Close Collaboration With Russia is Advantageous
for the Russian-Germans
"Close Collaboration With Russia is Advantageous for the Russian-Germans." Volk auf dem Weg, August 1994, 3-9.
At the national convention of the Landsmannschaft of the Germans from Russia Minister President Erwin Teufel devoted a large part of his speech to the problems of those of our countrymen who live in the Federal Republic of Germany (see Volk auf dem Weg 7/9l p. 4 & 5.) The situation of the Germans in the CIS also received considerable emphasis.
In addition to the integration of the late resettlers we must also take note of a lasting improvement in the condition of the German minorities in the countries of their origin.
Our most important goal must be to support the Russian-Germans, so that they can organize their lives autonomously. The development of German districts in the area of Omsk and in the Altai in western Siberia has awakened a new hope. These German districts and their institutions, supported by Germany and Russia, are proving themselves more and more and give the Russian-Germans a new homeland.
Together with the Federal Government, Baden-Württemberg intends
to set up a small village for Russian-Germans in the vicinity of
St. Petersburg. The agricultural products will be sold in the city,
thereby contributing to an improvement in the lives of the people.
The mayor of St. Petersburg, Mr. Sobtschak, is one of the initiators
of this plan. At the moment, the Russians are developing the timetable.
Then still this summer, the necessary infrastructure will be started.
We again and again remind the responsible parties in
Russia and in the other countries of the former Soviet Union, that they also have a duty to care for our countrymen and that they must make it possible for them to arrange their lives according to their lights, to cultivate their language, their culture and their religion. We are prepared to support them in this, insofar as one can do this from abroad.
My particular thanks to the Federal Government for its persistent support of the chosen centers of settlement. Its help, directed to cultural, economic and agricultural goals, to the improvement of loca1 commercial and social conditions, contributes to the improvement of local living standards.
In the final analysis, the close cooperation of our country with Russia also helps the Russian-Germans. Above au we wish to help them to help themselves.
This particularly includes the help in restructuring the economy, in the building up of small businesses by craftsmen, in vocational training, in the realm of school and middle-school, but also for agriculture, the protection of the environment and in the social realm, as well as in the encouragement of cultural cooperation.
With this kind of assistance we are not only able to do development work, but we also thereby ensure our own European future in peace and freedom.
We live in a time of historic and breath-taking changes. That which we could scarcely imagine a few years ago, though we had it always in view, has become a reality. Germany has again achieved its political unity. The peoples of southern and southeastern Europe have emerged into freedom and democracy. Communism has couapsed. The division of Europe has been overcome. The reason for this development is not least the unbroken wiu of the people to overcome totalitarian organizations.
The strength and the endurance of the spirituarmoral values of the free and democratic order in the countries of Western Europe and their spreading to the East are also showing themselves.
We now have a great opportunity to write a new chapter of European history. Let us utilize this opportunity with courage and faith in God. Let us exclude no one.
Our goal must be to include the countries of central, eastern and southern Europe in the European integration movement. The Germans living there and the refugees and resettlers among us can be important bridge builders in the cooperation of the peoples and the countries. The most successful undertaking in post-war history, the political integration of Europe, depends on people like you.
The German expeuees have always taken an interest in working together towards an enduring European order. This is the valid statement of the Stuttgart Chapter of the year 1950. The first chairman of the Landsmannschaft of the Germans from Russia, Dr Gottlieb Leibbrandt was one of the signers. At that time, with this charter, the German expeuees already pledged themselves to a united Europe. In the recent past we have taken a big step in this direction, even though a long road stiu lies before us.
A unified Europe wiu only become a reality if it is also anchored in the consciousness of the people. I constantly emphasize the meaning of homeland and regions for the people in the Europe that is growing together.
The Christian-Western value-community is the foundation of Europe. This naturauy also includes freedom and self-determination, human-, minority- and national group rights. The actualization of these values and the respect for basic democratic rights must be our goal everywhere in Europe. Only then wiu we achieve a righteous and enduring peace under which we cau experience a feeling of unrestricted welrbeing.
