Polish, Liczkowce in Ruthenian and is also called Lychkivtsi, in Ukrainian.

The certificate states that it is being issued in the

  • Republica (Country): Poland
  • Diocesis: Leopoliensis (aka Leopolis – Latin name for Lviv, in SW Ukraine)
  • Parochia (Parish): Siczkowic
  • Palatinatus (County): Tarnopol (Ternopil, in SW Ukraine)
  • District: Kopyinyise (Kopychynci – town about 25 miles south of Ternopil

The person is “Stephanus” born the 3rd of July, 1858 and baptized the 15th of July, in Liskovice. Parents were Joannes (John) Zielinski, farmer (phus agricola), son of Stanislau; and his wife Anna Czerwinski, daughter of Peter (Petri) and Maria (Mariae) Supersonig (sp?).

Their home address – Locus Nativit, et N-Rus Domus – is simply Liskovice #82.

Parentis=parents, Patrini=godparents, cognomen=surname, and et condition=and status / class / occupation

The Officials: Sacredos baptisans – the baptism itself – by performed by R.D.F. Tomiszkowski (or something like that) and the Obstetrix (Midwife) was Maria Stanoda.

This is a reissue that Stephen probably needed in order to leave the Old Country and migrate to Canada. It is Catholic Church’s confirmation of his identity and taken from the parish Church records.









This is the ‘birth and baptism’ certificate for Peter (Piotr) Zelinski. This was reissued in 1948, after the Second World War, and is remarkable in that records were hard to get then.

6 thoughts on “The Old Country

  1. Our grandfather Anton Wolitski was born and raised in the exact same town and region of then Galicia ..he came to Wishart Sask Canada and began a farm in 1908 and it still exists today .

  2. Hi! I believe we corresponded several years ago when I first discovered your website on your previous platform. I’ve recently discovered your new site. I was looking closer at the birth certificate for Stephen. Anna Czerwinska is Joanne’s mother and the wife of Stanislaus. Stephanus’ mother and Joannes’ wife is Sophia Rozdeba, daughter of Petrus [Rozdeba] and Maria Superson. It’s curious though. The birth record would seem to be available online at the link below BUT there are several discrepancies. 1) Stephanus was born December 19, 2) Joannes’ parents are Michael Zielinski and Thecla Szmorąg, 3) Sophia’s parents are Franciscus Rozdeba and Maria Krupa, and 4) the witnesses were Joannes Kuchciak and Anna Laskowska. Certainly it is possible that there were two couples named Joannes Zielinski and Sophia Rozdeba who had a son named Stephanus but scrolling through the images doesn’t reveal a second Stephanus born a few months earlier in July. The linked records *are* Bishop’s copies so it is certainly possible the priest could have made transcription errors. 🙂 Warm regards! Chris

  3. I came across your site when looking up my Zabielski ancestry. My maternal grandfather was from the Ostrow Lubeslski/Kolechowice area of Poland. My mother’s eldest sister’s husband, Sam (Simeon?) Zielinski, from the same area worked seasonally on the Zabielski land (called Zabiele), but didn’t meet the sister & marry her till he emigrated to Toronto & reconnected with the family on a different footing in the late 1920s-early 1930s.

  4. @ Chris Bukoski

    Can you tell me more about the two witnesses named Joannes Kuchciak and Anna Laskowska

    Since reading on here that Joannes is John….. my Grandpa’s name was John Kustiak… His mother was Frances Zelinski (married to Phillip Kustiak / Kusciak or Kuchciak) but I’m wondering if this John and Anna could be Phillips parents or some relative… I am trying so hard to make connections for overseas

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