Volga Rapture in Argentina
Wolgarausch in Argentinien
Interview conducted by Volk auf dem Weg
Ein Interview von Volk auf dem Weg
"Volga Rapture in Argentina." Volk auf dem Weg, February 2006, 14-15.
Translation from the original German text to American
English by Alex Herzog, Boulder, Colorado
Toward the end of 2005, descendants of Volga-Germans gathered to
Christmas. Some wore ancient Volga-German costumes, even when the
read 40 degrees [Celsius, which is 104 degrees F. Tr.]. Present
Volga-Germans who were born in Argentina and had never known faraway
Others - from Germany! - had come wearing German costume and even
an interview with Jakob Fischer, participant in this trip through
of Volga-Germans in South America, Volk auf dem Weg (VadW) asked
background for the unique get-together.
VadW: Jakob, how did Volga-Germans get to
J.F.: In 1874, the Russian Tsarist government rescinded privileges
been promised "in perpetuity" to German immigrants, and
it extended general
conscription to the Germans [previously exempted. Tr.]. Military
duty at the
time lasted anywhere from 5 to 25 years. Seeing colonist sons wounded
killed at various war arenas in the Caucasus region, in central
during the Russian-Turkish war [between 1877 and 1878]
provided the most important impetus for emigration.
Volga-Germans first arrived in Buenos Aires during the initial
January, 1878. The immigration law that had been endorsed by the
President, Dr. Nicolas Avellaneda, was rather tempting to them.
granted immigrants many advantages. Avellaneda became very active
Upon learning of the difficulties the Volga-Germans were experiencing
Russia, he had sent emissaries to Europa with the mission of persuading
Volga-Germans to emigrate to Argentina.
During the initial wave, 1,625 families (over 8,000 persons) emigrated
from the Volga region to Argentina. They settled in what today is
the province of Entre Rios, about 500 kilometers [300 miles] north
of Buenos Aires, and established the colonies Mariental (Valle Maria),
Koehler (Dalto), San Francisco, Spatzenkutter and Protestantendorf
[literally, Protestants' Village]. The first four villages were
Catholic, and what is now called Aldea Protestante is Evangelical.
A year later, during October of 1879, Aldea Brasilera was established
in the Entre Rios province, namely, by Volga-Germans who had initially
settled in Brazil and had heard how well their countrymen were doing
The Argentine government granted each Volga-German family 88 hectares
[ca. 200 acres] of land, a wooden plow, two horses and some tools,
and provided them with food for a year. During the first year, then,
the Volga-Germans planted 400 hectares [920 acres] of wheat and
doubled the acreage during the following year, tripling it during
subsequent years. Things progressed exponentially. After only a
year, the Volga-German settlers no longer needed assistance from
the Argentine government, and two years later they had paid off
all their debts.
Today nearly a million descendants of those Volga-Germans live
|Image representative of
an Argentinian area settled by Volga-German Immigrants
VadW: Within the Spanish-speaking region,
what characterizes the descendants of Volga-Germans as an ethnic
J.F.: Upon arriving in Argentina, the Volga-German families were
happy even though they had to begin from scratch, because they were
living in freedom. In contrast to their Volga-German countrymen
in Russia, they
would never be exiled, they did not experience famines like those
of 1921 and
1933 in the Volga region nor any mass shootings and deportation
Stalin's regime. Finally, they were never dispossessed, they kept
their land and
their animals -- something they remain proud of to this day.
These families cling together closely. The older and middle generation
still speak the Volga-German dialect rather well, although Spanish
is dominant among the youth and children. The church plays an important
role. Every member of a family attends services. There are radio
programs that are aired in both Spanish and in Volga-German dialects,
and there are German-Spanish newspapers and magazines. Volga-German
customs are maintained, and entire villages celebrate Christmas,
Easter, a church dedication, weddings, etc., as a community.
