That’s what fell to their lot…

[b]Perhaps, the Belarusian nobleman Vasiliy Kazanovich was a more successful partisan during the times of the Patriotic War of 1812, than famous Denis Davydov, but the former didn’t write memoirs…[/b]Such is the custom that the winners write the war history. And in the great battles, where both small and large peoples take part, the large ones get all the glory. The matter is that the Battle of Borodino didn’t become an exception, as well as other operations of the Patriotic War of 1812.
Perhaps, the Belarusian nobleman Vasiliy Kazanovich was a more successful partisan during the times of the Patriotic War of 1812, than famous Denis Davydov, but the former didn’t write memoirs…

Such is the custom that the winners write the war history. And in the great battles, where both small and large peoples take part, the large ones get all the glory. The matter is that the Battle of Borodino didn’t become an exception, as well as other operations of the Patriotic War of 1812. Everybody probably knows that the first major defeat suffered by Napoleon`s troops took place while they were crossing the Berezina River in late November of 1812, but about the roles and exploits of the natives of the Belarusian lands in those battles is written too little taking into account that some of us are direct descendants of the heroes of those battles. Analyzing our genealogies, it is possible to gain an insight into the very story of the Napoleonic invasion and the resistance to it, which, as Mikhail Lermontov wrote, "is remembered by entire Russia". Well, the ancestors not only should be paid tribute, but they also can give some lessons how to roll with the punches.
This year the XVI Petersburg genealogical readings, which took place at the Russian National Library, were dedicated to the genealogies of the participants of the Patriotic War of 1812. Among all the reports, great interest was aroused by the speech of Anatoliy Stetskevich-Cheboganov, researcher of the history of ancient Belarusian families from Minsk. He talked about the members of the Kazanoviches family with the ‘Grzymala’ coat of arms, having in his hand his own book, published on the 200th anniversary of the Patriotic War of 1812, since the representatives of this well-known family of Mogilev became famous and died on the battlefields. Note that the book is the forth volume in the series called ‘Chronicle of the Belarusian nobility’.
What the researcher got to know? "I found out that the six Kazanovich brothers, sons of Gabriel Petrovich Kazanovich (who was the chairman of one of the departments of the Mogilev province magistrate), fought valiantly in many battles, including Galicia, Saxony, and France during the War of 1812, Anatoly says. — One of the brothers was killed in Tarutino." It should be noted that historians believe that the battle on October 18, 1812 in the village of Tarutino (Tarutin) in the Kaluga Region, which ended with the victory of the Russians, was one of the crucial points of the war having strengthened the spirit of the army.
In the Akhtyrka Hussars, said Anatoliy Stetskevich-Cheboganov, bothers Alex and Gilyariy Kazanoviches served as lieutenants being in the army of General Bagration, and they took part in the Battle of Borodino. For bravery in the battle, the two brothers were decorated with golden arms. The name of Gilyariy Kazanovich was immortalized on the 15th wall of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow. By the way, there is a record of his participation in the battles of 1812 (in the settlements of Mir (where the Castle of Mir is situated), Romanov, Novoselki, Saltanovka, and Borodino, where he was wounded) in the published book ‘Kazanoviches of the ‘Grzhymala’ coat of arms’. The hussar brothers were well-educated and new the Russian, German, French languages and arithmetic. Later, Alex and Gilyariy Kazanoviches became lieutenant-colonels and ‘holders of many orders’. Their brother Feodor who also participated in the evens of the 200-year’s prescription became a captain and lived in the Brest ‘yezd’ (district).
"The life of Vasiliy Gavriilovich Kazanovich turned out to be very interesting. His great-granddaughter Helen, the daughter of the famous White Guard General Boris Ilyich Kazanovich, wrote in the memoirs that her great-grandfather organized peasant guerrillas in 1812".
