Overseas relatives: how the Tony Blinken family ended up in America

Tony Blinken: Obenshain ’62 Family Great Issues Lecture

Overseas relatives: how the Tony Blinken family ended up in America

; Voice of America discovered in the archives unique documents about the family of the candidate for the US Secretary of State Tony Blinken: the first references in the pedigree, records of the marriage of his great-grandfather and the birth of his children, as well as lists of passengers on the ships on which the Blinkens traveled from Europe to the USA

“Voice of America” ​​discovered in the American and Ukrainian archives unique documents about the family of the candidate for the secretary of state, Tony Blinken: the first mentions in family books, records of the marriage of the great-grandfather and the birth of his children in the Kiev synagogue, as well as lists of passengers on ships on which from Germany and UK Blinkins were getting to the United States.

According to the historian and specialist in Jewish genealogy, Nadia Lipes, the surname of the applicant for the post of secretary of state is rare. Its carriers are most likely distant relatives. Thus, for example, the Kharkiv businessman Svyatoslav Blinkin and the Russian scientist-specialist in highways Mikhail Blinkin are distant relatives of Anthony Blinken. It was with the help of Lipes that the Voice of America found unique documents in the archives of Ukrainian Zolotonosha and Pereyaslav.

(photo from the archive of genealogy specialist Nadia Lipes. State Archives of the Kiev region)

This is a book of the so-called family lists of the Ukrainian city of Pereyaslav. In 1874, the Blinkin family was first brought into it: Yankel and Lynx have three sons – Abraham, Yosel and Aron, and two daughters – Simcha and Esther. Their ages are indicated according to the year of the entry. Notes on the enrollment of the Blinkin brothers in military service and the birth mark in 1877 of their youngest son, Meer Blinkin, were made much later..

According to Lipes, “the family came to Pereyaslav from Zolotonosha from the same district of the (then) Kiev province, Cossack places. When they lived in Zolotonosha, they already had the surname Blinkin. And the great-grandfather of Anthony Blinken, of course, was written through the letter “I” – he is not Blinken, he is Blinkin.

The historian says that Meer Blinkin became an orphan at the age of 8. At about the same time, his father and uncle, Yankel and Kelman, died quite young. How exactly Meer got from Pereyaslav to Kiev is unclear.

According to the researcher, “part of his family were merchants who were not poor people. He was a bourgeois, not a merchant, but enough to live on. Unfortunately, in relation to their family, only documents of a metric nature have been preserved “.

In January 1898, Meir Blinkin married 20-year-old Hanna-Makhla TurOvskaya, the daughter of a farmer from the village of Varovich near Kiev. The wedding was played in the Choral synagogue in Podil.

(Central Historical Archives of Ukraine)


In 1900, the Blinkins’ firstborn was born – Moses, in the Hebrew version of the name – Moshe. Later, already in America, he will change his name to Maurice.

Then Solomon, Yakov-Hirsch and Victor were born – he died two months.

Meer was the first to go to America with one of the children. Historians are inclined to think that with the eldest, Moses. They substantiate their version as follows: the second name of Moses is Henry, the child whom Meer took with him, according to the documents, was named Girschel or Herzel. Another argument is age: by the time of his departure, Moses was about 4 years old. It is noteworthy that in the logbook of the steamer sailing from Hamburg to London, the age of the child who traveled with Meer Blinkin is 7 years old, from the English South Hamptom to New York he is already 8. Meer in some documents calls himself Max.

Subsequently, in American documents, the second “i” will disappear from his surname – according to experts, it will simply be lost and Blinkin will turn into Blinken. Then the name will change: from Meer to Meir, then to Mayer.

(Courtesy of American Family Immigration History Center)

big Adventure

Jackie Schalk, director of the Ellis Island Center for American Family Immigration History, says: The Blinkins most likely bought the cheapest long-stop ticket. On August 27, on the ship “Philadelphia”, they departed from the port of South Hampton for New York. Philadelphia will come to Ellis Island on September 2, but Meer and his son will not be released until 6 days later – they were detained for additional checks. The documents indicate: they ate 6 breakfasts, 6 lunches and 6 dinners while awaiting trial.

Overseas relatives: how the Tony Blinken family ended up in America

(Courtesy of American Family Immigration History Center)

Jackie Schalk, director of the Immigration History Center, says Meer was separated from the queue for additional checks, not because of his health condition. In her opinion, the reason for the check is the absence of a confirmed guarantor and his address as the first destination of the Blinkins in New York. It was required for a permit to enter the country. Moreover, at that time immigrants did not need visas – it was enough to have acquaintances, be healthy and have a steamer ticket. Meer first provided one address, in Passaic, New Jersey, and then changed it to New York, Schalk said. The immigration authorities thought the situation was suspicious and they were left for additional checks and a meeting with the judge..

