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German Catholic Colonies at the Black Sea: A Bessarabian Colony, Krasna

By Josef Malinowsky

Die Deutschen katholischen Kolonien am Schwarzen Meere: Berichte der
Gemeindeaemter ueber Entstehung und Entwicklung dieser Kolonien in der
ersten Haelfte des neunzehnten Jahrhunderts, herausgebeben von
Dr. J.A. Malinowsky, Ausland und Heimat Verlags-Aktiengesellschaft,
Stuttgart, Deutschland, 1927, 36 pages, photocopy. Institute Room Germans
from Russia DK509.D38 1984 (not available on interlibrary loan).

Translation from German to English by Father Johanathan Fischer, OSB,
St. John's Abbey, Collegeville, Minnesota


Emigrating from Germany and Settling in Poland in the Years 1800-1803

The first settlers of the colony of Krasna, of the Roman Catholic religion, were subjects of the electorate--now the kingdom--of Bavaria in the Minker (Munich) district. In the years 1800--03, because of the ravages of war caused by the French Revolution many Germans left their fatherland intent on searching for a new home in some other countries. An appeal from the king of Prussia invited the colonists to come to the Prussian area of Poland. Upon this invitation the present inhabitants of Krasna came into the duchy of Warsaw where until 1814 they remained settled in a colony not far from Warsaw.

Settling onto the present-day site

The completely devastating military campaigns of the French against Russia which led through Poland pretty well cost the colonists all they owned. Since they felt that this war-torn Poland could no longer offer them protection and security for their future the colonists accepted a timely invitation from the Russian government to settle in Bessarabia. Proclamation of the Russian Government from the year 1813:
I. The Russian government receives the emigrating colonists of the Duchy of Warsaw under her special protection, and extends to them the right to enjoy all the comforts as well as the privileges and protections of the laws that are prescribed for native-born Russians.
II. It will be expected of the emigrants that they concern themselves primarily with agriculture: the planting and care of orchards and vineyards, and in particular being concerned with silk culture. [raising silk worms!] Whoever is qualified in these things, especially if he can handle them all, should do them, as is fitting for a good farmer and a new resident standing under the protection of his monarch.

Promised Rights:

1. Freedom from all taxes and land obligations for a period of 10 years from the day of their arrival in Russia, with the exception of a small fee to the Bessarabian land lords.

2. Poor families will receive from the crown , by way of a 10-year loan, 270 Rubels Banko. The others will be paid as much as their situation demands based on the original arrangement made at the time of arrival.

3. Each family will be allotted 60 Dess. [162 acres] as a permanent and inheritable possession.

4. In addition, all those who have no provisions are to receive for each soul a daily food stipend of 5 Kop. up until the first harvest.

5. So too they and all their descendants are free once and for all time from the military draft and the billeting of soldiers, with one exception, namely when the military must pass through the villages. And even this would happen only briefly, as for an overnight or for a rest day.

6. Further, the colonists are free to build churches according to their own religions, have clerics, and to observe their own religious customs.

7. After the passage of the 10 years following their arrival in Russia another 10 years shall be designated, during which period all those funds which were received from the crown by way of a loan must be paid back. Following this proclamation, in 1814 the above mentioned settlers, 133 families in poor and pressing circumstances, joyfully looking forward to a better future, left their Polish settlements of Orschokowin and Schitonia. They were under the leadership of Matthias Mueller and Peter Becker, some of them traveling on their own miserable carts, some on rented wagons and many others came on foot. When they had crossed the Russian border at Utschiluk they were given quarters in some Moldavian villages. Many also found places in Kitschinew. A large number of them remained in Vender from September 1814 till June of 1815, and some till the spring of 1816.

