Historical Outline of the Windak Family


The surname „Windak” is a distorted Old Prussian first name “Windiko”, which means “the son of Winde”. Winde is also an Old Prussian first name, which is of Old German. Therefore, “Windak” is a paternal surname just as Tomasik is the son of Tomasz; Andrzejewicz, the son of Andrzej; Jacobson, the son of Jakob; or McArthur, the son of Arthur; etc.

Nowadays there are 14 place names which derive their names from the settlement official called Winde or Windiko (Windeko) i.e.: Windekaym, Windelauchs, Windyki, Windek, Windak, etc. First names, typical among a particular family, used to be passed from generation to generation, and eventually became nicknames and surnames. Nowadays in Poland apart from the surname „Windak” there are: Windyka, Windyk, Wittyg and Windek. These distortions of the original Windiko are a result of transcriptions of those Prussian names into Latin, German or Polish. Additional changes in spelling were caused by either pronunciation or mistakes made by scribes e.g. the Old Prussian name WINDE-KAYMEN (literally “the village of Winde”) successively changed its name into Windtkeim- Windtken- Windikendorf- Windackendorf -Windeken – Windken – and presently it is called Wołowno.

Numerous settlements with those characteristic names mean that either there were many settlement officials named Winde (Windiko) or the places were named after an ancestor, which meant a declaration that the place belonged to the Winde family. The latter may have been meant to protect the inhabitants against attacks as blood feud was a common law in Old Prussia.

The Windak family descend from a place called Windak, 4 kms from Chełmża (Kulmsee). Windak as a seperate village existed until 1945, now it is a part of Głuchowo-Windak and still has its own head of village. In the Teutonic times the village was called Nydecke, which probably resulted from the fact of setting a typical estate in accordance with the Prussian law, which consisted of about 8 lans (a unit of land measurement 1 lan = 18ha = 44.5 acre). Probably the neighbouring „open” village Nydecke, consisting of 6 lans, was combined with Windak, the manor village (kaym). The name “Nydecke” stands for “New Village”. Windak became then a part of Nydecke. In 1407 Gatke (Gut) von Nydecke was listed in the Teutonic Knights documents (Dienstbuch), and was obliged to serve on horseback in laminated armour for this land of 8 lans (144 hectars). Gatke (Gotfryd) was a vassal of the Teutonic Order, probably fighting at Grunwald against the Polish-Lithuanian forces in the Culmerland banner. In 1423 and 1438 the Teutonic Order issued the confirmation of the rights to the land Nydecke, reminding the knights about their duty to serve. In the 16th cent. Prussia was experienced by so called elementary disasters i.e. the Polish-Teutonic war 1519-1521, floods in 1514-1517, 1522-1537, 1639-1557, 1562-, waves of epidemics (1529, 1531, 1537, 1539, 1546, 1549, 1556, 1559, 1564-1570, 1578, 1580). Demographic and economic regression is observed in Royal Prussia and the Duchy of Prussia. According to the Old Prussian law estates could not be divided or inherited by daughters. In 1570, long after Royal Prussia was incorporated into the Kingdom of Poland and the old laws were no longer valid, the Nydecke estate was divided and sold. The owner of the last part i.e. Windak, consisting of 2 lans of land, became Achacy signing his name as Nydacki or Windacki, called Windak, using Prus II as his coat-of-arms. Probably it was his younger brother Jan, born about 1540, who settled in Trąbki, 7kms from Wieliczka. The Windackis died out in the middle of the 17th cent. All people now with the surname Windak are descendants of Jan. Jan had 5 sons: Wojciech, Sebastian, Marcin, Mateusz and Bartłomiej. Wojciech and Sebastian lived in Trąbki, Bartłomiej in Grajów, wheras Marcin moved to Cracow. Wojciech and Bartłomiej are ancestors of the Windaks. Presently 2 people named Windak can be 14 generations away from each other. Since 1592, i.e. for over 420 years we have been connected with the Wieliczka parish. In the middle of the 17th cent. the Windaks lived in  Trąbki, Wieliczka, Sułów and Grajów. At the beginning of the 18th cent most families lived in Wieliczka, others inhabited Raciborsko or Sułów. In the villages they would be peasants, in Wieliczka they would be either craftsmen, as is shown by the title “Famatus” i.e.. famous accompanying their names (e.g. there is an entry in the Municipal Council Book of Wieliczka from 1745. about Jakub Windak, who belonged to the brotherhood of blacksmiths) or miners (e.g. his godfather was a hauptmann – in charge of the Danielowiec (Daniłowicz) shaft. It was typical of the men in the family to be blacksmiths and miners and the professions persisted until today. At that time new surnames were derived from the original Windak. First to appear was Windakowic (in 1721), then from that Windakowicz (1730) and Windakiewicz (1740) together with Windalski. The end of the 18th century marks the beginning of the Austrian partition, unfavourable to the family from the town of Wieliczka, their jobs being taken over by the German immigrants brought by the occupants, frequent epidemics and wars, all caused the number of Windak families living in the township of Wieliczka to fall down in favour of the number of them in villages. In the second half of the 18th cent. numerous funerals of the members of the family take place in all the five cemeteries of Wieliczka surrounding the churches of St. Clement, St. Sebastian, Holy Spirit, The Name of Jesus, the Franciscans. His grave period lasts till the middle of the 19th century, later the family intensely grows in number and emigrates from Wieliczka to its neighbourhood. Around the middle of the 19th cent. a few family moved to Podgórze (now a part of Cracow) and to Cracow. At the end of the century more and more Windaks get their jobs in the developing salt mine, some move with the whole families to an industrial mining area in Ostrava (now in the Czech Republic), where they stay a number of years to come back later and invest the money locally. At the beginning of the 20th cent. some start emigrating abroad. Today the fourth or fifth generation of those immigrants can be met in France and the USA. Working in the salt mine was actually the only possibility for a man to have a permanent and well-paid job. The profession was respected and despite the dangers willingly chosen by people from the area. Miners living in one village e.g. Lednica, Raciborsko or Koźmice would walk to work together In groups called „parties”. It took them about 2 hours to walk in mud or snow to work. The profession was common and ran in the family. According to partial data between the two wars 23 members of the Family received their wages or retirement pensions from the mine. What is interesting, workers with the same first names were assigned different numbers e.g. Jan Windak III° or Franciszek Windak II°.

