In March 2017, it will be 100 years since my father’s family was forced to leave Russia. One of the properties they left behind was Dacha Kabat, named after my family. Many times, the name is written in English: de Kabath; while the house they owned is written in English without the ‘h’. Years ago, I decided to use the version without the ‘h’ for reasons now lost to my younger self. Probably because it seems less Anglicized.

de Kabat (pronounced d’ KAA bit), is derived from Hungarian and means the cloak or mantle. The crest (pictured) belonged to Ivan de Kabath who was an eye specialist during the reign of Tsar Alexander II.

Ivan cured the Tsar’s sister-in-law of an eye disease and was given a title (an inheritable knighthood). This title was the highest honour given to non-aristocracy and allowed him entry, at the lowest level, to the aristocratic class. Ivan’s oldest son died of an injury sustained in the last week of the battle for Shipka Pass (in Turkey) and the title passed to Ivan’s other son, also called Ivan. Ivan de Kabat was fairly wealthy (a banker) and he owned several properties around Russia, perhaps the most famous is the de Kabat villa in Kisdlovodsk. This villa still stands and is currently owned by the Ukranian Government and is used as a holiday house for parliamentary officials.

The title eventually passed down the generations until the Russian Revolution of March, October and November 1917 when it was held by Jean-Jacques de Kabath (nee Geelen). His father was the Dutch artist Eugene Geelen, and he had earlier been adopted by his childless uncle so the title could remain in the family. After the Revolution, it was dangerous to be a Russian aristocrat, so Jean-Jacques renounced his adoption and citizenship and reverted to his Dutch citizenship and name. Many others didn’t have that luxury, and didn’t survive the Revolution.

The piece of paper that is the defunct title is held by my father, who in different times would be the current Baron. Janic Geelen, a retired schoolteacher, enjoys a place in the New Zealand Who’s Who as an author and aircraft historian. He is also a keen family historian and this story is thanks to his efforts in researching the family’s interesting history.


Renée Geelen has worked in the racing industry for over fifteen years and brings a unique perspective to her work. Renee blends high calibre data analysis with an eloquent technical writing style to enable her clients to both understand and articulate various aspects of the racing industry.  She has a degree in physics and maths, utilising this core capability to distil useful information from the diverse swathes of data available in racing.   It is this skill, to take rows of data and transform it into a compelling story that makes Renee a valuable contributor for her clients.