The last member of the Russian Wyneken family

I was searching the Internet for various Wyneken information when I ran across a page about Baroness Marka Wyneken. The name was very familiar but at first I couldn’t place it. Then I had a suspicion, and the suspicion was confirmed when I looked the name up in my database. Marka was the daughter of Baron Nikolaus Wyneken, who appears in my online database at the bottom of the page for his father Alexander, full name Johann Peter Alexander von Wyneken.

I had first heard of Marka in around 2004. I tried to locate her but was only able to find and correspond with her divorced husband, Prof. Raniero Gnoli, in 2005. He was no longer in touch with her but believed that she was living in Innsbruck, Austria. As it turns out, he was right about that but I never followed the lead any farther after my correspondence with him.

Now it’s too late because what I found on the Internet was her obituary. She died on July 27, 2014 in Innsbruck. According to the obituary she had been living in Innsbruck since 1991 as a secular canoness, German “Stiftsdame”.

My database contains numerous female Wynekens who were secular canonesses. That seems to have been a good option for unmarried aristocratic women who did not possess much wealth.

So how did Marka wind up in Austria?

Marka’s grandfather, Alexander, and his father, George, belonged to the Russian branch of the family that was founded when George moved there from Germany, possibly in 1860. Alexander on the other hand had a career as an officer in the Russian military. In the course of the Russian Revolution Alexander is said to have committed suicide to escape being captured by the Bolsheviks. His wife fled with the three children, including Marka’s father, Nikolaus, to Austria since the Russian Wynekens were also Austrian nobility. I’ve heard reports of Wynekens residing in Vienna at one point in time.

Nikolaus married Princess Isabella Josephine Maria Schönburg from the Schönburg-Hartenstein family. Isabella is listed on this web page (you have to search for her name) as marrying Baron Nikolaus von Wyneken in 1931 and divorcing him in 1933.

Prof. Gnoli, on the other hand, informed me that Marka’s father died a few months after the wedding. I unfortunately have no further information concerning the date of Nikolaus’ death so I don’t know which version is true.

Isabella von Schönburg remarried in 1937, a man named Georges Zafiorpulo, who according to the Internet was a sculptor.

I have no idea whether Marka grew up with her mother or her father. It’s possible that if I had been able to get in touch with her she would not even have been able to tell me anything about the Russian Wynekens if she had grown up with her mother. However I would have been overjoyed if I had indeed been able to get in touch with her before she died. It would have been a special experience to communicate with the last member of the Russian branch of the Wyneken. But it was not to be.

As a side note, I would like to mention that Georg Wyneken, the brother of Marka’s grandfather Alexander, was a bank director in Brussels. I have a report from Hans-Rolf Wyneken (now deceased) that he met Georg during World War II in Brussels when Hans-Rolf was stationed on the west front as a medic. Georg says that he found Georg living an impoverished life in a single room. There was a sign, though, that said “Baron von Wyneken”.

It seems that fate did not necessarily treat the last members of the Russian Wyneken branch well.

The source of the picture at the top of this page is:

1 thought on “The last member of the Russian Wyneken family

  1. Benjamin Phelps

    I recall Kannengießer being a bit unsympathetic to his Russian cousins. Of course, they fought on opposite sides during WWI, so that explains a lot.


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