Jean-Paul Albert Palewski wrote a family history in 1917, in French. The following is a rough translation of pertinent sections of the original writing. Thanks to his son, Stanislas Palewski, for providing a copy of this family history.
My family is not French of origin; on the father's side, my ancestors all lived in Russian Poland, vicinity of Vilno; on the mother's side, my family has its origins in Galicie, on Russian border, in southern Russia near Romania. Though on the father's side, I believe Polish natives converted to Judaism, I am Israelite.
However far memories and traditions can make me go back up on the father's side, my family was always in a center of considerable activity as much by the big number of the parents and alliances, as by the choice and the differentiation of their trade. It is probably in the government of Grodno, and particularly in the small cities of Antopol, Kobryn, that it is necessary to search the root of this influence. This whole region is populated with a large number of Israelites, of which some are Rabbis. Due to the laws of ban which influence the unhappy Jewish nation in Russia, the inhabitants of these governments live in a very closed circle, rejected on their sacred book, dedicating their free time to this study and often to live in the most unassuming trade.
My family belonged to these educated middle classes of the small cities, many of its members were Rabbis in the neighbouring localities of Kobryn, Antopol, Pinsk, etc; others were bourgeois dealers of wealth in general above average but sure and notified neighbourhood, an incomparable fairness, intuitive and emotional life remarkably developed in spite of the rudimentary civilization of the country. This family was enough to some members to know western civilization so that blooms at home a remarkable talent of philosopher, philologist and poet.
As in all Poland Israelite, my family was very pious; but of a clever devoutness making in time concessions which they demand, and withdrawing from their religious devoutness with love persevered of job, the legitimate contentment of the duty done, a bottomless instinct of charity and an often mystical devotion to the nicest forms of ideas.
"On our family," wrote in 1895 my aunt Frieda to my father, "I know only by rumour that it is an old and big family"; it is definitely in effect the most precise definition, and that honours, for me, most the name which I carry and to those who are directly connected with it; it is so unfortunately the only logical genealogy which it is possible to define to it.
So of dealers, Rabbis of cities, or middle-class person, always in emotional and unselfish, broad ideas, spread the tradition of the family, with the outside respectability of his representatives, their transparent real devoutness across all formalities of worship. My grandfather Peisack Abramovitch Palewski, was bourgeois of Kobryn, and honourably known in the small city, where he had the family home besides. It was a dealer (treasurer of a big Polish lord) in cultivated mind and in emotional shape; his main traits of characters show him as a soft, dreamy man, rather undecided, a bit poet, but weak-willed person of will. He had been born by 1840 and married, young still, a girl in opened intelligence, in cultivated knowledge, in inflexible labour, girl and grand-daughter, niece of distinguished minds between all, Rachel Notkowa (my grandfather and my grandmother spoke Polish, Russian, German, Hebrew). This union which seems to have been very happy, gave them six children, my aunts Frieda and Judith, my uncles Léon, Paul and Albert, finally dear father. These children were well brought up during their very youth in Kobryn, where knowledge which they acquired especially those of Hebrew and religious worship were the family of which respected all rituals scrupulously. My father whose mind was not very religious attended preferably secular or military shows and he still remembers paternal corrections, back in the home and having missed in preach.
My grandparents lived modestly; but a big misfortune suddenly came to plunge the family into pain; my grandfather died at 33 years old (by 1875), taken by a cancer in the mouth and poisoned by poor medicaments searched hastily by car at the chemist of the most neighbouring city in eight leagues from there, in Brest-Litowski. My deceased grandfather, my grandmother overcame her pain courageously and continued bringing up her children. To help her in this task, a maternal uncle, the doctor Michel Israël Rabbinowicz asked her to entrust him his nephews and nieces whose education he wanted to follow in Paris. My grandmother sacrificed herself in the interest of her children and entrusted all her children to the nobleman except for the youngest, the last being born, Paul. My grandmother did not remain widowed; her modest means, isolation where she was, religious tradition, made her to remarry to a Mt. Weitzmann, probably of Galician origin, and they resided in the immediate vicinity of Kobryn. On the death of this Mr. Weitzmann, my grandmother remarried a Mr. Lozovsky for the third time and they went to remain in Seletz, government of Grodno, region of Pronjany, where she saw even nowadays, keeping in the bottom of herself, as testify it her letters, imperishable wound of her unsystematic children. Paul, the youngest of her sons, from whom she did not want to part, grows in Russian Poland; since, he became Rabbi in Pinsk, and he got married. He is husband and father of three children. I do not despair one day to be able to embrace them, understand them and see hatching under our climate these secret relations, alas! So for a long time and so cruelly constricted.
