Potocki is the surname of a Polish szlachta (nobility) family.


The Potocki family is a great artistocratic family originated from Potok in the Kraków Voivodeship; their family name derives from that place name. The first known Potocki was Żyrosław z Potoka (born about 1136). The children of his son Aleksander were progenitors of new noble families such as the Moskorzewski's, Stanisławski's, Tworowski's, Borowski's and Stosłowski's. Jakub Potocki (~1481-1551) was the progenitor of the magnate line of the Potocki family, with descendants living today, including those living in America. Portock is an Americanized version of the Polish Potocki.

The magnate line split into three primary lineages, called:

  • "Linia hetmańska" ("Srebrna Pilawa"), in English: "Hetman's lineage" ("Silver Pilawa"). Note some sources refer to Pilawa as Piława.
  • "Linia Prymasowa" ("Złota Pilawa"), in English: "Primate's lineage" ("Golden Pilawa")
  • "Żelazna Pilawa", considered the oldest ones, in English: "Iron Pilawa"

The "Złota Pilawa" line received the title of count from the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire in 1606. The entire family begun using the Count title after the partitions of Poland.

In 1631 Stefan Potocki, who started the "Złota Pilawa" lineage, died and was buried in Złoty Potok (Golden Potok, a village owned by this lineage), his descendants started to use the Pilawa coat of arms in golden colour. Because of that the lineage is called the "Złota Pilawa" (Golden Piława).

There are also four branches called:

  • "Gałąź łańcucka" (Branch of Łańcut)
  • "Gałąź krzeszowicka" (Branch of Krzeszowice)
  • "Gałąź tulczyńska" (Branch of Tulczyn)
  • "Gałąź wilanowska" (branch of Wilanów)

Named after the hubs of their respective constellations of properties.

The family became prominent in the 16th and 17th centuries as a result of the patronage of Chancellor Jan Zamoyski and King Sigismund III Vasa.

Coat of arms and motto

The Potocki family used the "Pilawa" arms and their motto was: "Scutum opponebat scuto" (possibly "Shield opposing shield", neo-Latin?).


Legendary or possible member

  • Walenty Potocki (?-1749), also known by the Hebrew name of Abraham ben Abraham and as the Vilna Ger Tzedek or "Learned Convert of Vilna", was one of the most revered martyrs in Jewish history. A convert to Judaism, Walenty Potocki was reputed to have been the son of the reigning Count Potocki. He was burned at the stake in 1749 by Roman Catholic authorities in Vilna. Few verifiable details exist of the martyr's life or of his actual identity, but numerous novels, plays, and poems in several languages have been written about him.

Feigned member

  • Count Geoffrey Potocki de Montalk (1902–1997), eccentric New Zealand poet, has been erroneously described as a feigned member of the Pilawa Potocki family. In fact, he is a direct descendant of the Bocki Potocki line, until recently believed to have died out with the death of Count Jozef Franciszek Jan Potocki, his great grandfather, in Paris. Jozef's son, Count Joseph Wladislas Edmond Potocki de Montalk, born Paris 1836, B. es L. (Sorbonne), fought in Garibaldi's campaign of 1859, and arrived in New Zealand in 1868 where he became Professor of Modern Languages at Auckland University College. He was the author of The Elements of French Literature, 1879; founder and president of the Alliance Francaise; a member of the Societe de Linguistique de Paris; and, as an Officier d'Academie, was a recipient of the Palmes, Universitaires. Professor Potocki de Montalk had twelve children; the eldest son, Robert Wladislas, an Auckland architect, was Geoffrey Potocki de Montalk's father.

Potockis and vodka

The Potockis distilled spirits at their famous Łancut estate in the country's oldest distillery. The Potockis are better known for their contribution to Poland's military, political, and cultural history over six centuries, however, today their name is most recognized by their continued contribution to vodka, Potocki Wódka

When the Łancut estate passed to the Potocki family in 1816, it contained one of Poland's oldest distillery that existed already in 1784. It was extensively developed by the Potockis during the 19th Century.

The Count Alfred Potocki's Privileged Distillery in Łańcut produced vodkas, spirits and liqueurs of such renown that it received Imperial privilege from the Habsburg Emperors and won several gold medals in international competitions. The Łańcut distillery continued to operate until 1944 when it was confiscated by the Communist regime. Since 1991 it is again an autonomous company - Polmos Łańcut.

Today, Potocki Wódka is produced in Western Poland under the present day owner, Jan-Roman Potocki.

Potockis and Communists in 1940s and 50s

The Communist government of Poland was in deep opposition to every rich (especially noble) family. Hundreds of Potockis were killed by the NKVD and Red Army. Many Potockis who decided to stay in Poland were, in the 1940s and 50s, forced to change their family names (otherwise they could be killed, inprisoned or have other problems).

Here are some of the changed surnames: Nowak, Kowalski, Gnejowicz, Pryszkiewicz, Wszelaki, Petecki, Blacha, Musiał, Woldan, Walera, Melka, Madej and Pastuch.


See also

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