The Lower Volga Villages

From Emilie Quindt, Guntersleben, Germany

Nov 21, 1998
Dear Mrs. O'Malley and Family,

Already a very, very long time I received your letter, but whether Ican write something of interest to you, that I don't know. All the personsyou mention by first and family name and how they are related one toanother, that I cannot know, because it is indeed already over a hundredyears ago.

Georg Ehrlich is of great interest to me; he married a certain Katja, and because my father David Ehrlich had a brother in America with the nameof Georg Ehrlich. My father was born in 1881, and his brother Georg was afew years older. There was no correspondence with him. Perhaps some of hisdescendants are still alive.

I can write about my life only. Emilie Quindt (nee Ehrlich) was born 19Dec 1913 in Tsherbakovka. During the First World War, my mother was livingwith three children of which I was the youngest. They lived in the villageMueller with her parents. My father returned after the war and we moved tomy home village, Tsherbakovka.

My mother Katharina Ehrlich was born a Greb; the father was Reinhard.What I am able to recollect about my childhood is the Civil War (1919 or1920). At Easter, armed men came into the village and there were many deadpeople. About 78 men were shot without any cause. Also of our relatives,some were among them. This was the most horrible experience in mychildhood. I also remember the great famine very well in 1921. That was avery terrible experience in my childhood. Many people died of hunger. Thefamine at the Volga was extremely severe. Then, when the American foodsupplies arrived (rice, cocoa, milk, sugar) many people were saved fromdeath by starvation. In one kitchen, rice with milk and cocoa were cookedand distributed to the suffering needy. The list of those who were in needof help was established by the Village Community. We had nothing but asmall house. Half of our acreage was rented out for half of the harvest.

After the big crop failure in 1921, there were good and medium harvestsuntil 1929. The farmers recovered and developed quite well. We too, wereworking our land already independently.

In 1929, the collectivization started. Everything the farmers had wastaken away from them and taken into the collective farm for communal workingof the land.

In 1924, I went to school in the first year, and after finishing the'dorfschule' (fourth grade village school) in Tsherbakovka, I went to studyin Stefan for three years, thus finishing 7 grades. This is called theseven-year school. In Stefan, classes were held in the parsonage. We, thechildren, lived in the dormitory next to the school. Bed and board werefree, but the pupils had to work in the school household--sowing,cultivating, and harvesting everything. These three school years were quitelively and interesting. After the seven-year-school, I attended school inLeningrad/ St. Petersburg in the German Pedagogical Institute. St.Petersburg was a beautiful city with many historical monuments, as theWinter Palace, Peter's Court and many others.

After completing the Pedagogical Institute, I was working from1934-1936 in the Samara Region as teacher of the German language in aRussian school, learning to speak Russian. From 1936-1941, I worked asteacher in the village Dreispitz in grades one to four in the ElementarySchool. In September of 1941, we were evacuated/ relocated to Siberia. Atthe train station of Kamyshin, we were loaded into cattle cars withoutwindows, without benches, without everything. We were on the way over onemonth. That was a difficult trip with two small children of two years andthe other of five months of age.

These war years were exceedingly hard years, not only because of hungerand cold, but the excessive humiliation and the degradation of the Germannation. Every month we had to appear at the police headquarters to sign apaper saying that we would not travel or go anywhere without permission.

We had to leave everything at home at the Volga, could not take anythingalong. But in Siberia, we received no support from the state and had to seeto it by ourselves--how we would manage to live.

But on January 1, 1942, all men of 18 years and up were taken into thework front (trudarmee). At the end of 1942, all women of 19 years and upwere taken into the work front. The women with children under 3 years werepermitted to stay home in Siberia. Those who stayed at home were childrenand old people 50-55 years old. From 1942-1947, I worked in the DistrictHospital as bookkeeper. Connected with the hospital, a large Auxiliary FarmComplex was being operated to plant food for the sick. (potatoes, cabbage,onions, milk, meat, etc.) The State Government gave little in foodprovisions for the sick. In November 1946, my husband, who had worked for 5years and 6 months in the forest, the Taiga, in the north, was nowtransferred to the gold mines near Orenburg. Here he was permitted to havehis family with him. In July of 1947, I traveled to my husband with mymother-in-law and two children. Now life became easier and was normalized.In the gold mines my husband worked as locksmith from 1946 to 1956. Webuilt a small mud house for ourselves. Now we had a home, food, and themost necessary clothing.

In 1956, all Germans were set free. that meant that we were allowed totravel to and live where we wanted. Only not in the home village. Also, wewere not required to report to the police any longer.

In June of 1956, we moved to Usbekistan to the city of Angra (120kilometers from Tashkent) where my brother was living. We again built alittle house for ourselves and a garden near the house. There we plantedall sorts of fruits and vegetables: apples, grapes, cherries, strawberries,tomatoes, etc. We suffered no lack of food and clothing. One could buyeverything, only one needed money.

Beginning of the eighties, things were getting worse. Food and everythingbecame more expensive. Those who were not Usbeks had to learn the Usbeklanguage. Many non-Usbek workers were dismissed and Usbeks took theirplace. Then the emigration started. Who was going where? Germans toGermany, others to Russia, Ukraine, etc. September 1992, we traveled toGermany to our new home. Since 1941, we had been "homeless." Germany isnow the fifth place of dwelling to us, and the last.

Here, there exist many different customs and practices compared with thoseat the Volga, but we are very content. We have a home, food and clothing,the most necessary things for life. Here, people pay much attention to oldfolks. For example, on the 80th birthday, we were congratulated by themayor and many citizens, and were presented many flowers, which caused usgreat joy.

On 27 Nov 1998, we had been married for 60 years. We were congratulatedby officials of the state and by many citizens and received many presentsand flowers. that was a joyful experience. I never thought that so muchattention would be paid us in our old age. These are experiences that neveroccurred in Russia, and probably never will occur. It is a history that Iwrote about 85 years.

For a long time I did not write. I wanted to know more concerning theVolga-German villages, but I found almost nothing. In the seventies, therewere Germans living in other villages like Stefan, Holstein, Galka,Dreispitz, Dobrinka, and others that had not been totally destroyed.Dreispitz was a normal German villaga. Presently there are hardly anyGermans living at the Volga. Several dams were built in the Volga, and thewater rose high. As a consequence, the villages of Danilovka, Miller, andSchwab are standing under water. The old Tsherbakovka was transfered to amountain, but the Russian Tsherbakovka is totally under water.Muehlberg-Tsherbakovka, my home village, is totally destroyed, as also aremany other German villages.

You wanted to know more of the history or the fate of the Germans at theVolga. All German villages have the same history. After the 1919Revolution, life was peaceful with much toil and work, resulting in greatsuccess in agriculture. Beginning in 1929, the Kolchos Years were hard andwork was troublesome, but no success in the agriculture. And when allimposed tributes had been handed over to the State in produce and taxes,nothing was left over to pay the worker.

In 1933, there came again an unspeakably great famine; many, manydied, starving to death.

In 1941, came the war. In September, all Volga Germans and all Germans inthe USSR were driven from their homes to Siberia, the Taiga, into the coal,mineral and gold mines. In the forest and in the mines, the people had towork in extreme cold and hunger. In this way, many human beings by thehundred-thousands were forced to give up their life in the mines, starvingand freezing to death.

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