I saw again my grandmother on December 27th, 1919. Her husband had died during First World War; the home of Seletz was burned by the Russians; the Germans ransacked everything. She saw in Kobryn at a girl of Lovovsky, her third husband nowadays. She is a good old, soft, clean, lined up, living on the memory of her children. I found her and I crossed in her company three unforgettable days (December 27-31, 1919). Paul is Rabbi in Mnceslaw; territory occupied by Bolcheviks. No news of him. Mr. Wodawska has a delightful girl, brought up in Warsaw and who speaks French, and two sons (dentist and dealer in Warsaw). One of his sons (the dentist) married one of our distant cousins, Melle Mazurka d' Antopol, dentist herself, whose brother is producer of apparatuses of surgery. All live in Warsaw.
My aunts Frieda and Judith, having their studies at the end in Paris, went back to Russia. Elder Frieda, woman of head and volunteer, as much as woman of heart married Mr. Pumpiansky of a very nice family which counts a big Rabbi among his members in Riga, from that writings are translated in Russian, a general doctor, a jurist in Pétrograd. Unfortunately, shortly after his marriage, the husband fell ill and died from the chest, leaving a widow and a juvenile child, Lucien. Lucien Pumpiansky, my first cousin, who is nowadays about twenty-five years old, is a philologist and a distinguished poet; he has a knowledge prodigiously sprawling, a loving and poetic soul, a profoundly mystical mind. Being studying in Pétrograd, having already published the volumes of remarkable poetries, having French culture thoroughly, he is profoundly patriotic; it is unfortunately of delicate constitution. The torment of actual events broke a draft of correspondence. I do not know what this mind became which promised to be distinguished for me; but, the past gust, with which joy, I possèderai its news and with which ardour we shall be able to be studying together. Drafted during war (1915) to first lieutenant of Russian artillery, very within sight during the government of Krensky, disappeared without leaving trace since 1917. What a misfortune! I brought back two poems of him of Vilno in French.
My aunt Frieda remarried L.Garbatzky, a widowed dealer with several children, who thought blended in an ardent enthusiasm in the revolutionary movement of 1905, among whom the one lives in Paris, in another Berlin.
My aunt Judith, of more often undecided and weaker character, saw with her sister and both augment their unfortunately restricted means by giving lessons of French and literature. My aunts live in Vilno. The elder of my paternal uncles, Albert Palewski was of an intelligence and a culture wholly remarkable. Greedy for our literature, poet, he could not agree for a long time with his benefactor uncle. He left to continue his studies in Lemberg; his letters to my father, I have only one, which I consider to be a precious treasure and a memory of this so delicate mind. Alas! Albert Palewski died in full youth, mown in his twenty-five years by implacable death. He rests far from us in Lemberg, on Galician land. I greet his memory and I cry this a lot, he died too early without having been able to know the fullness of intellectual joy and complete blossoming of mind.
When Albert, who had been studying in Brest, came back at about the fifteen sixteen years to Kobryn, before the departure of my father for Paris, noise spread that curse had fallen on the city because he had brought back the secular pounds.
My uncle Léon came back to bourgeois and family tradition; after good studies and some gifted poetries of any youth, he became a good and honest dealer. He is manager of an English plant nowadays. My father, engineer of the Central School, became industrial; but he has in him all germs of family tradition: philosopher and philologist, without ever speaking the one or other one of these sciences, my father is gifted with a penetrating view, with an ardour u unequaled job, of a lively and coloured feeling, and especially a potency of reasoning out of peer which carries it in dizzy summits without the slightest tiredness; the taste of abstraction and brilliant is a character of family deep footprint of which he carries.