The director of the Ellis Island Immigration History Center draws attention to another fact: Meer had 10 dollars with him (when 50 was required).

In the document, this amount is crossed out and “2” is written at the top. This, according to Schalk, is an interesting fact, “because his son, who theoretically should not have anything with him, suddenly had $ 8. It looks like Meer just put them in the child’s pocket, thinking that they would send him home and leave the boy. “.

In two years Hannah and Solomon will move to Meer and Moses, another child will be born to the Blinkins in New York.

It is noteworthy that in the 1910 census it is not indicated, but it appears in the documents for obtaining citizenship filed in 1912.

(Courtesy of National Archives at New York City)

Meer worked in a factory, and in the evenings he wrote stories in Yiddish – about prostitutes from Second Avenue, card players, mistresses of married men. Researchers would later note that it was Blinkin who was the first Jewish writer to speak frankly about female sexuality..

The New York Times wrote:

Overseas relatives: how the Tony Blinken family ended up in America
Overseas relatives: how the Tony Blinken family ended up in America

Meir Blinken’s stories were written and published during the first two decades of the 20th century in the Jewish press. In them, respected married ladies have lovers, their husbands have mistresses. He died early and this is a loss also because he was one of the few who chose to show empathy for the female view of love and sin. “.

Meer died at the age of 38, in 1915, from a cerebral abscess caused by a chronic disease and meningitis. He was buried in the Bronx.

Meir’s children married Jewish girls and changed their names: Solomon became Sam, Moses – first Morris, then Maurice – he wrote his name in French, Maurice.

Sam Blinken (Courtesy of American Family Immigration History Center)

According to the 1940 census, Maurice and his family lived much better than his parents – besides them, a servant is recorded in the house book.

Maurice graduated from university, became a lawyer and established the American Institute for Palestine Studies. The reports of this institution, it is generally accepted, pushed the US government to support the creation of the State of Israel..

Maurice Registration Card (Courtesy of National Archives at New York City)

Maurice chaired various school and community committees, and with his son Robert founded the Mayt Heavy Equipment Corporation. His son Alan became the US Ambassador to Belgium.

Another son, Donald, graduated from Harvard and became an investment banker, during the Second World War he was a pilot.

Then he married Judith Frem, divorced and remarried, became president of the Mark Rothko Foundation, and head of the US diplomatic mission in Hungary.

Donald’s son, Anthony, was raised by his stepfather, Sam Pisar, a writer and lawyer who survived the Holocaust as a child in several death camps. He co-founded the Yad Vashem France Memorial Complex. Pisar worked at the UN in the 50s, in the 60s – advised the Kennedy administration on economic and international politics, was an adviser to the State Department and Congress.

His daughter from his first marriage, Leah, worked in the Clinton administration.

After the marriage of Pisar and Judith Frem, they lived in New York, then in Paris, where Anthony attended one of the best private schools. Since then, he speaks French without an accent and plays excellent guitar, he can be heard on electronic music services under the nickname “ABlinken”

The researchers note that the relatives of the candidate for the post of secretary of state live on both sides of the ocean. And besides famous family members, there are also distant relatives – the offspring of huge Jewish families from Zolotonosha, those whose surname was incorrectly transliterated when moving.

According to Nadia Lipes, “Blinkin’s surname is quite specific, most likely, all carriers of this surname are relatives.” The researcher is sure: “some live in Ukraine and in Russia, some part (during the Second World War) left for evacuation and stayed there. In America, the surname was in different versions – from Blinken to Bilenkin and Belenky “.

Blinkins also live in Israel and Russia, in Ukrainian cities: Kharkov, Odessa, Kiev and Pyriatin.

  • Natalka Pisnya

    Natalka Pisnya (real name and surname). Journalist, specialization – Russian investigation, economics, domestic and international American politics, relations between the United States, Ukraine and Russia. She worked in the Washington bureau of the BBC, headed the American bureau of the Ukrainian television company 1 + 1, covered 2 Ukrainian revolutions, worked in the East of Ukraine, collaborated with Ukrainian television channels TVi, “Channel 5”, ICTV, weekly “Mirror of the Week” and web portal “New time”. Came to journalism in 1997. On the Voice of America – since 2018.

Overseas relatives: how the Tony Blinken family ended up in America
Overseas relatives: how the Tony Blinken family ended up in America

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