I will explain. In the book the researcher tells how he managed first to get the some part of the manuscripts, Helen’s diaries, and then collect the missing notebooks. The memoirs are read like a fascinating family saga, and it was published for the first time. She writes about the times of Kutuzov and Napoleon the following: "My great-grandfather started serving in Akhtyrka Hussars and went through the whole Patriotic War of 1812. His brother-officer Denis Davydov mentions him in his notes: "Early on the 14th, we came to Belynichi (now a district center of the Mogilev Region. — Ed.). On our way we met Akhtyrsky Hussar lieutenant Kazanovich who considered that area free of the enemy and was going to meet his parents. Having got to know of my approach, he rode to inform me that the enemy was staying in the place and to be my guide".
My great-grandfather went to his ancestral manor Ermolovichi not only with the purpose to visit his parents, but also to organize guerilla bands from among the neighbouring peasants and he was in the lead. Later on, Colonel Rudnev told me that, according to the archives of the Akhtyrka Hussars, my great-grandfather used to organize the guerilla movement all over Belarus and was even better in that than Denis Davydov. “But didn’t write the memoirs”, he added.
Of course, Helen Kazanovich takes much responsibility, sharing the glory of the partisan hero so ‘well-established’ in the public mind, but she is not going to give its Belarusian part to the casual hussar. Yes, this woman is not inferior in courage and honor to her great-grandfather and father-general! Then she continues saying that admits that her great-grandfather worked in his native Belarus, knowing the territory perfectly, and speaking with farmers in their language. “However, he really was a man of decision and courage”.
Some of those stories and events were passed, they say, in the oral tradition right up to our times. In particular, Helen Kazanovich writes how the French first of all took horses away from villagers. At those times, a horse was the main support in a household and the loss of it was considered a terrible disaster. "Peasants learned the French word ‘cheval’ (which in Russian today sounds like a half-swearing ford ‘shval’ meaning something like trash — Tr.) translated as ‘horse’ and shouted with anger at the enemies: "Gosh, damned shval!". That’s how this abusive Russian word appeared, which turned out to merely mean a horse".
Another piece of Helen Kazanovich’s story in the book of Anatoliy Stetskevich-Cheboganov was in a separate section entitled ‘What she saw and what she heard ...’, should be cited as the evidence of the spiritual power of our people having guts but bearing no malice. "When the wretched remnants of the defeated Napoleon`s army, frozen and hungry, were making their way to the border, when meeting our farmers, they raised their hands and prattled ‘Chers amis, chers amis!’ (meaning ‘Dear friends, dear friends!’) and the farmers actually took pity on their enemies just saying "Look, sharomyzhniki (‘swindlers’) come" and fed the yesterday rapists. So the word ‘sharomyzhnik" is also the memory of the Patriotic War of 1812.
Still let us return to the ‘drabber’ of the partisan glory Vasiliy Kazanovich. In 1814 the brave hussar with Belarusian ancestral roots entered the capital of France together with the Russian troops, and was decorated with medal ‘For the capture of Paris’. Then he returned home with a valuable ‘trophy’ — a young wife Theresia Kohlen. His great-granddaughter writes, "There he fell in love with a charming French girl, granddaughter of the Marquis Villiers de Lisle d`Adan. She reciprocated his feelings and they got married". By the way, after the death of the French lady’s husband her youngest son Elija took care of her, and till the end of her days she stayed living in Chemernoe, the Kazanovich family estate near Mogilev".
The members themselves of the Kazanovich ancient family are still living in different countries and believe that a gentleman Paolo di Casanova from Milan, who came to Poland in the retinue of Queen Bona Sforza (XVI c.) was their ancestor. There he married, got the rank of a nobleman and granted by the ‘Grzhymal’ coat of arms. Paolo had three sons. The two of them married Polish women, stayed in Austrian Poland and saved the surname of Kazanovsky, while the youngest one married a lady of a manor, who had inherited the estate near Mogilev. It is thought that the Kazanoviches family came from him. Describing this information in the book, the researcher Anatoliy Stetskevich-Cheboganov notes that "in the XVI century two Kazanovich brothers Gabriel and Yarosh lived in Mogilev, and from Yarosh the Kazanoviches family originates. Nonetheless, the legend of the origin of the Kazanovich sons from caballero Paolo di Casanova requires further examination".

By Ivan Zhdanovich
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