Father: Anatoli Kushch-Katrakis
Prominent European sculptor, presently residing in Kiev, Ukraine. Author of many historical monuments around the world (U.S. Poland, Libya, Iran, Estonia, Latvia, Germany, and Italy), as well as various localities in Ukraine (e.g, Kiev’s central Independence Square). Of Greek ancestry.
Mother: Helen Pilkevich Kushch
An ethnographer and an art historian. Daughter of Prince Simon Bagration-Gedymin-Pilke (later the last name was changed to Pilkevych) and Countess Maria Magdalena Naralska-Hanska. It is from the maternal line that most of the valuable objects were inherited.
Detailed information on Christina’s maternal grandfather’s ancestry
Simon (Simos) Bagration-Gedymyn-Pilke
Son or Prince Arunas Gedymyn Pilke of Lithuania and Queen Tamara (Varvara) Bagration- Shervashidze-Dadiani of Georgia. Bom in Tbilisi on December 20, 1887 (his twin sisters Nino and Lela were born in July 15, 1882, his brother Tsate was bom on May 21, 1916). His parents got married on May 10, 1880, in the main Cathedral of Tbilisi, Georgia. His father and his mother were arrested and shot by the Soviets in Tbilisi on April 4, 1930. His two sisters and a young brother were shot after several years of captivity in 1935.
Simon studied at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, Germany. His field was history and archeology, with emphasis on Classics. Upon completing his education he devoted himself to travel and archeology, investing most of his fortune into the field. He excavated in Greece and also bought and donated anonymously valuable archeological artifacts, such as the two kouroi statues in Athens Archeological Museum. While working in Greece Simon befriended and worked with Sir Arthur Evans, the celebrated archeologist who excavated Minoan Palace of Knossos in Crete, Greece. He is in two photographs of the formal opening of the palace of Knossos in 1934. He made frequent trips to Egypt, where he worked with the French Egyptologist Gaston Maspero, There he also befriended Howard Carter, who was then working as an illustrator of Egyptian antiquities. Carter, looking for a sponsor to search for the tomb of Tutankhamun, first approached Simon for funding. Believing that Carter was a mere amateur, he denied him funding. Simon nevertheless approached Maspero’s circle, who in turn connected Carter with Lord Carnarvon. There are photos of Simon in the company of Carnarvon and his daughter dating to the opening of Tutankhamun’s tomb. In Egypt Simon also befriended the renowned Greek poet residing in Alexandria, Constantine Cavafy and subsidized the publication of a collection of his poems. He became the subject of one of Cavafy’s poems, “On the Street” (1916).
In Alexandria Simos also befriended the wealthy cotton merchant and avid collector of antiquities, Antonis Benaki. He helped and contributed items to Benaki’s collection, which eventually became the foundation for the present Benaki Museum in Athens. His ties with the Benaki family further enhanced when Simos married Antonis Benaki’s niece, Agapea Benaki-Capicci, with whom he had two daughters, Helen and Christina.. After the Russian Revolution, Simon was forced to return to Georgia. Although his parents were arrested and executed by the Soviet, he was hoping to save his sisters and brother. He was never to see his wife and children again (they eventually immigrated to Canada, settling in Montreal). He was himself arrested the Soviet secret police. It seems that the Soviets used his sisters and brother as bargaining chips to blackmail Simon into cooperation. What exactly they demanded is not clear, but most likely they wanted to exploit his wide connections outside the Soviet Union. This explains why Simon was allowed to travel outside the USSR in the 1930s (what explains his presence at the official opening of the Knossos site in 1934). By 1936 Simon was back in the Soviet Union, where he learned that his siblings had been shot. That year he himself was arrested and sent first to Moscow and then to Kiev. There he was interrogated by at the NKVD (secret police), condemned to death and shot. Still alive (the bullet went through his lungs), he was probably taken to notable Stalinist “killing field” of Bykivnia (just outside Kiev) and dumped amidst corpses into an open mass grave.
