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“Life on the Volga”

Kampen, J. “Life on the Volga.” Volk auf dem Weg, March 2010, 43.

Translation from the Original German-language text to American English provided by Alex Herzog, Boulder, Colorado


This book, which chronicles the Volga German Colony of Josefstal in the Eisenach Canton, and which appeared in 2029, is a true treasure trove for our ancestor and homeland research.

One of the two authors is the Canadian Edward Gerk. We know this about our American countrymen: they get more intensively involved in ancestral research than we Europeans. Hereabouts more we put emphasis on dealing with the current problems of our people’s ethnic group. This view is supported by the name of the publisher, Alexander-Josef Dreser [a Josefstal name?  – Tr.], whose address is Auf’n Mühlwesen 4a, 59872 Meschede.

[Text Box:] The colony was founded in the early Fifties of the 19th Century and in 1852 was given the official name of Josefstal. Since among the original settlers there were also some Geigers (Geige = violin = skripka), the Russian population called the area Skrypalevo.

Within the 175 pages of this book in the A4-format [close to 8x11 letter format –Tr.], we find an interesting mixture of many names and some important information concerning the history of the Germans in and from Russia. Moreover, the book is a handsome one, written in good German, printed with an easily legible font, and contains many remarkable photos in black and white.

Among other matters, the numerous lists of names include property conditions, occupations, births, marriages and deaths of the former residents of the Volga German village of Josefstal starting with its founding and all the way up to the deportation of German residents in 1941.

The book is foremost a source for Josefstal family researchers scattered all over this globe. No one knows how many of these are still around. Anyone from the region around Josefstal on the “Suchaya Olchovka” (“Trockene Olchovka = the Dry Olchovka) or Erlenbach on the Mokraya Olchovka (“Nasse Olchovka” = the Wet Olchovka) desiring to find out more about his/her ancestors can probably find such information in this book. Countrymen with name such as Gerk, Dieser, Strömel, Simon, Benz, Holzmannm, Kissner, Hollmann, Blatttner, Ulrich, Bauers etc. are richly represented, in word and in image.

In some instances the book even gets somewhat “political,” particularly when the topics are the Russification policies during all eras, the civil war between the Reds and the Whites after 1917, soon after that persecution because of religion, and the death struggle of the farmers during the years of famine, collectivization and State terror.

Our appreciation is extended to Alex Herzog for translation of this article.  

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