Grandparents, parents, brothers and family
Dimitri’s paternal grandparents Boris and Raisa Devyatkin both came from St. Petersburg, Russia.
Boris Pavlovich was born in the Krondstat suburb in 1888. His father, Pavel, was a toymaker and locksmith. Young Boris was 17 when he took part in the famous 1905 Bloody Sunday in front of the Winter Palace; saw the Tsar’s troops fire on unarmed protestors. He left Russia in 1906 never to return.
Raisa Abramovna Friedman was born in Novgorod, but grew up in St. Petersburg. Boris and Raisa met in Paris in 1906. Boris worked briefly painting gold designs on streetcar exteriors. His co-worker was the young Pablo Picasso. The family moved to Zurich, then Winnipeg, Canada where Dimitri's father Paul was born.
Afterwards Boris and Raia moved to Chicago, finally to New York. Boris was a union organizer, involved in founding the Painter’s Union, now part of the AFL-CIO. During World War II, he helped organize Lend Lease shipments of airplane parts to Russia.
Dimitri's maternal grandparents, Benjamin and Doris Rudikoff both grew up in New York in the early 1900s.
Ben was born in Kiev, Ukraine. He was 6 when his family arrived at
Ellis Island. The family’s names are inscribed on the monument to
immigrants there. They lived in the Lower East Side on Delancey Street.
Ben’s father was named David, a tailor, his mother was Ephigenia. Ben
was the revered eldest of 12 brothers and sisters.
Doris Frank was born in New York; her mother was a Hungarian, and her father David was from Minsk. Doris attended Washington Irving High School on East 16th Street in Manhattan, where she was sometimes called “Dorrie Stiff-Neck,” because she had complained of a stiff neck. A highly attractive, fashionable and successful couple, Ben and Doris were married in New York.
Doris remembered in 1930 when they drove their car on America’s first “freeway” just when it opened – The West Side Highway – along the Hudson River. Ben was chief artist for the Chicago Mail Order catalog, which was all handdrawn, not photographs. To this day, 2nd, 3rd and 4th generation Rudikoffs, including the New York Devyatkins, maintain a genuine family support network and hold holiday dinners together annually.
Dimitri’s father Paul Devyatkin was born in Winnipeg, Canada in 1922, the youngest of 4 children, Nina, Alexander, and David. The family lived in Chicago, and came to New York when Paul was 12. On the day he graduated from New York’s Textile High School in 1939, Paul walked the length of Manhattan Island, from uptown to the US Army recruiting station at Whitehall Street near the Battery.
He was sent to San Diego, then became a cook at Camp Armstrong, Pearl Harbor and witnessed the Japanese attack in 1942, serving throughout World War II in Hawaii, Fiji and Okinawa, never shooting in battle, but he witnessed several war crimes - atrocities against civilians. He won a medal for saving another soldier's life who got burned in a fire.
Dimitri's mother Vita Sari Rudikoff Devyatkin was born in New York in 1925, lived in Mount Vernon, NY and had a younger sister, Sonya. Vita went to New York’s Music & Art High School, and Black Mountain College, North Carolina. She edited a folk songs journal, and ran square dance gatherings during WWII at the USO.
Vita and Paul met romantically in Manhattan and got married in 1947. Paul worked as a Tower Man in the New York subway system, and was a member of the Transport Workers Union. He completed New York University’s Washington Square College, with a BA in Classics, earned a Masters from Columbia University Library School and became “Acting Head Librarian” at Yeshiva University in New York. He died in 1990 of lung cancer. Vita died in 2016, almost 91 years old.
Dimitri was born on July 31, 1949 in Manhattan General Hospital.
Living on West 55th Street, in a “Bohemian Life” oriented to world culture, he was an infant when the family moved to Inwood, at the northern tip of Manhattan, 195 Nagle Avenue, equivalent to 200th Street.
A great luminary lived in the same building and befriended the Devyatkins. He went to UCLA, played for the Lakers and became Kareem Abdul Jabbar, the NBA's all-time leading scorer. He mentions the Devyatkins in his autobiography "Giant Steps."
6 cousins – from 1962 – Peter,11, Donald, 14, Dimitri, 13, Guy, 9, Bonnie, 12, Frederick, 5
Dimitri’s three brothers Peter, Guy and Frederick were born in 1951, 1953, and 1957 respectively. The 4 boys spent their childhoods in that apartment. Paul loved fairy tales, mythology, and detective stories. He was a talented story teller, an art practiced on long walks by the Hudson River, in Fort Tryon and Inwood Hill Parks. The boys all studied music, acting, dance, drew and painted frequently. Every week the kids went to the public library with a shopping cart of books and stopped for pizza on the way home. The family later moved to Haven Avenue, in Washington Heights, Manhattan.
Guy and Dimitri, 1970s, in Ft. Tryon Park, New York