Saved by simple villagers, he eventually resurfaced in Kiev under a new, politically-correct, identity: Pilkevych (from the Lithuanian “Pilke”, meaning “Silver”). He became associated with the History Faculty at Kiev State University, which awarded him a doctorate in history. While working as a historian and archivist, he met and married Maria Magdalena Hanska-Naralska, with whom he had three daughters:
Myra, Agnes and Helen (the mother of Christina Kushch-Katrakis). His new name and fabricated “working class” background allowed him to move on in his career as a historian and archivist. Eventually he rose to the high position of Minister of the National Archives of Ukraine and once again was allowed to travel abroad to attend scholarly conference. Yet, soon the truth of his royal background surfaced and Simon’s life changed once again. Betrayed and revealed as a “class enemy’, he was continuously harassed by the KGB. Accused of “treason” and “collaboration” with Soviet enemies, he was subjected to interrogation and several house searches. Eventually he was arrested, imprisoned and tortured at the KGB headquarters in Kiev. After a week of interrogations he was taken to an emergency room in a Kiev hospital, where he was pronounced dead in 1955.
Simon left behind a lot of interesting correspondence, photos, rare books and precious objects. Most of his personal documents were either destroyed or donated to the National Archives of Ukraine. Many of his valuable objects were confiscated or sold surreptitiously one by one on the Soviet black-market to help with the family’s finances. Some objects, however, were hidden and remained in continuous family possession. These include items from his archeological, fossil, rare book and art collections. Among the art works there are rare icons and two Picasso drawings.
There were also royal Bagration jewels belonging to his mother, Queen Tamara, some were re-cut and put in new settings. Some of Tamara’s jewels are depicted in family photographs, such as worn by Tamara for the reception of Tsar Nicholas II in Tbilisi (featuring the 99.9 carat wine topaz stone on her neck, later recut and made into a ring) and in the portrait with pink pearls (featuring pink pearl set, some of the pearls later reset and made into a ring).
Simon’s Peternal Line
His father, Arunas Gedymen-Pilke, was bom in 1860 Vilnius, Lithuania. He bore the formal title of “Prince of Lithuania,” descending from the Lithuanian medieval royal Gedymyn dynasty. The Pilke or “Silver Ones” were descendant of founding Lithuanian King Yagaila (“Jagiello” in Polish annals) who married the Polish Queen Jadwiga in 1386.. This marriage formally united the kingdoms of Poland and Lithuania, thus giving origin to the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, the most powerful state in Eastern Europe for the next three centuries. Simon’s paternal grandmother was Isabella de Savoy, of the royal Savoy family of the northern Italian kingdom of Sardinia-Piedmont. Her cousin Marargaritta was married to King Victor Emmanuel, who in 1851 also became the first king of a united Italy (Margaritta apparently was the inspiration for the legendary Italian staple, “pizza margaritta”).
Simon’s Maternal Line
His mother, Tamara (Varvara) Bagration-Shervashidze-Dadiani, was born in 1862. She was the reigning Princess (Queen) of Georgia and Armenia, descendant of three royal and princely families: Bagration (kings of Armenia and latter kings of Georgia for over 1000 years), Shervashidze, the princes of Abkhazia (the family descends from Emperor Leo of Byzantium, who founded the dynasty of princes in the province of Abkhazia) and Dadiani ( kings of Georgia under Russian Empire).
Since most of the valuable artifacts come from Simon’s maternal family background the detailed family tree is attached to provide greater inside into his heritage:
Three lines of Maternal Heritage:
The Family Bagration (a French-Russian derivative; Bagrationi in Georgian)
The first records of the royal Bagration dynasty date back to 640 A.D. in Armenia. First records of the family in Georgia date back to 813 A.C., to the reign of Ashot Bagration (813-830), who was also the King of Armenia. The Bagration dynasty in Georgia was dully elevated by Emperor Leo V of Byzantium. One of the most notable ruler of Georgia was Queen Tamara Bagration, who became the renowned heroine of Lermontov’s epic poem The Demon. Tamara is still revered in Georgia: together with her grandfather, David the Builder, was canonized by the Georgian Church. Some members of the family later became prominent in France. Marshal Bagration was one of the generals who served under Napoleon Bonaparte.
The Bagration Dynasty
Ashot I Bagration (813-830)
Bagrat III Bagration (972-1025)
Bagrat IV Bagration (1027-1072)
Georgi Bagration (1072-1089)
David (The Great) Bagration (1089-1125)
Tamara Bagration (1184-1212)
Georgi IV Lasha Bagration (1212-1223)
Georgi V Bagration (1314-1346)
David VII Bagration (1346-1360)
Bagrat V Bagration (1360-1395)
Temuraz I Bagration (1615-?)
