Sandra Dee

publicity photo of Sandra Dee, c. the early 1960s

Birth Name: Alexandra Zuck

Date of Birth: April 23, 1942

Place of Birth: Bayonne, New Jersey, U.S.

Date of Death: February 20, 2005

Place of Death: Thousand Oaks, California, U.S.

Ethnicity: Carpatho-Rusyn

Sandra Dee was an American actress and model. She was also credited as Sandra Douvan.

Her parents, Mary (Cymboliak) and John Zuck/Zuch, were of Carpatho-Rusyn descent. Rusyns are an ethnic group from Eastern Europe, including Poland, where Sandra’s family was from. Her family was of the Russian Orthodox faith. Sandra had a son with her former husband, singer and actor Bobby Darin.

Sandra’s paternal grandfather was named Walter Zuck/Zuch. Walter was born in Vilna.

Sandra’s paternal grandmother was named Stella A.

Sandra’s maternal grandfather was named Aleksander/Alexander Cymbaljak. Aleksander was born in Izby, Poland.

Sandra’s maternal grandmother was named Anna/Annie Plaskon. Anna was born in New Jersey, to immigrant parents.

Anna’s parents are listed in one source as John Plaskon and Akila/Akillia Frycki. It is not clear if this is accurate. Anna’s mother may have been named Tacanna “Catherine/Katie” Tesbir/Fezbyr, who re-married to Archibald Joachim “Akim”/”Archie” Wanko/Van’ko. Akila was the daughter of Leontinus Frycki and Barbara Plaskon.


Genealogies of Sandra Dee –

Sandra’s father on the 1920 U.S. Census –

Sandra’s maternal grandmother, Anna/Annie Plaskon, on the 1910 U.S. Census –

19 Responses

  1. follers says:

    “Look at me, I’m Sandra Dee
    ambiguous in my ethnicity”.

  2. madman says:

    Is it clear that both her parents were of Rusyn heritage? She is usually cited as having Rusyn ancestry from her mother. On the 1920 census his parents are listed as Russian-born and Russian-speaking and on the 1930 census they are listed as Polish-born and Polish-speaking.

    Strangely, I haven’t found her mother’s family on a census, but I did find this site ( that says that her maternal grandparents were Aleksander Cymbaljak and Akym Van’ko):

    The FamilySearch-family tree of Sandra Dee also links her grandmother to a “Vanko” family.

    Then I found this census, where an “Akim Vanko” is listed as the stepfather of an “Annie Plaskon”:

    Strangely, the whole family’s parental birth places are listed as “Aust Slovenian”, which must be an error, since the 1930 and 1940 lists Akim (Archie) & Katie’s birth places as “Austria” and “Poland”, respectively.

    I also want to point out that on the 1905 New Jersey State census, the Plaskon family has a John Wan(ko) in it. Did they switch children which each other?

      • follers says:

        The only thing I can make of all this is that perhaps Akym married a relative of the Plaskon family, and ended up raising the Plaskon children, without actually having married their mother.

      • follers says:

        You know, now that I think about it, perhaps Anna/Annie Plaskon was the daughter of Catherine, who married Akym Van’ko. And John Plaskon and Akila/Akillia Frycki were an unrelated couple.

        That would explain Anna/Annie’s apparent absence on the 1905 New Jersey State Census.

        • madman says:

          Catherine’s full name was Tacanna “Catherine/Katie” Tesbir/Fezbyr.
          Akim’s full name was Archibald Joachim “Akim”/”Archie” Wanko/Van’ko.

    • bablah says:

      Russian is a common mistake when talking about Rusyn families, since your run-of-the-mill American enumerator doesn’t know anything about Rusyns, but he certainly heard of Russians (it’s the commies, right?).
      Not many ethnic Russians emigrated to the US, and the ones that did, tend to stick to West Coast states.

      • madman says:

        Her father’s family could’ve been Polish.

      • madman says:

        “Vilna” is the name of Vilnius in many languages. So if that birthplace is correct (and it refers to the Lithuanian capital), Sandra’s father’s family probably wasn’t Rusyn.

        • bablah says:

          Oh, I do agree. Though Vilna sounds odd, since a Pole would say Wilno. Vilnya seems to be Belarusian variant, and Vilna is Ruthenian. Also her family is Orthodox which is not only super rare for Poles, but not even too common for Rusyns either (they’re mostly Greek Catholic, though Orthodox are a noticable minority).

          • madman says:

            The person who made the genealogy could’ve put any name. I think Vilna can only refer to Vilnius, since there’s hardly any other Eastern European town or village with a similar name.

            I agree that her Orthodox religion doesn’t fit with the rest, especially since both parents belonged to the religion. Assuming her paternal grandparents were both born in Vilnius into the Orthodox faith (which might be wrong?), there aren’t many options for her father’s ethnicity but Russian or Belarusian. So since that is unlikely, something isn’t right about her father’s background (thus I would add “possibly other”). I still don’t think he had Rusyn ancestry.

            Too bad we don’t even have the surname to go by to figure out her father’s ethnicity. “Zuck” can probably be anything (although the possible group is sounds the least as, to me, is Russian).

          • bablah says:

            They put Vilna because it says so on his WW2 draft record.
            Zuks from Wilno (more specifically from Petrahy, but I couldn’t identify where Petrahy is) on Ellis Island records are ”Russian” (one was Hebrew, but I think that was a mistake since litteraly everybody else was Jewish).
            The closest I found to Walter Zuck, was a Wladimir Zuk heading to Maine, but he was a few years younger.

            With that said, vast majority of people called Zuk that passed through Ellis Island were Ruthenian.

            Now, it possible that they were indeed Rusyn, but moved to Lithuania at some point.

          • follers says:

            So was she of Ruthenian descent?

          • madman says:

            Given that Rusyn is such a small ethnic group, I find it hard to believe that Sandra’s paternal grandparents were both born in Lithuania, to Rusyn parents, yet managed to maintain their identity in the city to such extent that they married another Rusyn and raised their child as one.

            But what you write is very convincing. If it says “Vilna” on the draft record, it does point towards Rusyn origin. And if “Zuk” is a Rusyn surname…

          • follers says:

            Why can’t you believe it? Members of small ethnic groups often lived (and still do) in ethnic enclaves and married/marry within that community.

          • bablah says:


            Well if they could move here to former Yugoslavia in their thousands, why couldn’t they move to Lithuania? It’s a bit further away, but not by much.

          • madman says:

            At the time, the Rusyn territory and Vilnius were in two different countries. There were very few Rusyns in Russia, so few that they wasn’t even a category on the Russian Empire census, while other groups that didn’t live in the country were (though I’m aware that this might partly be due to the unwillingness to recognize Rusyns as a separate ethnic group).


            This is the 1897 Russian Empire census in the Vilnius district. I don’t know if any potential Rusyns in Vilnius would identify as Polish or Ukrainian, but considering that the number of Ukrainians (a prevelant group in the country) in the city was only 517, we can assume by probability that Rusyns probably made up fewer than 100 of its residents. A group that small outside of its core territory is likely to be absorbed by a larger one, often from the same religion.

          • bablah says:


            All the Zuks from Wilno on E.I. records appear to be related (one immigrates, and the other one puts the first one as a US contact, etc.) . I haven’t found any source to back up the claim that Stella was from Lithuania too. If you find it, please link me.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.