Lev Pio-Ulski ~ 1905-1994

Lev (pronounced Lyov) was the eldest child of Wladyslaw and Maria Pio-Ulski. In Polish his name would be spelled Lew (but pronounced Lev), but I shall use the Russian spelling and diminutive of his name here.

He was born on October 25, 1905, in Mogliev, so am not sure where exactly, and at the time of the Revolution he was enrolled in a cadet school in Vladivostok, where his father was stationed.

However in 2017 I found out that the uniform that Lyova wore in the photo below was for the Vladivostok Gymnasium, and I was sent a scan of his name in their list of students …

1915 – taken in Vladivostok

Translation of the back of the photo:

“To loving Lyova from Mama. 9 February 1915. Look and don’t forget”

[Kindly translated by Inna Donaldson]

I don’t know what Baba Manya was referring to when she said “Look and don’t forget”.  Perhaps they knew their time in Russia was limited so she was urging him to remember things around him.  Who knows.

I didn’t have much information about him initially but since starting this, that has changed. George remembers that Lev left Vladivostok in 1923 and went to Harbin, where he got a job with the Chinese Eastern Railway (CER). I have no idea what he was doing when he was working for the railway company.

When his mother finally got a visa allowing her and the two younger children (Valia and George) to leave Russia, they went to Harbin and stayed with Leva (pronounced Lyova – the diminutive form of his name).

PhotoLEV1I never heard my parents talking about Lev when I was growing up so assumed he got swallowed up in China. However I was astounded to get a message from Irina Maier – who had somehow come across this site – despite the fact that I’d specifically ticked the box that no search engine should find it – who said that Lev Pio-Ulski was her grandfather!

Was that serendipity or was that serendipity?!!

Am still wondering how on earth that happened and reckon there was some help from ‘somebody up there’!  LOL!  😀

Then I heard about a book which was being written about the Russians and other nationalities in China during the 1930s. The author, Kirill Chashchin, was looking for backers so I decided to throw some money into the pot as I felt it would be extremely interesting to read.

Having done that, I contacted Kirill and asked if he’d like some of George’s documents which I obviously had from his time in China. He said he would, so I sent a couple of scan and the following day, I got a few scans back from him. All about Lyova and his 2nd wife, Nadezhda!

I confess I was disappointed that there wasn’t anything about George or Lila, or either of their parents who were in China, but maybe that will turn up in his book  🙂

This is the story of what happened to Leva after Harbin, mostly from Irina’s mother but with a little bit of information from Lindy and then from documents which the RusGenProject very kindly sent me.

This is what my father wrote when I asked him to put down his history ….

«Leva’s whereabouts are unknown since the end of the war.»

And from Lindy, «Lev was gorgeous, blond and handsome.»

In 1924 the Soviets and Chinese came to an agreement which said that all Russians working for CER had to have Soviet citizenship, so I would imagine that Lev left the company and looked for other things to do.


Lyova (Click to enlarge)

Lindy said that he was ‘riding shotgun’ on trampers up and down the China coast. Well that doesn’t surprise me – what else did the poor guy have to offer employers? He had to leave his cadet school when he was about 15 to find a job and while his education would have been good, he was taught how to be a soldier so I assume he would have had to do something which had to do with security. I found out that he did that in 1939, working as an Anti-Piracy Guard with Jardine Matheson.

The SMP report on Lev, sent to me by the RusGenProject

The SMP report on Lev, sent to me by the RusGenProject

Here is what I’ve been able to piece together, thanks to Kirill’s scans …

Irina said that Lev lived in Harbin, Peking and Shanghai, but she couldn’t supply any dates of when he was there, or if he ever spent time with George and their mother, or if he was there just with his wife and family.  Now we know he was in Tsingtao before 1929 and was in Shanghai for 10 years from that date.


Click to enlarge

My father knew that Leva had met and married a girl and that she wanted to go back to Russia, so he obliged. He thought that his brother was shot on return. as they didn’t hear any more about him after that time but that was not the case!

Lev had been married twice. He married his first wife some time in the late 1920s or early 1930s and she died of cancer in 1941. They had one daughter called Galya, who was born in Shanghai in 1925.

A document for Nadezhda and, I assume, Galya CLICK TO ENLARGE

A document showing Nadezhda and, I assume, Galya (Click to enlarge)

Galya stayed with Lev and lived with him when he met and married his 2nd wife, Nadezhda. This marriage produced a son, Anatoly, and when both children were old enough, they said goodbye to China and emigrated to Czechoslovakia.

Irina said that her mother didn’t know what happened to both of them and whether they ended up in the Czech Republic or Slovakia when the country divided into two on January 1, 1993.

Lev and Nadezhda stayed in China until 1954, when they picked up sticks and returned to Russia. I confess can’t imagine why they wanted to stay in China when Mao took the country over, nor why they would want to go back to the USSR but there you have it.

From what my mother told Lindy, Leva was a gorgeous person but unfortunately he was a weak man so he would have been easily led by a woman with a strong will.

Soviet propaganda poster for collective farmers

Soviet propaganda poster for collective farmers (Click to enlarge)

They went to live in Khazakstan, which I presume was Nadezhda’s original birthplace, and ended up on a Soviet state farm, a «sovkhoz» called Yamischev/Jamyschewo (Ямищево), which was near the city of Pavlodar (Павлодар).

There was quite a mixture of nationalities in Pavlodar; while the majority of people were Russian and Kazahks, there were large groups of Ukrainians, Tartars and Germans living there too.

While working and living at Yamischev, Lev and Nadezhda became good friends with Olga Ivanovna Mashewsky (Mashevsky), a German lady who was also working there.

In the late 1960s Nadezhda got cancer and she died of the disease early in 1969. Some time afterwards, Lev moved in with Olga and her daughter.

At some stage they left Yamischev and went to live in Pavlodar, cramped into a one room apartment. Leva got a job as an usher and he continued to ‘usher’ until he retired.

A map of Kazahkstan

A map of Kazahkstan (Click to enlarge)

Olga kept applying for a visa to leave the USSR and return to Germany but all the applications she made were turned down.

Olga’s daughter got married and started her own family so Leva became a grandfather to her children. Irina said that Lev was a wonderful grandfather – she said he was kind, loving and very patient with the little kids. Being well read, he was able to teach a lot of interesting things and broaden the youngsters’ education.

Olga died in 1984, aged 73, and so Leva moved in with Irina’s family. Her mother also made regular applications to get a visa for the family to leave the USSR and return to Germany but to no avail 🙁

In 1987 the family, including Lev, moved from Pavlodar to Dnepropetrovsk (Днепропетро́вск), Ukraine’s fourth largest city. According to Wikipedia, «Dnipropetrovsk was one of the key centres of the nuclear, arms, and space industries of the Soviet Union.»  From 1944-1987 Dnepropetrovsk was a “closed city” as many of the factories were converted into ballistic missile factories.

All this time Irina’s mother was still applying for a visa to get her family out to Germany and to their joy, the family was granted an exit visa to go to Germany in 1993.  Unfortunately at the time Leva had become very ill and had to be transferred to a nursing home.

In January 1994 Lev died of heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease 🙁

However, how amazing are these parellels … Leva was born in October 1905, George was born in October 1910.  Leva died in January 1994 and George died in March 1994.

Lev Pio-Ulski 1905 - 1994

Lev Pio-Ulski
1905 – 1994 Click to enlarge



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Lev Pio-Ulski

Some photos of Lev and the places he lived in during his lifetime

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