Gerakli II Bagration (1762-1798)
Solomon II Bagration (?)
Georgi XU Bagration (1798-1800)
Gerakli Michail Bagration (born in 1834,married to Maria Shervashidze-Dadiani)
Tamara (Varvara) Bagration-Shervashydze-Dadiani (1862-1930,the mother of Simon)
Simon Bagration (1887-1955, Christina Kusch-Katrakis’ grandfather)
The Family of Dadiani:
This family were the reigning princes of provinces of Mengrelia and Samengrelo since 1046, and reigned for over 700 years, taking up a sovereign status in 1550.
Bedian Dadiani (reigning prince of Georgia)
Grigol Dadiani (reigning prince of Georgia, born in 1821; and was the last reigning king of Georgia and Mengrelia province)
David Dadiani (prince of Georgia), married Katerina Chavchavadze (daughter of national Georgian poet Alexander Chavchavadze and a sister to Nino Chavchavadze, a wife of famous Russian writer Alexander Griboedov. Together prince David and Katerina had three children, a daughter: Salome Dadiani (who married Achil Charles Louis Napoleon-Murat, a grandson of Napoleon’s sister Caroline and Marshal of Napoleon army Iochim Murat. Through the latter, the family has many Napoleonic mementoes. Among them is the famous death bronze mask of Napoleon. Only three were cast in bronze from the original plaster one kept in Paris. It is still kept in the family palace in Zugdidi, Georgia.) Salome and Achil Murat-Dadiani had three children, a daughter Caroline and two sons. One of their sons, Andre, became a renowned chess-master and a writer of chess books. The other son, Georgi (born in 1821) married Nino Shervashidze (born in 1841). Together they had a daughter Maria Lia Shervashysdze-Dadiani, who was the mother of Tamara (Varvara) Bagration- Shervashidze-Dadiani and the grandmother to Simon.
The Family of Dadiani:
The Shervashidze dynasty of princes ruled Abkhazia from late Byzantine period until 1863. The pater familias of the dynasty was considered to be no other then the Byzantine emperor Leo V, who settled in Abkhazia and began the dynastic blood-line. Their princes intermarried with other royal and princely families throughout the region, including the prominent princely dynasty of Gavrasos (or Gavras, originaly Byzantine Armenian princes who fled Constantinople after it fall to the Turks). They founded and ruled the Greek kingdom of Theodore in Crimea, which comprised of many refugees from Byzantium itself. The family were the rulers of Theodoro or “God-Given” from the first half of XIV c. until the first destruction of the kingdom by Timuraz in 1390s. After this the family fled north to Russia, settling there under the protection of the tsar and became known as the noble princely dynasty of Golovin. Many members of this dynasty became related to the Russian tsars. The Shervashidze rule ended with the death of the last prince Michail Shervashidze in 1865. He was buried in the ancient cathedral of Mokva, which he himself rebuild during his reign. The family palace along with the cathedral dates back to 10-11 centuries in Likhno and another in Pitsunda, Abkhazia.
The link of my family towards Michail Shervashidze is as follows:
Michail Shervashidze had a daughter Nino Shervashidze and a son David Shervashidze (David’s son, Ilia Shervashidze, had daughters Nana Shervashidze. She was the heroine of a French feature film “Chef in Love”,interestingly, the actress has bright red hair, a characteristic trait of the family). Michail Shervashidze’s daughter, Nino Shervashidze married Georgi Dadiani and had a daughter Maria LiaShervashidze-Dadiani. She was the mother of Tamara (Varvara) Bagration-Shervashydze-Dadiani and the grandmother to Simon.
Points of Interest
Simon’s parents were wealthy and had a wide social circle. One of their friends was Heinrich Schliemann, the famous archeologist who excavated Troy and Mycenae. Shliemann was then married to a Russian woman and had prosperous business transaction in Russia (selling arms during Crimean War). It is during that time that he had befriended the family and became a common guest at the court. Later on Schliemann visited the family shortly after Simon’s birth and was chosen to be one of the godfathers. Among the gifts he gave was an expensive elephant-hide. The bag is still in the possession of my family. Simon’s parents were also in good relations with the last Tsar of Russia, Nicholas II. When the Tsar and his party traveled to Georgia, he stayed at Bagration-Dadiani palace. There a group photograph of the Tsar and his party, as well Simos parents, taken against the legendary Kazbek Mountains of Georgia.
