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Arkady Chavkin


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Personal Journey map
Arkady Chavkin

An Alternate Tale of Two Cities

Family legend
This one starts in St Petersburg where my family lived for many generations. Before anyone tells you that Jewish people were not permitted to live in big cities and were forced to live Beyond the Pale, when I was little my grandfather told me that his great-grandfather had served 25 years in the Czar's army and Jews who survived that ordeal were given special dispensation to live in St Petersburg; my great-grandfather was on of them.

Some time around 1912/1913 my grandparents and their six children (my mother and her five brothers) left Russia to make their way to Chicago where my grandfathers brother had already settled. They got as far as Holland and were waiting unsuccessfully for a big boat (as my grandfather would not travel on a small boat) to take them to America. After some time they were told they were more likely to get a large boat from London so they crossed the Channel and were in London when World War One broke out and put an end to their travelling.

In 1916 the British government decreed that all foreign national men had to either join the British army or go back to their country of origin. My uncle (my mother's eldest brother) who by then was of military age, chose the latter option. He returned to St Petersburg where he enlisted in the Russian army and rose through the ranks to eventually become a colonel instructor in the St Petersburg Military Academy. There was no further contact with my uncle.

After the Second World War two of my mother's brothers travelled to St Petersburg to see if they could trace their eldest brother and miraculously they found him. Even more miraculously he had survived the troubled years between the wars and the war itself but a family reunion was prevented because the Russian authorities at the time 'discouraged' any contact with the West.



Joe Chavkin (male)
David Chavkin (male)
Rosa Chavkin (female)
Louis Chavkin


Father: Boris Chavkin (male)
Mother: Leah Chavkin (female)

Military Record

Military service:
Russian Army
Rank at discharge/death:
Colonel Instructor
St Petersburg Military Academy

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London Jews in the First World War - We Were There Too

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