The Settling of Krasna 1815-1816

Upon official orders 90 of the families moved to the place designated for the settlement in the Kugelnik valley. The other 43 families followed them there in the spring of 1816. The Steppe-prairie they were about to settle was overgrown with high grass and "Burian", devoid of all human habitats. The land was leased out to three Bulgarians named Iskro, Loto and Karpp. (Every now and then there was also a carpenter to be found.) Each settler received the required wood for building a house: four corner beams, doors, a window and a piece of lumber for a bench along with 8 Rubels "Banco". Whatever else was needed had to be provided for by the settlers themselves. As household equipment each complete family received a wooden wagon, for the repair and upkeep of which, a year later, they were provided with some iron. They also received a harrow, 2 scythes, 2 sickles, one iron shovel, one hoe, one whetstone and a few other smaller tools. By way of draft animals each family got a pair of steers (oxen) and a cow. For seeding they received 4 Tschetwert [about 2.9 bushels] wheat and 2 Tschetwert potatoes [about 1.5 bushels]. In addition, for a period of one and a half years each soul received monthly one Pud flour from the storehouse in Tarutino. And now although on the one hand the Russian government was laying out millions [of Rubels] in advance to provide support for the colonists, so on the other hand they were very often being cheated by the suppliers, especially by a certain Pollners [This seems to be a proper name, not a crack at the Poles]. The provided cattle were often very skinny, the tools and equipment very poorly made, the flour spoiled and the promised 5 Kopek daily stipend was hardly ever received. For these reasons, to keep their families from starving, the settlers were forced to hire themselves out as day laborers. Because of the scarcity of draft animals the agriculture was very poorly carried out. Sometimes 2 or 3 would team together in order to get their acres plowed. Many just loosened the ground with the hoe and planted their bit of seed. At the beginning the colony was called "Elisabeta" and then "Konstantinschutz". Later, following orders from the highest authority, the village was named Krasna.

Splitting up the Krasna Colony and Why - In the Year 1825

Among the 133 families that settled in Krasna were 19 Lutheran [Evangelische] families. Now, since both the Catholics as well as the Protestants had their own specific holy days and religious customs there arose during the nine years they lived together, if not exactly fighting and hatred, at least a certain amount of friction. For that reason the community agreed to petition the higher authorities that the Lutheran families be allowed to move to the recently established colony of Katzbach. The petition was granted in 1825.

Description of the Valley and the Environs of the Colony

The river Kugelnik flows from the east towards the south. The village, situated in the middle of the valley, is made up of two rows of houses. Krasna lies at a distance of 100 Werst [c. 66.3 miles] from the government city of Kischenew, 90 W. [60 miles] from Akkermann and 90 W. from Ismail. Early on most of the houses were 'gestampft' [most likely made of sod]; there were also a few made of air dried bricks [probably like adobe] and roofed with 'Rohr' [The word means pipe, tube or reed. Clay pipe (half pipe) might not have been available. Perhaps it is another word for Strohdecke or thatch .] On both sides of the village, back behind the yards, orchards were planted. In 1818 48 householders planted vineyards on a slope one Werst [c. one half mile] from the village, and these soon proved to be very profitable. Another 56 householders planted their vineyards on the other side of the village, each of them nursing along 1500 grapevines. By the year 1847 there was already a rich wine [grape] harvest. In 1818 a stone church was built and roofed with 'Rohr' [again, perhaps clay half pipe or thatch]. The parish house was built out of sod and stands 8 'Faden' from the church. In 1836 a pretty little school house was built in the center of the village. In 1844, not far from the schoolhouse, they built a commodity storage house of stone with a tile roof ['Rohr'!]. The total amount of land occupied by the colony of Krasna amounted to 6688 Dess. and 844 Faden [about 18,060 acres]. The land surface of the colony is crisscrossed by several lakes and valleys. The soil in the valley is 2 feet of black top soil; then comes a nitrous layer. On the slopes there is also two feet of black soil but it is mixed with sand. The soil produces good winter wheat, rye, oats, barley, millet, corn (maize), legumes and potatoes. Types of grasses present are: Schmellen, vetch, melilot, hairgrass, Zwecken and others. Artificial feed plants had not yet been introduced.

Happenings:

During the Russian-Turkish war of 1827 the colonists experienced troop billeting and had to provide lots of transport . [It's not clear if they thus lost their wagons.]

Crop failures occurred in 1830, '32, '33, '34 : years when they could harvest hardly enough for seed.

Field mice caused great damage in the years 1822, '23 and '24.

Locust infestations occurred in 1825, '26, '27, '36 and '47.

Hail stones caused the community much damage in 1843.

Cattle epidemics took place in the years of 1827, '34, '39 and '44.

Horse epidemics came in 1847 and '48.

The colony is grateful for its welfare not only to God and the government but also to the industriousness in the cultivation of land, vines and animals. But especially appreciated are the women and girls who work in the winter: spinning wool and flax and making cloth and a variety of blankets (at 6 K. a piece).

Mayor Mueller
1st Assessor Soehn
2nd Assessor Bonakowsky
School teacher Caspar Matery

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