Detailed information on Christina’s maternal grandmother’s ancestry Maria Magdalena Hanska-Naralska.
Born in 1901 in Berdychev, Ukraine. She was born into the Polish noble count family of Hanski. Her mother was Countess Rosalia Hanska, a daughter of Anna Hanska and a grand-daughter of the legendary Evelina Hanska ( Evelina, descendant of the old Polish princely family of Rzewuski. First she married Count Hanski, a very wealthy Polish aristocrat, and settled on one of his estates at Wierzchownia (reputedly they had 40,000 serfs). Later following the death of Hanski, she finally married the French writer Honore de Balzac. They moved to Paris and both are buried at the Pere Lachaise Cemetery).
Maria’s, father Ignacy Naralski, was from a wealthy aristocratic family in Warsaw. The family was forced to leave both Warsaw and their Polish properties after the anti-tsarist Polish Uprising of 1830. Still, many of the Naralskis were arrested and sent to exile in Siberia. Others immigrated abroad.
Maria’s mother, Rosalia was the daughter of Anna Hanska, Evelina Hanska’s daughter. Being bom out of wedlock, Rosalia was send to Ukraine to be raised by the relatives in Berdychev while Anna joined a Catholic convent in Paris. Rosalia retained the Hanski name and eventually inherited the property around Berdychiv from the relatives. She had four children with Ignacy Naralski: Jusefa, Waclaw, Veronica (died in childhood) and Maria Magdalena (Christina Kushch-Katrakis grandmother).
Following the Russia Revolution, the Soviets seized the family properties and shot nearly all members of the Naralski family. Maria Magdalena and her sister Jusefa escape execution by hiding. They witnessed the execution of their parents and their brother Waclaw, a renowned mathematician and owner of a large leather factory in Berdychiv. While Jusefa remained in Berdychiv, Maria left for Kiev, where she eventually obtained a degree in botany. She was one of the first professors in her field at the time. In Kiev she met and married Simon Bagration-Gedymyn-Pilke, then known as Semen Pilkevych. They married and had three daughters Myra, Agnes and Helen Pilkevych (Christina Kushch-Katrakis’ mother).
Maria Magdalena, in addition to the items left by Simon, left behind interesting correspondence, photos, books and objects. Among such are personal objects belonging to Evelina Hanska and Balzac. These include rare family jewels (such as a Siberian blue diamond, platinum and rose gold engagement ring given to Evelina Hanska by Balzac; a girl’s diamond set given to Anna Hanska by Evelina Hanska and latter passed down to Anna’s daughter Rosalia; a sapphire and aquamarine ring given to Evelina Hanska by Balzac (note: the design of the ring was created from a sketch by Balzac himself; the ring was latter dismantled and hidden during the Soviet period and then reset to its original shape in Italy into a modern gold setting). While few of the jewels in their original setting and form survived the Revolution and Soviet regime, many others were re-cut later and set into new setting. This was due to the fact that often the family had to hide their valuables or sell them stone by stone.
Since most of the valuable artifacts come from Maria Magdalena’s maternal family background, the detailed family lineage is provided.
Three lines of Maternal Heritage:
The Rzewuski family line goes back in time, dating back to the 10th century, when the members family were prominent milityry leaders and statesmen in Poland and its lands in Ukraine. They were related to many princely and courtly lines of Poland, such as the Potocki (described as richer then the kings of Poland), Bronicki, and Wieszniewecki (one member of the family was a notorious 17th century Polish Hetman Jeremija Wieszniewecki). The Rzewuski pater familias was Prince Adam Lavrenti Rzewuski. He was a great-nephew of the notorious Radziwill Rzewuski who had supported an army of 10,000 on his own cost, was a prominent representative of the Polish Enlightenment and a correspondent with the famous F rench philosopher Voltaire. The Rzewuski’s family had large estates both in Poland and Western Ukraine (then still under Polish jurisdiction. Prince Adam Lavrenti had seven children, Evelina Hanska was the fourth out of the seven. Out of his sons, the older Henrik, became a famous Polish writer, author of several of Polish national epic historical novels (Honore de Balzac called him the “Polish Walter Scott”); the younger son, also named Adam, became the commander of the Kiev military garrison. One of his daughters, Aline (Alexandrine,) lived in Paris and was a notorious social piranha (she even offered her own daughter Pauline in marriage to Balzac), while Carolina (famous mistress of a national Russian poet A. Pushkin) and Evelina became prominent socialites in the Polish and Russian community.
