Although I have a fine ancient-Roman-sounding name, our family name has only been Marcus for a little over 100 years.
It used to start with “Dzm” and end with “ski” and we originated not in Rome but nearly 1,000 miles northeast in Sopotskin. Or Sopotkin, Sopochkinye, Sopokotzky, Sopockinski, Sopochani, or any of many variations of the name.
Its location changed a lot, although the town didn’t physically move. Since 1991, it’s been in Belarus, near the borders with Poland and Lithuania. When my paternal grandfather’s family left town, Sopotskin was in Poland.
It’s also been in Lithuania, the Belarusian People’s Republic, White Russia, the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic, the Lithuanian-Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic, and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. It depended on who had the most powerful army or who made the map.
When Grandpa Walter was in grade school, in Poland, there was a picture of Russian Czar Nicholas II on the wall. Walter’s father Isaac was in the leather business, supplying the Czar through Christian intermediaries because the Czar would not do business with Jews.
Sopotskin was becoming a lousy place for Jews to live, so Isaac moved the family to the U.S. in 1906 and chose our fine American-Roman name.
The Czar had a Russian-Roman name: Romanov. Nicholas Romanov abdicated in 1917 at the start of the Bolshevik (Communist) Revolution and was shot in 1918. The killing was ordered by Vladimir Lenin and Yakov Sverdlov. Yak was Jewish. Vlad had a Jewish grandfather. Russian anti-Semites play down the Jewish origins of Communism.
American anti-Semites play it up. Anti-Semites also complain about Jewish capitalists. Our tribe gets blamed for everything. Except for Jesus. It seems very strange that so many anti-Semites think God had a Jewish son, and pray to him. No Christian anti-Semite calls Jesus a “kike.”
Romanov was a busy guy. He hurt lots of Jews and non-Jews and his nickname was Bloody Nicholas. His official titles were Emperor and Autocrat of All the Russias, King of Poland, and Grand Duke of Finland. Bloody Nick is now the Russian Orthodox “Saint Nicholas the Passion Bearer.”