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Volkovysk District
Grodno Oblast/Guberniya, Belarus  
(formerly Lithuania, Russian Empire, and Poland)

main towns of


5307 2415,

Isabelin 5306 2433,
Lafinizte [?Lopenitsa Mala 5302 2430?]
Lyskovo 5251 2437
Mstibovo/Mosty/Masty 5325 2432
Novi Dwor 5250 2421
Piesk- 5321 2438,
Prozovo 5256 2422
Rash/ROS' 5317 2424
Svisloch/Svislac 5302 2406
Wolpa/Waupa 5322 2422
Volkovsyk/Vaukovysk/Wolkowysk 5310 2428
5301 2354
Zelwa/Zelbian 5309 2449

(Some of these shtetls later were part of Slonim uezd.)


Grodno Oblast Chamber of Commerce General Information for Volkovysk

Address: ul. Sovetskaya, 23 230023, Grodno

Telephone: +375 152 44-90-70, fax: +375 17 210-81-06 E-mail:

         Volkovysk branch ul. Dzerzhinskogo 3, 231900, Volkovysk. Telephone/FAX: +375 1512 2-39-06

         Slonim branch ul. Krasnoarmeyskaya 17a, 231800, Slonim. Telephone/FAX: +375 1562 2-14-91


General and Jewish History of Vaukavysk

Today, Vaukavysk is the center of the Vaukavysk district, Hrodna region in western Belarus, 98 kilometers southeast of Hrodna and 136.9 miles west southwest of Minsk, situated on the Ros' River and at the junction of several railway lines (to Baranavicy, Masty, Bierastavica and Svislac.) 1995 Population: 43,600.

Volkovysk first was mentioned as a fortress in the Turovsky manuscript in 1005. One legend contends that many centuries ago, Volkovysk was an old forest of impassable bogs, made dangerous by two robbers, Volek and Vysek. Prince Zabeyko killed these robbers and engraved a big stone on the site of the robbers' grave. Supposedly, the name of the region came from this stone: Volekovysek, then Volkovysk. Another legend relates a tale about "volkolaks", a man who sold his heart to the Devil, who turned him into a wolf. "Vokl' means 'wolf' in English. "Vysk" or "voy" is modern Russian for 'howl.' Whatever the name's origin, this riverfront city began as a fortress. Invaders destroyed Volkovysk many times, especially during the World War II. 

Volkovysk existed in the eleventh century, defending the western borders of the Principality of Kiev. In the second half of the twelfth century, the Princes of Wolhyn and Lithuania fought over Volkovysk. By the mid-thirteenth century, Volkovysk belonged to Lithuania and Sweden and then to a united Poland and Lithuania in 1569. This governance continued until 1795 when Russia annexed Volkovysk district. In 1920, Volkovysk returned to Polish sovereignty. In 1939, Russia again annexed the area.

The 1958 population was approximately 16,000 people, involved in agriculture, cattle, and forestry. With a land area of 207,600-sq. km. and a population of 10 million in 1947, Volkovysk lies in an area referred to as "Black Russia," including at least, the provinces of Novogrodok, Slonim, and Volkovysk. The Bug-Naro, Neiman and Bober rivers cross the district replete with a number of lakes. A document from 1177 mentions Jews in Volkovysk region but their presence is confirmed in a 1577 document. [See Piesk]

Evidence of Jewish presence in Volkovysk in the sixteenth century is the Four Country Committee Register entry of June 23, 1533. In this, King Zygmund I requested all authorities in the Principality of Lithuania to assist the commercial agent of the Queen, a Jew by the name of Ben-Matityahu, who was involved in some dispute. In RegesteI Zapinski is a 1577 decree to levy twelve groschen from every Jew for war preparations. Then, the Four-Country Committee Register records a 1680-1693 tax levied on every Jew to be transferred to the Lithuanian "Knaz." The same source verifies the presence of 4,781 Jews in Volkovysk district in 1766. In 1847, 5,946 Jews lived in Volkovysk district in the towns of Amstivba, Isabelin 5306 2433, Lafinizte [?Lopenitsa Mala 5302 2430?], Lyskovo 5251 2437, Novi Dwor [see Lida uezd at], Piesk- 5321 2438, Prozovo- 5256 2422, Rash (ROS' 5317 2424), Svisloch/Svislac (5302 2406) , Volkovsyk/Vaukovysk 5310 2428, Yalovka, and Zelwa (Zelbian 5309 2449). Some of these shtetls later were part of Lida uezd.

