George Pio-Ulski-Parks ~ 1910-1994

This is George Pio-Ulski-Parks’ story, as written by him …

I was born George Wladyslaw Pio-Ulski in Vladivostok (George got confused – he was born in Odessa and then the family moved to Vladivostok, where he was christened in February 1911) on October 20, 1910, and was christened in the Russian Orthodox church.

My elder brother, Lev (pronounced Lyov) and sister, Valia, were christened Catholics.

Click to enlarge

Leva’s (pronounced Lyova – it’s the diminutive form of his name) whereabouts are unknown since the end of the war. Valia lived in Berlin, Germany, and has a daughter called Helga.

My father was a Pole but as Poland was, at that period of time, under Russian rule, all Poles were considered Russian subjects.

My grandfather, Wladyslaw Egor Pio-Ulski, held the rank of «Nadvoronogo Sovetnika» (which was Imperial Court Councillor). According to Balia, this was the seventh step rank from the top.

My grandmother’s maiden name was Sabina Bronislawa Biestrzykowska.

Mogilev in the early 20th century

Mogilev in the early 20th century (Click to enlarge)

The Pio-Ulskis had their own house in Mogilev, on Dneprovsky Avenue.

My mother, Maria Vasilevna (nee Makeeva) was born in Odessa. (In fact, my father was wrong with where his mother was born – according to the information she supplied to the HK Government, she was born in Sevastopol.)

She had a brother and a sister.

My grandfather’s descendants were granted, by Imperial Decree, the title of «Potomstvenyi dvorianin» (a hereditary title of ‘esquire’).

My father, Wladyslaw Wladyslaw Pio-Ulski, was a lieutenant commander (engineer) in the Russian Imperial Navy and, as by the time I was born all children of the members of the Russian military forces had to be of Orthodox faith, I was christened in a Russian church. However, as my mother was Russian Orthodox, we three were brought up as Orthodox, although at one time my mother had to face a college panel when the school’s Catholic priest complained to the administration that my brother was attending an Orthodox church instead of a Catholic one.

Taken in 1915 (Click to enlarge)

In Vladivostok we lived in the Naval Officers’ quarters. I cannot remember my father well. After the outbreak of World War I, he was transferred to the west and later was listed as missing in action. Mother was receiving a pension. Leva enrolled in the Officers’ Cadet Corps. Valia and I were attending our respective schools.

During the Revolution years (1917-22), Vladivostok was subject to foreign intervention and there were short-lived foreign administrations: Japanese, Czechs, American and some White Russian generals and local Reds.

Eventually, I think about 1922, the Bolsheviks came to stay for good. My brother had to escape across the border to China, mother had to destroy all the documents referring to our father as an officer, which at that time implied «the enemy of the people». There was a reign of terror when the Reds came – people were taken away from their homes on any flimsy pretext and usually shot in basements.

Mother had to let a room in our apartment and our tenant turned out to be a KGB (at that time called GPU) man. He used to bring mother to tears while brazenly telling us how he shot some people in a basement the previous night. But his tenancy gave us some protection and he was friendly with me (George would have been 11-12 years old at the time).
For years I had assumed that the above photo was of my father and Victor Petrovich, who was in a  uniform for the Chinese Easter Railway but just recently (October 2017), a member of my FB group, Elena Novikova, very kindly told me to contact Alexey Borisovich Stepanov, Deputy Editor-in-Chief of “Старый Цейхгауз“.

What he told me blew my socks off – literally!!  The man in the photo was NOT Victor Petrovich because Alexey very kindly told me all about his uniform …

The photo is of the police (militia) uniform of the Far Eastern Republic. A stripe on his sleeve with the so-called “Nelson loop” means his position – the police (militia) chief.  Since the photo was taken in Vladivostok, it can be assumed that he was the police chief of this city. The photo was taken after the establishment of the Soviet power (he wears a red star on the headgear), but I believe that it was not 1923, but the end of 1922.

Because of that, I think the man in the photo was the GPU guy that my father wrote about !  EEEEEK!!  😮

The Bolsheviks threw everything out of gear: the schools were reorganised, good and bad ones mixed and became co-ed. We had to learn political “grammar”, attend demonstrations and so on, and it was I who said to my mother that I am wasting my time at school and she agreed that I should quit and concentrate on my music studies, which were conducted on established lines in the Conservatorium without interference from the authorities.

