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Stations of a Life: Volga - Siberia - Kazakhstan - Wolga - Germany

Lebensstationen: Wolga - Sibierien - Kasachstan - Wolga - Deutschland

Tietz, Ella. "Stations of a Life: Volga – Siberia – Kasakhstan – Wolga – Germany." Volk auf dem Weg, July 2006, 29-30.

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


Ella Tietz

Ella Tietz, nee Trippel, who was born in 1939 in Marxstadt in the Volga-German ASSR, reports as follows on the stories of her parents, siblings, and family:

My parents, Gustav add Maria Tippel, who had six children, were born in Marxstadt. My grandfathers Peter Trippel and Karl Resner were merchants prior to the Revolution and at times sold grain in the Volga region. As early as during Lenin's time, everything they had was taken from them, and under Stalin things got even worse. Grandfather Resner and my parents' brothers were arrested and shot by the NKVD.

In 1938 my parents built a house. Father worked on the shores of the Volga at an "elevator," mother took care of us six children and had her hands full with the house and the garden as well.

At the onset of the German-Soviet war in 1941, my parents and we children were denounced as enemies of the people and as spies. We were forced to leave house and home and were dragged off to Siberia. One could say that were chased away like dogs.

My parents and all of us children were taken to Engels by wagon and were then loaded into cattle cars and transported away by train. Half naked and hungry, we reached the Kemerovo region, where we were put up in old village houses and barracks.

My mother would often tell us that among the Germans in the Soviet Union there was a constant and great fear, and that all were feeling that the entire world hated them. We constantly heard the nasty word "fascists" hurled at us, but were not able to complain to anyone. One solace for us was our heavenly Lord. God's hand was resting on us, and that gave us strength and hope.

During January of 1942, my father and four siblings were dragged away from the family and taken to a forced-labor camp. Mother remained behind with us six children. After a while she worked in the collective farm. My oldest siblings, only twelve and nine years of age, battled hunger by going begging in the villages. My other two brothers, eight and five years old, had to baby-sit me -- I was three years old at the time -- and our youngest, aged one and a half years. Hunger and deprivation were a constant companion, at one time causing mother to trade her beautiful long hair for a bucketful of potatoes. Our lives had indeed been destroyed.

At the time, father and many other German men were forced to work in a quarry within a forced-labor camp. By nature, father was a courageous man who never complained. But when he returned from the work camp, he was just skin and bones. Often, with tears in his eyes, he would tell us, "Things were so terrible in the work camp. We were treated worse than animals. Many innocent people ended up under the ground. It was a terrible time, with nothing but terror." At the time of father's return, the two youngest of us siblings were experiencing swelling bodies and had hardly enough strength to walk.

After the war three more children were born to our family.

Like all other Germans, we were subject to the NKVD's so-called "Commandature" [a military command reporting structure specially designated for Germans]. There was no longer any hope of being able to return to our original home village, so my parents decided to start a new life at our current location.

In 1956, they and we children built a house for ourselves. At the time, children were working by age 10, in the garden, in the forest, and in the fields. During the summer we worked very hard, and during winter we attended school. I was able to complete eight grades, and at age 18 I was able to take a job and receive further training, so I moved to the city. I started out as a plasterer and finished the 9th and 10th grade at night school. It was a difficult time for me, living in cold barracks without heat.

But I was determined to get onto my own two feet. After completing 10th grade I started training in sales and worked as a managing salesperson. In 1962 my parents and siblings moved to the Alma-Ata region in Kazakhstan.

In 1963, Johann Tietz and I were married. My husband was born in Eigenfeld/Ukraine, in 1943 had reached Germany with his family, where his father had been inducted into the German Wehrmacht. However, in 1945 they were exiled to the Urals.

Together my husband and I raised two daughters. During those years I worked as a saleswoman, as a manager in a business, and as a director of a kindergarten. Later I completed correspondence studies. My husband at first worked as a demolition expert, then as a tractorist, and as an agricultural expert, also finishing correspondence studies.

To accomplish all these things was certainly not easy. But after all the difficult postwar years we were very pleased to have our freedom.

Between 1976 and 1979 two of my siblings and their families emigrated to Germany. There was a lot of talk at that time about the restoration of the Volga region's autonomy, and in our hearts there was a secret wish to be able to return to the Volga and feel at home again. Therfore in 1979 my youngest sister and I and our families decided to move to Marxstadt on the Volga.

So after 38 years we were back on our original soil, the place where our parents' and their children's cradles had stood. My heart harbored a mixture of warmth and sadness. The homes of our grandparents, parents and other relatives were still standing, but they were occupied by strangers.

We were again faced with the task of making yet another new life for ourselves and with the possibly greatest optimism. Some of the locals were friendly, but others were quite aggressive, especially those who had moved into the former homes of Germans. Perhaps they feared that we would demand to get our homes back, but we had no such intentions.

By our work we were able to demonstrate what kind of people we were and what we might be able to achieve. I was hired as a "Tovarovod" (administrator), but with all the nationalities in the area it was not easy to get one's work done. I can still remember how the female director of the "Univermag" introduced me to the sales personnel as their administrator. Suddenly I heard one of them saying out loud, "Who is this woman with such a weird name? Titz - Ella - and Gustavna to boot!?" Many laughed about this comment, and I was embarrassed.

Despite all obstacles, I engaged my work with diligence, courage, and patience. I even managed to attain the position of managing director of the business and, eventually, in 1988, I received a medal from Moscow for my good work. My husband was also rewarded repeatedly for his work as an engineer.

My sister was also hired as a saleswoman in the same business, and later as a director. She also finished correspondence studies. For her good work she was honored with a plaque carrying her picture. Her husband worked as a truck and bus driver and thereby also attained a good reputation. Our children, following conclusion of their 10th-grade education, entered training as office manager and kindergarten teacher, respectively.

Ella Tietz with sister and daughter in front of parents' home
Toward the end of the 1970's, a very dedicated Eleonore Herdt was collecting signatures for the restoration of the autonomous German Volga Republic. In 1978, these signatures were taken to Moscow, and the answer was relayed to the regional government, after which the local residents became even more hostile toward us, and the propaganda and the hate directed toward Germans gained even more strength. In the face of all this, all hopes for renewed German autonomy, despite the fact that our nation could easily have lived peacefully next to others, vanished.

It was for all these reasons that we decided in 1989 to emigrate to Germany. My husband and I had reached the age of 50 by now, so we were aware that it would not be easy for us to find jobs. However, we used every opportunity for getting work.

Now we are pensioners and are taking care of two grandmothers in our home. And after all these years we have come to understand that God's grace was always with us and continues to remain with us. Our children's lives and those of our six grandchildren, all of whom were born in Germany, continue on -- hopefully forever in peace.

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

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