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A Small Piece of Remembrance from My Childhood

Handwritten letter translated from German to English by Alex Herzog


E. Neufeld
Bungler Strasse 23
40597 Düsseldorf, Germany

Dear Mr. Miller,

I learned that you are a member of the organization Deutsche au Russland and are collecting materials for an archive. I am sending you a story written by my mother of memories from her childhood. Perhaps you'll be able to use it as information dealing with the history of our ancestors who emigrated to Russia from Germany.

A Small Piece of Remembrance From My Childhood

In March of 1935 our parents invited us to move from the Volga region to the Caucasus area in order to get away from the famine, namely, to the Kuban River and a village called Semen, not far from the city of Rwanda. It was a really beautiful village, and there we settled in quickly, partly because my father immediately got a good job as a supervisor in an animal breeding operation in the Koch [collective]. He was responsible for the cows, sheep, pigs, horses and technical aspects shriven [??]. My parents had wonderful voices. My mother had died of typhus in 1934, so we had a step mother who could really sing. There was a choir in the village under the direction of Mr. Maier. My parents joined this singing group right away and sometimes I was allowed to attend (for getting good grades in school), joining even some of their outings. I am 58 years old, but I never again heard such beautiful singing. There were about 40 singers, and each singer had, in addition to a good voice, various kinds of flutes with bird like sounds, and depending on the text of a song, bird and celebratory sounds were added. It was so beautiful that I cannot forget this music and singing to this day.

Often times these singers were invited to other villages, as for example, the Russian village of Amok. All greeted the choir with great joy.

Throughout the whole region Mr. Maier's choir was aplauded and praised. But during the summer of 1936 the NKVD came and arrested our choir master, Mr. Maier. He was accused of spreading forbidden songs. To this day I remember several of the songs: 1) Wanderlust [Joy of being in the forest], 2) Die Limewater, die emit deer Politick niches Zeus tun ha ben [The weavers who want nothing to do with politics]. The choir dissolved. A short while later a test election was to be held, and the teachers were to take part in it. My own teacher, a very intelligent young man of about 23 to 24 years of age, had to take part, too.

Soon after my dear teacher was picked up by the NKVD, and it was said that he had expressed a desire to cross out the whole list. In September of 1936 my dear brother came home from the fields saying he had been sent home. And my dear brother said to the corn mush that had just been cooked: "Today I will finally eat to my heart's content." He washed his hands and sat down at the table, but suddenly three men dressed in green uniform rushed through the door - it was the NKVD. They grabbed my brother and dragged him into a car, after which they searched through the house and dug around like pigs. They took anything that was in the German language, as well as my brother, who was only 17 years old. And I never saw my brother again. My father turned gray within just a short time. He looked rather bad.

He said, "Children, if you ever pass by a jail, say not only 'Thank God I'm not in there,' but also 'May God and Jesus keep me from being there."' For my father the sun had set, his songs went silent, his life became gray. He sold our beautiful house that he had bought with everything he was able to muster. He settled us down in a Russian village. Perhaps he was seeking refuge among the Russians. Then he once again began to manage his life, with diligence and sweat, but he would never manage enough for even a little house. Thus our wandering life began, until 1939, when we returned to the Volga. During 1937 1938, all intelligent people were arrested and jailed, and none of them ever returned home. I am writing all this from memory.

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