As Merkel visits, some Germans prefer to
stay in Siberia
April 27, 2006
Deutsche Welle, Berlin, Germany
Germany's chancellor made time Thursday to visit ethnic Germans living
in Siberia as part of her two-day trip to Russia. While Angela Merkel
may be happy to return to Berlin, at least one family wants to stay
|Merkel with ethnic German children
in Tomsk on Thursday
While their friends and family have long left their adopted land
for Germany, Eduard
Weber and his wife, Nina
Hochweiss, chose to stay in the red-brick house in Siberia they
now call home.
"My brothers, my sisters, their children -- everyone's gone,"
said Weber, 69, one of
900 Russians of German origin
still living in Kozhevnikovo, a tidy farming village surrounded
by a birch forest
that's situated about 100 kilometers
(60 miles) from Tomsk, where Merkel and Russian President Vladimir
Putin are meeting.
Germany remains far away for Weber and Hochweiss, who tend a vegetable
keep pigs and poultry to supplement
their combined pension of just over 200 euros ($249) per month.
"That's the homeland of my ancestors," said Eduard, a
former state farm engineer who
visited Germany for the first
time in 1998. "My homeland is Russia."
Two centuries of German settlers
|Weber said Siberia is his homeland
Germans first came to Russia during the 18th century, invited by
Empress Catherine II because of their technical skills to settle
lands in the southwest Volga region.
But after Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941 they were deported
Kazakhstan and the Ural Mountains
region under orders from Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.
"I used to live in Saratov," Weber said. "My father
was a manager at a collective
farm. We had to leave in 24 hours
with some things in a bundle," Eduard said.
For the family home he lost and the years when he was forced to
"live on frozen
potatoes," Eduard said he has received
compensation from the Russian government of 250 euros.
Struggling to adjust in Germany
About 2.5 million ethnic Germans emigrated from Russia during the
1980s and 1990s.
But many failed to find their
bearings in Germany.
"Some families have come back to the villages around here,"
Weber said. "They were
tired of being treated like
For many Russian-Germans, however, the memories of living in Russia
are no sweeter.
"We were ashamed of our roots," said Hochweiss, a retired
nurse. "The Russians
rejected us. Parents turned their
children against us."
|"Welcome to our school,"
reads the sign at a school in Tomsk
In local schools, young people still study German in case they
should move there one day. While Weber said he still speaks a German
dialect, his wife admitted: "I'm German but I don't speak German."
Hochweiss said she remembers being deported from Moscow when she
was six years old.
"They forced us into a train carriage, my mother and the three
children," she said.
"My father had to work in a hard
labor brigade. It was terrible."
Still, she has no regrets about staying in this corner of Siberia
that she likens to
a "paradise" on earth.
"You know, here the summer is fantastic," she said.