VadW: Common roots -- was this the reason
for your tour? Did you undertake it at your personal expense? Was
J. F.: People in South America like to sing and listen to Volga-German
songs. German folksongs from Russia, which can be obtained from
Landsmannschaft, are heard constantly on the radio in Argentina
and are listened to in
nearly every household. For this reason our music group for years
rather well known in the Volga-German villages of Argentina.
Following the successful visit in Argentina of the Schwabian Choir
"Heimatklaenge [Sounds of Home]," our own group was repeatedly
invited by Isabel
Kessler of Buenos Aires to do a concert tour of Argentina. Since
the members of
the group are music teachers, we were able to arrange to undertake
during our Christmas and New Year's vacations. We traveled at our
personal expense. Our stay in Argentina was organized and partially
financed by the
Society of Volga-Germans of Argentina. The family of Lillianna and
Gareis took wonderful care of us and accompanied us on the tour.
had been well thought out and prepared. For those reasons our concert
a gigantic success.
Most strenuous were the 800-kilometer [nearly 500-mile] drives
by bus during
extremely high heat. However, the great enthusiasm and hospitality
our countrymen made us forget the stress and strain as soon as we
VadW: How were you received?
J.F.: Our reception was always very warm, and the concert halls
always full. The musical couple Katharina Rissling and Wladimir
Dederer and I
spoke and sang in the Volga-German dialect, and that was always
extremely well. Becaue the Argentinean high summer, with its temperatures
40 degrees [Celsius = over 100 degrees F.] , we even held performances
Josef Gareis, our travel companion and guide, is a radio reporter
presents German and Spanish language radio programs. Due to his
of our concerts were broadcast on radio and on television.
VadW: What impressed you the most?
|Katharina Rissling and Wladimir Dederer
J.F.: We were all deeply impressed with the feeling
of solidarity with Germany and the pride in Volga-German roots.
Everywhere, at the airport, at railroad stations, and in the villages,
our music group was greeted with German and Argentinean flags. Forever
unforgettable will be the many encounters and conversations with
our countrymen in villages such as Maria Luisa, Lucas Gonzalez,
Santa Anita, Aldea Brasilera, Valle Maria, Koehler, Aldea Protestante
and Spatzenkutter, as well as the cities of Crespo and Ramirez.
All the locales just mentioned are part of the Entre Rios Province.
were established by Volga-German immigrants between 1878 and 1923.
we undertook a very long bus trip to Ollavaria in the Buenos Aires
where we visited the colony Hinojo, the very first settlement to
(on January 5, 1878) by Volga-German settlers in Argentina. A total
for us was the village of San Miguel with its wonderful Volga-German
VadW: How do you see the prospects for contacts
between the Volga-Germans in Argentina and our Landsmannschaft?
What is the extent of interest in personal contacts?
J.F.: During our trip we established several contacts and collected
hundreds of addresses. There are opportunities for reestablishing
relatives in Germany and Argentina, namely those that the closure
broders and the ban on emigration under Stalin in 1929 had caused
In Argentina, the "Asociacion Argentina de Descendientes del
("Society of Descendants of Volga-Germans in Argentina")
had been around for thirty
years now. It is under the leadership of Isabel Kessler and has
organizations in 37 villages and cities, similar to the local groups
Landsmannschaft. Several families are members of the Landsmannschaft
read Volk auf dem Weg and the Heimatbuecher. At each event on our
advertised the Landsmannschaft and asked for support. There appear
many variants for future collaboration between our two Societies.
Between September 7 and 10 of this year, a convention of Volga-Germans
of all of South America will be staged in Parana, the capitol city
of Entre Rios. Attending will not only be countrymen from Argentina,
but from Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay, Peru and other countries
as well. Folks can register with Isabel Kessler, Pujol 662, Depto.
2 (1405) Buenos Aires, Argentina; Tel.: 0054-11-4431-9715; E-Mail:
Our appreciation is extended to Alex Herzog for translation
of this article.