Recorded in several different spellings including Dobrowski, Dobrowska, Dobrowlski (Polish), Dobrovolski (Russian) and Dobrovolny (Czech), this is a surname whose meanings vary according to the nationality concerned. Taking the Polish versions first, they are locational from either of the two places known as Dobrovale and Dobrawola. The place names, and hence the latter surnames, are believed to mean 'the place of the free men', from nicknames given to the original peasants who had been granted their freedom by the landowners. The Russian versions are also nicknames of a sort. They derive from the words 'dobry volya' or 'good will', originally given it is claimed, to priests in the Russian Orthodox Church. When they became hereditary surnames is not known, owing to a scarcity of records. The suffix endings ski' (male) or 'ska' (female) when they occur, were originally status symbols, similar to the German 'von' or the French 'de', and implying landownership. The final version is the Czech which curiously appears to have entirely the opposite meaning to the Polish or Russian versions, and is said to describe people who voluntarily accepted serfdom. We do not know the reasons why anybody should want to be a serf, but they would have to have been good ones! Examples of the various surname recordings from surviving church registers include Josef Dobrovolny, at Borkovany, Hurtopece, Czechoslovakia, on January 27th 1681, Stanislaw Dobrowski, who married Jadwiga Kopylowska at Kruszyn, Bydgoskiego, Poland, in 1824 (exact date not recorded), and Vladimir Dobrovolski, a witness at the British Embassy, Moscow, on June 6th 1880.
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