Rebuilt in the post-war years, this industrial city has a population of about 55,000 in 1999. Besides manufacturing, the city has a bakery, a slaughterhouse, and a dairy. The children study in seven secondary schools, an auxiliary school, two sports schools, an agricultural college, and a pedagogic college. "Swedish Mountains" and "Muravelnic," site of the stone legend, are of archeological interest.

Volkovsyky Uezd Population by Religion in 1887







































 Volkovysky Uezd, Grodno guberniya annual fair dates in 1887

Volkovsyk: 29 Jun

Zelwa: from 25 Jun until 25 Jul

Porozov: 9 May, 13 Jun, 15 Aug, 8 Sep, 1 Nov, 6 Dec

Svisloch: 4 Mar, 20 May, 23 and 24 Aug

Yalovka: 7 Jan, 13 Jun, 15 Sep

Mstibov: 23 Apr, 24 Jun, 26 Nov

Ross: 1 Apr, 23 Apr


Volkovysk town and Volkovysk uezd Livestock in 1884:

Horses: 380/15321

Cattle: 820/46012

Sheep, simple: 325/44385

Sheep with thin fleece: 0/11931

Pigs: 682/40119

Goats: 250/283

Donkeys/mules: 0/0

Total livestock in Volkovysk: 2457

Total livestock in Volkovsyk uezd: 174,008


Buildings in Volkovysk in 1887: stone/wood

Habitations 96;

-Public: 3

-Social: 2/1

-Private: 30/739

Church/monastery: 4

Private shop: /1

Private store: 252/80

Total: 287/825


Volkovysk Uezd Towns* 

Biskunicy, Boyarskaya, Derkachi, Dobrovol, Dombrovolskaya, Gornostaevichi/Gornostaevichskaya, Holstov, Izabelin/Izabelinskaya, Kolonnyi, Kremyanickaya, Levkovo, Luplyanka, Lyskovo/Lyskovskaya, Mal-Lopenica, Mezhirechskaya, Mogilevtsy, Mstibov/Mstivobo/Mstibovskaya, Narevka/ Novodvory/Nowy Dwor*, Orancy, Penyugovskaya, Peski/ Peskovskaya/Piesk, Podbolote, Podorsk/Podorskaya, Porozov/o/ Porozovskaya, Ross/Rosskaya, Samarevicheskaya, Shidlovichi/Shidlovichskaya, Shimkovskaya, Slavatichi, Sventica, Svisloch/Svislochskaya, Tarpolskaya, Tolochmanskaya, Vereiki/Vereikovskaya, Vichukovskaya, Volkovsyk, Yalovka, Yushovskaya, Zelzin/Zelzinskaya, Zelwa/Zelvyanskaya 



5307 2428


5310 2432


5316 2427


5306 2436


5313 2419


5307 2421


5306 2433


5312 2424


5310 2420


5307 2426


5312 2426


5314 2428


5309 2418


5308 2438


5311 2426


5316 2426


5304 2425


5313 2436


5310 2421


5314 2420


5310 2436


5313 2426


Volkovsyk Research Sources:

         Kagan and Levin (Yiddish and Hebrew Encyclopedias of Lithuania) 2611, 3949, 3228.

         yizkor: Volkavisker Yizkor Buch, 1949.

         EJ articles

         1887: Hamelitz correspondent was Menela Tamarin; 1889-at least 1894 rabbi: Yosef Eliasberg; birthplace of Samuel Hyman Borofsky (1865-?), Boston City Councilman, US congressman, Spanish-American War captain, and composer of "God Save America."

         see Piechotka, Maria and Kazimierz. Wooden Synagogues, 1959.

         Sachenka B. I [editor], Encyclopedia of the History of Belarus. 1996, Volume 3, p.455.

         Ksiega Adresowa Handlowa, Warszawa Bydgoszcz 1929

         yizkor: Piesk V' Most, 1975.

         Sachenka B. I [editor], Encyclopedia of the History of Belarus. 1996, Volume 3, p.455.