The 20th century was the time of wars in which the male part of the family played their role:

- In WWI: Józef († 1 IX 1914) and Jan sons of. Jan, Wojciech s. of Piotr, fought against the Russians as soldiers of the Austrian Army

- In the Polish-Soviet war, Franciszek s. of Wojciech († 23 VIII 1920). „Miracle At the Vistula” – a perfectly organized counterstrike, bravery of the soldiers, many killed and wounded. Franciszek was dying for a week in a hospital in Tarnów.

-, In the Polish-Soviet war, against the Germans in the 3rd Silesian Uprising and against the Czechs in Zaolzie: Franciszek s. of Jan,

- In WWII: Franciszek s. of Franciszek († 19 IX 1939 Jaśniska, Ukraina), Andrzej s. Jan, Władysław s. Wojciech, Józef s. Jan.

Leon, son of Michał and his family were tragic heroes. Leon, born in 1885 in Cracow, was a son of a soldier in the Austrian Army, who in 1919 joined the Polish army as a second lieutenant (it was his rank in the Austrian Army), then he became a police superintendent in Lvov and Drohobycz. When the II War broke out he was called to join the Polish Army as a lieutenant. During the Nazi occupation he was given away to the Soviet authorities by a Jewish informer. Leon was shot either in prison or a forest like in Katyń, but he is not listed there as the lists do not contain all the names of victims. His wife Ludwika with their son Jerzy were probably sent to Syberia or Kazachstan. Ludwika must have died there, but her 14-year-old son Jerzy together with about 800 Polish orphans got out of the place they were not supposed to survive together with the army of Władysław Anders. The army left in April 1942. What is characteristic about his story are two facts. First, when Leon’s family were given away by the Jew, Franciszek Windak used to carry coal for sale in his cart from Kraków-Płaszów, and under this coal, risking his life, he would transport food for the Jewish people in the nearby ghetto. Secondly, after the war Leon’s Wieliczka-based family received the news from the Red Cross that he and his closest family were murdered in Wołyń by Ukrainians from the Ukrainian Insurgent Army in 1944. The murderers receiving their orders from Stalin laid the responsibility on the Ukrainian Insurgent Army.

History of nations is history of families belonging to them, and the history of the Windak family is a good lesson of the history of Poland and Europe.

Nowadays there are over 700 people called Windak living all over the world. We are Polish, some will call themselves American, French, Canadian, but our motherland was Prussia. Genealogic, onomastic and genetic research prove this truth. Our surname carries information about our origin and ancestors. Signing a payroll, filling in forms, saying „present” at school we declare belonging to the family of Winde from Prussia; and our family seat being the Prussian village called Windak.




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