The Karz Family, Also Known as Karzanovsky

Framed photo of Maurice Karz


Maurice Karz was born September 24, 1919, in what was then Russia but what is now modern-day Minsk, Belarus. When he was born, he was born Moses Karzanovsky. “My mother used to call me Moishe,” Maurice remembers. His father was Leon Karzanovsky, but he went by Lebe; his mother was Rebekah Greenberg, but her nickname was Rivka. By the time he was walking, his family had left to escape Minsk.

Just two years earlier, Russia was undergoing a revolution. They forcibly removed the czar, and the Bolsheviks came to power. Wars had torn the city apart, and there was little left for the Karzanovsky family. Lebe’s best option was to travel miles away to trade with a local farmer. Trading locally was the best option then, because there were so many currencies, it was hard to keep up with. There was Kerensky money, the Czarist money, Bolshevik money, and foreign money like pounds, dollars, and francs. So, Lebe would raid abandoned buildings and homes for things like silver, gold, or even matches.

The very last scavenging trip he made was one of his biggest hauls. He had to have a nephew help, and together, they traveled by train to sell it all. At the end of the day, he filled his suitcase with around $120.

“And this was in foreign currency,” Maurice remembers, “not in local currency.” So, his mother jumped at the opportunity to finally leave Russia. The family hired a Jewish man to escort them out of their hometown to Poland. He demanded to be paid in the Czarist money because he was mistakenly convinced that the czar would return to power. His payment was worthless, but the Karznovsky family complied and paid him what he asked.

“So, they hired this man with an old horse,” Maurice said. “Because if he was a good horse, they would have confiscated it a long time ago.”

Together, they traveled for a week to get to the border. Along the way, they found two Russian soldiers who seemed to have deserted their post. Mostly out of fear but also out of compassion, they invited them to travel with them to Poland. They cuddled under the same blankets and shared the same food. At the border, the two revealed that they were actually Polish spies in the Russian Army. They returned the favor to the family for sharing their provisions along the way by giving them seats on a troop train to Warsaw. They had to nail tarps to the broken windows. Otherwise, snow would blow into the train.

Aviva Gowe, Kirsten Gowe, and Children

Next, they travelled to Rotterdam to board a ship to America. Again, they were met with storms. By the time they arrived at Ellis Island, Rivka weighed 95 pounds at 5’ 3”, they had 25 dollars, and Maurice was ill. As a result, Maurice was taken from his mother and placed in quarantine for their first week in America. This was also when the Karzanovsky family became the Karz family for short.

The family lived in Rochester, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and even Mexico City. Maurice met and married Rebecca, who had three of his children. By the time their eldest, Aviva, was 12, however, they divorced. His wife remarried; her name became Rebecca Rajcany, wife to Frank, who worked at Hill Air Force Base. So, all the Karz children went to live in Roy, Utah. Aviva Gowe grew up, moved away from home, but moved back to Roy in 1992 to raise her teenage daughter, Kirsten Gowe. Kirsten was a student at Roy Jr. and Roy High, all while her grandmother lived nearby. Now, with his child and grandchildren living safe in Roy, Maurice is grateful his parents immigrated to America.

“I think they saved my life and their own life,” Maurice says, “because I’m sure we would have been dead a long time ago.”



This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.