Evelina Rzewuska was a highly intelligent, well read and very charming woman. Her long list of friends and admirers included the great Russian poet Alexander Pushkin and the Polish national poet Adam Miczkiewicz. She wan born on January 6, 1800 in the Rzewuski medieval castle in Pohrebyszcze, Ukraine. At the age of 19 Evelina was married to Count Wienceslaw (Waclaw) Hanski, a rich landowner and prominent Polish aristocrat. Their marriage was arranged by the family, the count being some 22 years Evelina’s elder. The couple moved to one of his large estates in Ukraine, in Wierzchownia (Verkhivnia) near Berdychev, Ukraine. Their residence was a palace, built in 1800 in the imperial style amidst a pastoral setting. This estate, one of several owned by Hanski, was serviced by some 40,000 serfs. Hanski expanded the palace and added additional structures, including a large residence for his younger brother Karol, a notorious profligate. Karol’s escapades became the subject for the novel Honore de Balzac’s Mistake, written by the modem Ukrainian writer Natan Rybak (later made into a feature film). In it a village girl, raped by Karol the day before he wedding to another man, hanged herself in front of Karol’s residence.
Hanska’s relationship with Balzac began when she sent him an admiring anonymous letter from Wierzchownia. This began a passionate correspondence between them. Eventually they met in Switzerland and became lovers, despite the fact that she was married to Hanski (he died some years later). Balzac was totally infatuated with her but had to wait 18 years before he could marry her. Hanska. Even even with her husband dead, she kept Balzac waiting for many years before she finally agreed to marry him. This delay has sparked an interesting debate among scholars over the nature of their relationship. While some claim that their love affair was pure, other believe it represented a union of diverse ambitions-that Hanska craved Balzac’s celebrity while Balzac, always in dire financial straights, aspired to get her money. In either case, Balzac was finally able to travel to Wierzchownia and was astounded by his surroundings. In a letter to relatives in France, he described the Hanski palace both as a “ little Louvre” and as a “Greek sanctuary.” They were married at the Polish St. Barbara’s Cathedral in Berdychiv in 1847 and settled in Wierzchownia. But Balzac was already mortally ill and Hanska took him to Paris, where he died. Year later, when Hanska died, she was buried next to him at the Pere Lachaise Cemetery.
(Note: In the summer of 2005, Christina Kushch-Katrakis visited for the first time the family estate in Wierzchownia. The Hanski palace, now under reconstruction, has now become a museaum dedicated to Hanska and Balzac. There was an interesting moment: the current curators and caretakers of the palace were extremely disturbed, inasmuch as they initially believed that Christina wanted to reclaim the estate, to which she is technically the rightful heir. She had to reassure them again and again that she had no such intention. Then they inquired whether she had any letters or mementoes for the museum. Alas Christina had donated various pertinent papers to France via the French embassy in Kiev).