         Universal Jewish Encyclopedia inc., New York, 1946.


         1858 population - 115 males and 178 females (+ 1 merchant family of the 3rd Guild.)

         Archival source: Record Group "The Grodno Treasury", #366 "Alphabetical tax book of Jewish communities with an indication of the number of souls for the year 1858".

         Izabelin also was in Raichanskaya volost, Novogrudok uezd

         1836 rabbi: Yitzak Elkhanan Spektor (1817-1896) but he later went to Kovbo.
1868 rabbi: Yakov David Wilovski (1845-1914) called "Ridbaz".

Piesk (Piaski, Peski)

The district's main town, Piesk, lies on the Ros River (left-bank tributary of the Neiman), about ninety kilometers east of Bialystok, on the railway line to Minsk. Today, the area is part of Grodno Oblast. The capital lies eighty kilometers from the township of Piesk.

A 1577 document confirmed Jews in Volkovysk uezd although Piesk community, the district capital, may have existed in the eleventh century. Piesk's greatest apparent development occurred in the thirteenth or fourteenth centuries, when Grodno is first mentioned as the district capital. At this time, the Lithuanian and Polish Principality began populating all of Grodno guberniya. Various settlements established to the north and west of Volkovysk to the Neiman River were important to these rulers. Piesk lies on the crossroads between Volkovysk and Masty with thirty kilometers between Volkovysk and the Neiman River at Mosti.

         Jewish population: 1847-662; 1897-1,615 (67%); 1921-1,249. [Source: Kugelmass, Jack and Boyarin, Jonathan. From a Ruined Garden, p. 271, see 71]

         see Piechotka, Maria and Kazimierz. Wooden Synagogues, 1959.

         1912 rabbi: Zvi Hirsh Kviat (1870-?)

         yizkor: Piesk V Most, 1975 and Ayarah al chol, 1968 by Rachel Shtilerman.

         1983 Bereza yizkor translation lists: "Tzirulnik Mendl and wife and daughter (all the Tzirulniks are from the village of Piesk) Shasay close to bridge #2 3 Grocery"

         Interested in Piesk: Ellen SADOVE Renck at



Wolpa (Belarussian: Woupa)

Wolpa is a village and selsovet center in Volkovysk (Vaukavysk) region, located on the Waupianka River, twenty-five kilometers from Vaukavysk and seventy-two kilometers from Grodno. The 1990 Wolpa population was 1,544 inhabitants.

In the first half of fifteenth century, Grand Lithuanian Duke Kazimir IV owned Wolpa. In 1449, he presented it to the Lithuanian chancellor and Vilna provincial head, A. Galshanski. At the end of fifteenth to the beginning of sixteenth centuries, Wolpa was a "miastechka" (shtetl) in Grodno powiat. Fifty years later, Grand Lithuanian Dukes Sigizmund and Sigizmund August owned Wolpa.

The first evidence of Jews in Wolpa is in the seventeenth century, connected with the famous Belarussian Sapeha family. In 1624, Lithuanian chancellor Leu Sapeha bought this town for his son, Kazimir. The Sapeha family fostered Wolpa's prosperity by inviting Jews to populate their possession. By 1766, the Wolpa Jewish community numbered 641. In 1643, Lithuanian duke and Polish king Vladislav IV visited Wolpa. In 1775, the town had about twenty-one houses. In 1795, the Russian Empire assumed control of the region. In 1831, Sapeha family, strong supporters of the 1830-31 Polish, Lithuanian and Belarussian insurrection against Russia, lost Wolpa. In 1847, Wolpa Jewish community had 709 members.

By 1897, Wolpa had 1,976 inhabitants, among them 1,151 Jews. At that time, the shtetl had two orthodox churches, a Catholic Church, a synagogue, two prayer houses, a brewery, about twenty-five shops, and five annual fairs per year in which Wolpa's Jewry took an active part. Apart from trade, the main Jewish occupation was handicrafts, particularly tailoring and shoe-making.

