Professor Sofya Gulyak of London visited the Panevėžys Jewish Community during her trip to Lithuania to find out more about her family’s roots. Many Jews from around the world are currently looking for their roots in the Lithuanian archives. The documents they are finding reveal interesting family histories.
Sofya learned from the Central Archive her ancestors lived in Panevėžys. She received copies of the passports of her great-grandfather Meier Gelvan, great-grandmother Keila Ringaitė-Gelvan and grandmother Rocha Gelvan from the archives in 2013.
Meier Gelvan was born in Vidžiai village in the Ežerėnai district in 1875. He moved to Panevėžys around 1921 and lived at Smilgių street no. 9. His passport records his profession as merchant, that he was an ethnic Jew and that he practiced Judaism. He was married to Keila Ringaitė-Gelvan. The family had four daughters: Leja born in 1903, Chaja-Lifsha born in 1906, Sheina-Dveira born in 1908 and Rocha born in Švenčionys in 1917, and two sons, Shimcha born in 1911 and Jakob (Jankel) born in 1920. The family later moved to a house at Kranto street no. 5. She knew from her grandmother Rocha’s stories the family had lived on the second floor of the building, and great-grandfather Meier used the first floor in his profession as a cobbler. At the beginning of World War II the family removed themselves to the Tartar Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic. Sofya’s grandmother Rocha married a man named Gulyak in Kazan and became Rocha Gulyak. Sofya’s father Meier Gulyak was born in 1950. He passed away in 2004. Sofya was born and raised in Kazan, studied at the State Conservatory there and was graduated there. She continued to refine her musical talents in different countries. In 2009 her talent was recognized at the 16th Leeds International Piano Contest, where she won and received the Princess Mary gold medal. She became the first woman to win this prestigious contest. She has since toured around the world and is often invited to teach at famous schools, and she continues to participate in different competitions as a member of the jury.
She visited Vilnius and the Panevėžys Jewish Community in Lithuania. In Panevėžys she visited her great-grandparents’ house on Kranto street and the old Jewish cemetery where her family members are buried.