During their love affair, when she was a widow, Hanska got pregnant, but lost the child (it was bom prematurely). She never got pregnant again. Her four children by Hanski died, sparing only one daughter Anna, whom she took with her when she moved permanently to Paris. Anna proved a disappointment. Free- spirited and spoiled, she got pregnant (possibly out of wedlock) while being married to her indifferent and perhaps asexual husband and gave birth to Rosalia (the date of her birth is not sure, 1861?). The baby was bom long after Anna’s arranged marriage to a Polish count, George Mniszech, in 1846. The twenty-two year old count was hand picked for seventeen year old Anna by Evelina Hanska herself. Hanska was worried that Anna, being spoiled and free with money, would drain her mother’s financial resources and was desperate to find her daughter a good match. The count had a title and a large estate in Brody, Ukraine. We do not know for sure if Anna’s baby was his or someone else’s. But judging from the swift actions of the family and the dispatch of the baby to Ukraine right after its birth, Hanska perhaps was desperate to avoid the scandal and preserve the family’s reputation (such measures would have been unnecessary if the child was legal and from a lawful father). On the other hand the family was quite dysfunctional and perhaps thought to be not suited for parenthood. Count Mniszech himself went mad before he died (interestingly some of Rosalia’s grandchildren proved schizopherenics, a trait perhaps inherited from Mniszech). Rosalia was raised first in Paris and then in Berdychev, Ukraine, not far from Hanska’s estate of Wierzchownia.After Balzac’s death Evelina Hanska inherited his house on Rue Fortunee in Paris, where she lived until her death with her daughter Anna and her husband count Mniczech. After the death of Anna’s husband Count G. Mniszech and her mother Evelina Hanska in Paris in 1882, Anna retired into a convent on the Rue de Vaugirard, Paris. Her daughter Rosalia came with a cousin and visited her mother, Ann Hanska-Mniczech in a convent in 1885 to ask for her blessing before the marriage. Anna died in 1919 while in the convent, never again being able to see her only daughter Rosalia. Before her death, Anna desperate for money, sold the property in Wierzchownia to Adam Rzewuski (the last lawful owner of Wierzchownia). The Soviets confiscated the property and the palace was transformed into an agricultural school. What save it (along with the mausoleum containing the remains of six generations of Hanski) from complete destruction was its connection to Balzac. Today it houses a museum.
Countess Evelina Hanska’s grand-daughter, Rosalia Hanska, went on to marry Ignacyi Naralski and settled in Berdychev. Her younger daughter was Maria Magdalena Naralska-Hanska, the mother to Halen Pilkevich and Метаданныеthe grandmother to Christina Kushch-Katrakis.
Adam Lavrenti Rzewuski (1760-1825) (from princely families of Rzewuski, Potocki, Bronizcki and Wiesnewiezcki)
Henrik Rzewuski Adam Rzewuski Carolina Rzewuska Aline Rzewuska (and others)
Evelina Rzeewuska-Hanska (1800-1882)
(1778-1841) Count Wenceslaw Hanski Honore de Balzac (1799-1850)
Countess Anna Hanska-Mniszech (1828-1915)
Count George Mniszech (1823-1881)
Rosalia Hanska (1861?- 1930)-executed
Ignaci Naralski (1859-1930)-executed Maria Magdalena Naralska-Hanska (1901-1999)
Helen Pilkevych (born 1939)
Christina Kushch-Katrakis (born 1980)
Points of Interest
Given its wealth and influence, the Hanski were surrounded by the intellectual and social creme-de-la-creme of their epoch. Among their friends and acquaintances were Victor Hugo, Alexander Pushkin, Feodor Dostoyesky, Adam Mizckiewicz, Heinrich Heine, Astolphe de Custine, George Sand, Berlioz, Liszt, Chopin and Hans Christian Andersen. Evelina Haska’s daughter, Anna, was even taught piano by the great Chopin. The family possessed one of the greatest art collections of its time, with paintings by Holbein, Porbus, Van Dyck, Rembrandt, Guercino, Greuze, Watteau,, and Cannaletto. A number of famous personalities came from the family itself, among such is Evelina’s brother Henrik, a famous Polish writer and Jan Potocki, a famous pioneer Egyptologist and author of nunerous of books on Egyptian art and history. Some members of the family intermarried with famous noble and princely families of Europe, among such is the family of Greek Prince Mazaraki (old Byzantine princely family), from whose line Christina Kushch-Katrakis inherited properties in Licciana Nardi, Italy, to be transformed into an art school). The Hanska-Balzac relationship is the subject of a 1999 feature film, Balzac (with Gerard Depardieu playing Balzac and Fanny Ardent cast as Hanska). Ironically, Balzac had an affair with Princess Bagration (the great-grandmother of Simon) before falling in love with Evelina Hanska. When Balzac wrote to Hanska about this affair and that it Princess Bagration was the heroine of his novel La Peau de Char gin , Hanska-a very jealous woman-was incensed.
Maria Magdalena Naralska-Hanska, prior to the her death in 1990, bypassed all of her three daughters with Simon Pilkevych and formally bestowed the rights to all titles and property exclusively to her grand-daughter Christina Kushch-Katrakis.