In the meantime, Leva got a job in China and mother started applying for an exit visa, which was not easy. As all our documents were destroyed, our friends had to swear to the officials that «these children (Valia and me) are the children of this woman, my mother». I believe we were the very last people to get an exit visa. We left Vladivostok in 1924, probably in May.

Leva and mother’s defacto husband, Victor Petrovich, had a job on the Chinese Eastern Railway where we lived for a while, then Victor Petrovich and I went to Harbin. Through friends I was introduced to professional musicians and that was the beginning of my musical career.

When I got a bit established, I got a flat and brought mother and Valia to Harbin. In Harbin I met Valia’s future husband, Werner Krey, who was in the engineering business. He also helped me to carry on with my music studies.

Then I had an offer to go to Mukden to work with an orchestra in a nightclub. After a year there, I was offered a job in Peking, where I arrived in 1926.


1926 Peking – George with a musician friend (Click to enlarge)

After two years I went back to Harbin, had a nice time there (8 months) while working. Had another offer from Peking, took mother and Victor Petrovich with me and stayed in Peking nearly four years – 1929-1933.

Had a comfortable life but felt it was a dead end for a young man. Valia was married to Krey by then and they lived in Tientsin. So I left mother and Victor Petrovich in Tientsin and went to Shanghai.

After a short indifferent spell, I joined an American band and become known as George of St George’s. Used to broadcast my piano solo from the Ballroom every lunch time. I was doing very well but then a new place opened and they engaged a Hungarian gypsy orchestra from Budapest. The gypsies did not have a pianist to play both classical and dance music and they invited me. I was treated very well by Jimmy James, the owner of St George’s, and felt very bad about leaving him, but the attraction of learning Hungarian gypsy music was very strong. It was at St George’s that I noticed a girl called Lila.

In 1937 the Japanese started trouble in Shanghai so I went to Hong Kong to take charge of the classical orchestra in the Hongkong & Shanghai Hotels. Lila joined me in 1938.

The Japanese attacked Hong Kong in December 1941 and during hostilities, we found refuge in an Italian convent.

After the war I had my band in the Gloucester Hotel but wanted to change my profession and was looking for openings. In 1947 I joined Hong Kong Tramways.

1949 – Tramways staff (Click to enlarge)

Before the war I got mother and Victor Petrovich to come to Hong Kong, and later we got Balia and Jenny to Hong Kong. My mother died in 1945 from Beri-Beri, Victor Petrovich died shortly after the war from old age.

While a child, then as a young man, I learned to hate the name of «Pio-Ulski». Nobody could ever pronounce it properly, neither Russians nor, naturally, Anglo-Saxons, so in 1947 I changed my name by Deed Poll to George «Parks».

Perth, Western Australia, September 30, 1990



Deda George’s great-great grandfather was Alexander Pioulski, who was a noble landowner. His great grandfather was Jerzy, who was a judge and landowner and his grandfather was Wladyslaw Grzegorz (who was a mathematics teacher and secondary school inspector). He married Sabina Bronislawa Biestrzykowska, who came from a noble family in western Poland. He managed to “reclaim” noble status for his family in 1893.
(The above information was sent to me by my nephew when he was researching information about my father’s family back in the late 1990s/early 2000s)



George was born in Odessa in 1910 and he was christened at the the Church of Alexander Nevsky in Vladivostok a few months later.

This church was on the base of the Siberian Naval Depot, situated on Ekipazhnaja Slobodka.

My friend Inna found some information about the street on a Russian Wiki site …

«Ekipazhanaja Slobodka suburb was located between the Maltsev and Gaydamakski gullies. Since 1870 the sailors of the Siberian Naval Depot lived there – hence the name (Ekipazh means Crew). The main street of the suburb was also named Ekipazhnaja. The other streets in the area have immortalized the names of the ships: Abrekskaya, Tunguska, Mandzhurskaya, Japanese. For a long time it was the most remote area of Vladivostok.»

And I found an article in a newspaper called «Приморская газета» which talked about that area in Old Vladivostok.





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