During World War I, German troops occupied Wolpa. Following the February and Bolshevik Revolutions, the Polish army occupied Wolpa from 1919-1920. According to the March 1921 Riga treaty, Wolpa became part of Vaukavysk powiat, Bialystok voevodstvo in Poland. On the 17 September 1939, the Soviet Army invaded Poland. Wolpa become a part of Belarussian Soviet Socialist Republic on 12 October 1940, as a selsovet center of Vaukavysk region. On the 22 June 1941, Nazi Germany invaded Soviet Union, occupying Wolpa several days later. Jewish community was destroyed.

Among the Treblinka deportations (see are the following for towns in Volkovysk region where, from this camp, two thousand were sent to Auschwitz and the rest to Treblinka from November 10 to December 15, a total of 16,300:

C.C. Jalowka-850



         Fond 2 Opis 3 Dyelo 1836 pages 169 Kahal Electors Men of property

         Fond 24 Opis 7 Dyelo 94 pages 534ds--535 1858 Ordinary Reg. Book for J. Petty Bourgeoisie Men & women; ages 1850, 1858

         24 Fond 7 Dyelo 94 pages 544ds--545 1858 Ordinary Reg. Book for J. Petty Bourgeoisie Men & women; ages 1850, 1858

         Fond 24 Opis 7 Dyelo 94 pages 47ds--48 1858 Ordinary Reg. Book for J. Petty Bourgeoisie Men & women; ages 1850, 1858

Zelwa: Zelwa (Zelwa, Bolshoye Selo/Velkaves/Malaya Zelwa)

1992 population: 8,300. Zelwa, a small town and center of Zelwa district, is situated on the left bank of the river Zelvyanka about 129 kilometers from Grodno on the Volkovysk-Slonim road. The town is first mentioned in the Chronicles of 1470 when Michail Nachovich established a Catholic Church in Big Zelwa. In 1477, a Catholic Church was established on the estate "Small Zelwa" that belonged to Ivan Geneitavich. In the sixteenth century, the Grand Duke of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania presented Small Zelwa to the governor of Zhaimoityi, Stanislav Yanovich Kezhgail. In the beginning of sixteenth century, the hospital belonging to the church of Big Zelwa was established. In the first half of the sixteenth century, Zelwa belonged to Ivan Vishnevski, Yuri Illinich, Ivan Zaberezinski, and Mihail Zenovjevich. In 1524, according to documents, Big Zelwa was a mestechko [town] of Volkovysk powiat.  In 1536 and in 1565, it was owned privately. In 1550-1560, Malaya Zelwa belonged to Stanislav Komarovski and Bolshaya Zelwa belonged to Yan Glebovich. In 1568, Yuri Illinich presented Bolshaya Zelwa to Mihail Krishtaf Radziwil, who then presented it to Yazerski in 1581. The name "Zelwa" was adopted at this time.

In the first half of the seventeenth century, Zelwa belonged to the Sapeha family. In 1616, the mestechko consisted of a market, three streets (Dvornaya Street, Myazheritskaya Street, and Volkovyskaya Street), seventeen taverns, and two mills. In 1643, Kazimir Sapeha met with a king of Rechpospolitaya [Poland], Vladislav IV at Zelwa. Beginning 1655, Zelwa belonged to Duke Polubenski. From 1685-1831, Zelwa belonged to Sapeha again. In 1690, Zelwa was the center of Volkovysk powiat with ninety houses.

The Jewish presence in Zelwa dates from the third quarter of seventeenth century when the Zelwa kahal (Jewish community) was subordinate to the Grodno kahal. On 20 May 1720, Polish king and Lithuanian Duke August II Duzhi ("the Strong") granted a license to the Sapeha family for a fair, beginning Zelwa's "Golden Age". This annual fair began on July 25 and lasted four weeks. A special place in the middle of the market (known as "gastsinny dvor") with a hotel and more than two hundred shops was built for the Fair. In 1720, Zelwa affirmed its right to hold fairs. In 1739, Piyary established a residence there. In the second half of the eighteenth century, the Zelwa fair, considered among the biggest in all of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, centered mainly on the sale of horses and cattle. 522 Jews lived in Zelwa and Zelwa region in 1766. In 1795, Zelwa was governed by the Russian Empire and was a volost center of Volkovysk powiat. In the end of eighteenth century, there were 147 houses.

