What's in a name ?

During the time Jozef worked at the Nowy Dziennik, in 1927, the Minister for Internal Affairs, Felicjan Slawoj Skladkowski*, enacted the decreed for uniform orthography to take some confusion out of the various ways words were spelled in the Polish language. The ministry issued lists of approved spellings and sent them to all schools and publications. But the lists weren’t just suggestions – they were laws, with the teeth of levied fines in cases of violation.

One of the words on the list was the name of the precious stone, spelled only one way henceforth: d-i-a-m-e-n-t. Jozef’s editor, noticing the similarity of Jozef’s surname to the word on the official list, ordered Jozef to change the spelling of his name immediately.

When Jozef protested that it was his name, not the word for a glittering gemstone, the editor rejected his argument. Afraid the newspaper would be fined if Jozef insisted on his birthright, the editor ordered him to comply with the official orthography.

And that is why Jozef’s name on the title page of his book is spelled Diament, not Djament. And also the reason that Itzhak, following suit, is listed in the Krakow phone book of 1932/33 as Izak Diament, and Roman is listed in the Krakow professional directory of 1939 under the name Diament.

* He also decreed that all Polish houses had to have a working latrine. The outhouses that were subsequently built became known as 'lawojkis' in his honour.   
- as told to Eve by Janek

Krakow telephone directory

Izac Diament listing

Title page of Josef's book

Professional directory Krakow 1939

Since the family name is Djament (or Diament as the Polish authorities insisted), from where did the names Rutkowski and Drobot originate ?

During the Second World War it was not a good idea to have a Jewish sounding name. Although Israel Djament could relatively easily pass for an Aryan, he decided to change his name. In 1942 he wrote to friends who had previously obtained false Aryan papers for themselves (this was, in fact his future in-laws) asking if it were possible to procure for him an Aryan birth certificate. By bribing relevant officials, this was not too difficult and not long afterwards he received from them a
birth certificate belonging to a dead Aryan whose name was “Stanislaw Rutkowski”. He adopted this name and adopted his original Polish name Juliusz (Julek) as his second name. This certificate was a basis for preparing of all other necessary documents such as identity card, travel permits and even his graduation certificate. He changed his name officially only in 1947.

Jakub and Samuel Djament were far away in Siberia.  In 1945, when the war ended, they, together with thousands of other refugees, wanted to return to Poland. Jakub, who before the war was a supporter of the (then illegal) Polish Communist Party and as such had established connections with the “Association of Polish Patriots” in Moscow (basis for the future Polish Communist Party), was put on a priority list. In 1945 he returned to Poland with strict instructions to change his Jewish sounding name. As he believed that all the other members of the family had perished, he had total freedom in choosing whatever name he wanted and chose “Drobot” after a Ukranian classmate in Lwow. As it did not end in "ski" or "ow"  It wasn't obviously Polish - but it was easy to pronounce and spell in any language and therefore "international". He chose Janek as this was similar to Jakub.

When his brother Samuel finally arrived in Poland in 1946, there was no reason not to adopt the same surname, so he
changed his name to Stefan Drobot.  In retrospect, this turned out not to be a good decision as it subsequently had implications on his efforts to obtain emigration papers (see “Escape from Poland” story).

                                                    - As related to Eve by Julek in his letter of June 1989