University of Minnesota
Digitizing Immigrant Letters

Letters from the George and Tatiana Grebenstchikoff Collection 1957/8

George Grebenstchikoff (1883-1964) immigrated to the United States after World War I, to escape the post-1917 revolutionary developments in Russia. Grebenstchikoff had served in the Tzar's army, and later in the White Army. His first published works appeared while still in Russia. After his arrival in the United States, Grebenstchikoff continued to publish his works both in Russian and English. He also taught the Russian language and literature at the University of South Florida. The community formed around Churaevka, a retreat for artists that the Grebenstchikoff's founded and built in Connecticut in the 1920s, became a center of cultural activities of a number of Russian émigré and other artists. Tatiana Grebenstchikoff (1896-1964) was an artist, producing - among others - rare books in her shop in Florida. (Read more about the Grebentschikoffs.)

The selected letters are divided into three groups: 1) Family correspondence 2) Churaevka 3) Correspondence with Nicholas Roerich

 

1) Family correspondence

George Grebenstchikoff pursued correspondence with his relatives during World War I and subsequently in exile. In 1917, while at the front, George corresponded with both his mother, Elena, and his son, Anatoly, both of whom remained in the Altai region during the war. This correspondence documented their daily life at home. Letters to and from Anatoly and his wife continued well into the 1930s, at which point the couple lived in Leningrad (present-day St. Petersburg). In such letters, George shared his philosophy and advice with his grown son. After coming to America, George also corresponded with his brothers Alexey and Ivan, both of whom lived in the vicinity of Semipalatinsk. These letters described lives of both brothers as adults in the Soviet Union to George, who now lived and worked in Churaevka.

1917/8/41916
1917/8/141926/1/18
1927
1931/4/6
1931/12/8n.d.
Letter from Elena Grebenstchikoff of Kolyvan, Russia, to her son George Grebenstchikoff in Kiev, Russia (present-day Ukraine) August 4, 1917. 
Letter from Anatoly Grebenstchikoff of Kolyvan, Russia, to his father George Grebenstchikoff of Kiev, Russia (present-day Ukraine) August 14, 1917.
Letter from Alexey Grebenstchikoff of Semipalatinsk, Russia (present-day Kazakhstan), to brother George Grebenstchikoff of Southbury, Connecticut Summer 1927 .
Letter from George Grebenstchikoff of Southbury, Connecticut, to son Anatoly Grebenstchikoff of Leningrad (present-day Saint Petersburg), Russia, April 6, 1931.
Letter from Ivan Grebenstchikoff of Semipalatinsk (present-day Semey), Russia (present-day Kazakhstan), to brother George Grebenstchikoff of Southbury, Connecticut, December 8, 1931.

 

2) Churaevka - a retreat for artists that the Grebenstchikoff's founded and built in Southbury, Connecticut, in the 1920s.

George and Tatiana founded the village of Churaevka in the spring of 1925 in a forested corner of Southbury, Connecticut. The village housed their printing house, Alatas, and consisted of numerous houses built by George and his supporters. Lessons, festivals, and fairs were hosted in the village, using the profits of the material printed at Alatas. A chapel dedicated to St. Sergius, built in 1930 by George, symbolized the spiritual drive of this literary and artistic community. The Churaevka correspondence relate to vandalism of buildings in Churaevka while the Grebenstchikoffs lived in Lakeland, Florida.

Churaevka 1 Churaevka 2 Churaevka3 St.Sergius St. Sergius2
George Grebenstchikoff during the construction of Churaevka, ca. 1925. Children in Churaevka At the St. Sergius Chapel in Churaevka, ca. 1950. George and Tatiana Grebenstchikoff, ca. 1932.

 

1949/10/3 1949/11/8 1949/11/15
Letter from George Grebenstchikoff of Lakeland, Florida, to Andrey Shoopinsky of Southbury, Connecticut, October 3, 1949.  Letter from Nikolay Douline of Southbury, Connecticut, to George Grebenstchikoff of Lakeland, Florida, November 8, 1949 .  Letter from George Grebenstchikoff of Lakeland, Florida, to Nikolay Douline of Southbury, Connecticut, November 15, 1949. 

 

 

3) Correspondence with painter and orientalist Nicholas Roerich

In October 1923, George and Tatiana met the Russian artist Nicholas Roerich in Paris. Upon the encounter, Roerich had recognized George as a literary link with Siberia. Within weeks of meeting the couple, Roerich had secured money and visas for George and Tatiana’s final step in immigration to the United States. In the collection, the correspondence between George and Roerich spans from mid-1920s to the early 1940s. The content of the letters is mostly spiritual and philosophical, as both George and Roerich described to each other the culture of their respective residences. Most letters by Roerich were received from an estate in Kullu, India.

1924/4/30 1924/7/24 1933/9/12 Roerich1 1936/5/16 1937/11/17 Roerich2
Letter from George Grebenstchikoff of New York City, New York, to Nicholas Roerich of Naggar, Kullu, India, April 30, 1924. Letter from George Grebenstchikoff of New York City, New York, to Nicholas Roerich of Naggar, Kullu, India, July 24, 1924.  Letter from Nicholas Roerich of Naggar, Kullu, India, to George and Tatiana Grebenstchikoff of Southbury, Connecticut, September 12, 1933.  Letter from Nicholas Roerich of Naggar, Kullu, India, to George and Tatiana Grebenstchikoff of Southbury, Connecticut, May 16, 1936. Letter from Nicholas Roerich of Naggar, Kullu, India, to George and Tatiana Grebenstchikoff of Southbury, Connecticut, November 17, 1937. 

 


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