In 1786, a popular Warsaw journal Dziennik Handlowy ("Trade Journal") wrote: "The Zelwa Fair is very popular. Since the second part of eighteenth century, here gather merchants (about 3,00 to 4,000 every year) from Belarus, the Baltic coast, Ukraine, Russia, Italy, Prussia, Denmark, Sweden, Poland and others." Zelwa fair was the second most important European fair after the Leipzig Fair. In 1764, Rech Pospolitaya (Polish Kingdom and Grand Duchy of Lithuania Union of 1569) prohibited the Lithuanian Vaad (Council of Lithuanians Rabbis) from meeting. After 1764, rabbis still met in Zelwa during the fair to resolve of major religious questions.

In 1781, Vilna rabbis proclaimed a "Kherem" against the Chasidim and authorized deputies to spread it over the Grand Duchy Jewish communities. In 1781, representatives of the main Jewish communities (Grodno, Brest, Pinsk and Slutsk) read the Kherem at Zelwa Fair Square on the first day of Elul (mid-August). In 1796, during the anti-Chasidic movement, the Vilna Gaon disciple, Israel Leibel, received great support. In 1795, the Russian Army occupied Zelwa, which became a volost center in Vaukavysk uezd, Grodno guberniya.

In 1809, Zelwa had 143 houses. In 1831, Sapeha rule of Zelwa ended as the state confiscated their property because, in 1830, an insurrection against Russian authorities for independence occurred which Sapeha joined. The rebels were defeated. Russian Tsar Nicholas I confiscated all the possessions of active rebels. The first part of nineteenth century was great time of Zelwa fair. In 1845, the merchants wanted to open a new fair in shtetl. The actors, musicians with new drama and opera performances were in Zelwa during the fair. In 1847, 848 Jews inhabited Zelwa. In 1863, there were 163 houses, 1315 people, a Catholic Church, an Orthodox Church, three synagogues, a mill, a school and a brewery. The famous Zelwa Fair existed until the end of nineteenth century. According to the 1897 Russian census, Zelwa had 1,844 Jews out of a total population of 2,803 or 2,879 inhabitants. This time Zelwa had a synagogue, Catholic Church, a mill, a brewery (Belarussian: brovar), a candle factory, a technical school, a hospital, one mill, a brewery, a honey factory, and a candle factory. In the beginning of the twentieth century, Malaya Zelwa united with Vialikaya Zelwa. In 1908-1913, sawmill existed.

In the twentieth century, Malaya Zelwa merged with Bolshaya Zelwa. During the World War I, Germany occupied Zelwa followed in 1919 and 1920 by the Polish Army. According to the 1921 Riga Treaty, Poland governed Zelwa as a gmina [town] center in Volkovysk powiat of Belostok voevodstvo. Belostok voevodstvo. On 17 September 1939, the Red Army invaded Poland, leaving Zelwa part of Belarussian Soviet Socialist Republic and Soviet Union.

On 22 June 1941, Nazi Germany invaded the USSR. On 1 July, they occupied Zelwa. On 12 July 1944, the Second Belarussian front of the Red Army liberated Zelwa during the Belostok operation. During W.W.II, the Nazis killed more than 6,049 including all the Jewish population of Zelwa and Zelwa region. According to German report N43 about Zelwa, from the 21st until 3 July, the Nazis killed Jewish intellectuals. The, in Zelwa region, the Nazis organized a ghetto in Derechin where, in April 1942, they killed about 150 Jews. From 23th-26th June, 1942, they killed 4,100 Jews. This is the probable fate of the Zelwa Jews. Occupying Nazis killed 6,049 people in Zelwa and its region. In July 12, 1944, the Red Army liberated Zelwa from Nazi control.

In 1962-1966, Zelwa belonged to Volkovysk district. In 1971, the population of 4,300 had a construction plant, a buttery, a public service factory, three secondary schools, a forestry school, a music school, a sports school, a youth center, a kindergarten, a House of Culture, a cinema, two libraries, and a Monument to the Heroes. Architectural landmarks include Troitskaya Church (19th century) and the Catholic Church of Lady Maria (early 20th century). 1.5 kilometers west is an archeological site: settlement "Goprodistche" and an ancient site to be excavated. A Belorussian poet, Geniush, lived there.

2002 Belarus SIG