Our Homeland Evening at the National Convention
Next to the ceremony, the social evening is the festive highlight
of every one of the national conventions of our Landsmannschaft.
One can see it with Russian-German or with German-German eyes. In
Volk auf dem Weg one probably must see it with "unspoiled"
eyes. For "German-German eyes" other standards, well-known
from television and press apply…
Without exaggerating, one can say that the contributions to our homeland evenings and to our cultural events that have distanced themselves the most from the clichés of the gawkers, have received the most applause among our countrymen, particularly from the generation that was born before the end of the war. One should therefore try to give recognition to the homeland evening as most of our countrymen have experienced it. After au, it belonged to au of us.
The variety of contributions
Even beforehand there was criticism, because many of the artists thought that they were particularly well-suited for the homeland evening. That was particularly true of the choruses, where the opinion was expressed that by now there were good Russian-German choruses even outside of Stuttgart. The difficulties facing the committee of the Landsmannschaft in charge of these choices consists iu that, that it is impossible for the volunteer workers to travel the entire country visiting about 100 local groups to find the "best of the best." The "old maid" then too easily remains with the head cultural official of the Landsmannschaft, Kristina Teppert, for whom nothing else remains than to keep the valued performers of former cultural events and to integrate some new talent among them.
Magdalena Merdian, who led us through the program, is a mistress of ceremonies very much to the tasted of our public, without snick-snack and professional affectation, the instead with a good understanding of the soul of the Russian-German.
The highlight of the homeland evening
Here are the opinions naturally vary somewhat. But almost without exception one must emphasize the family ensemble, Hubert, consisting of 19 late resettlers from Bayreuth, and to the great surprise of au opponents of "atypical Russian-German music" the mixed instrumental group "Iwushka," consisting of 20 musicians under the direction of Georg Martjan. Without exaggeration, that was a fruitful addition to better understanding of the relations between the Germans in Russia and their neighbors of other nationalities.
Piano and Violin
These contributions are represented at our events by the youngest generation of resettlers to which the couple, Ehard (piano) belongs. Although their "Slavic Dances" by A. Dvorak do not belong to a specificauy Russian-German repertory, they are never the less welrsuited to the building of an East-West bridge. The young violinist, Harry Schwenk, as well as Bettina and Henry Martens, received well-earned applause for outstanding performances; who knows, perhaps one or the other of them already has what it takes to achieve high rank.
The Stuttgart chorus under the direction of Marina Bauer is discussed elsewhere. But there was also a children's chorus from Elmshorn under the direction of Galina Haas that is difficult to judge after just one performance. The children were certainly original and jolly, and the applause was gigantic. "But,” some experts would perhaps say…No buts!
Among these were Frau Klein and Frau Schwan from Stuttgart, as well as Elvira Muth from Frankfurt/Oder. Au of them have previous radio experience, some in the West, Frau Muth in the former Soviet Union, from where she has brought along a large number of admirers, whose hopes were directed toward encores from their singer, but in vain. Those of the Landsmannschaft responsible for culture will have to decide before the next homeland evening, whether the repertory of au of the singers should be modernized or remain the same.
"There is no such thing," said one who has had some experience in this matter.
That assertion is in error, Maria Schumm again and again demonstrates with her own sketches on the theme resettler, "Russian-'Dutch'," "our guys" etc. This time she offers, resolutely but without deadly seriousness, but in dialect: "Guys, gab in 'Dutch'..."
Naturally there were many other artists present, for example a flute player, who are not mentioned here because at the convention there were too many stages and too few reporters. But in the past still less was written…
Homeland evening on 6.18.1994: Flowers for the ladies. Adolf Fetsch,
Kristina Teppert, Magdalena Merdian.
Homeland evening on 6.18.1994: The children's chorus from Hamburg made many happy.
To Odessa. searching for traces of our fathers
We were considered to be a diplomatic delegation, and our trip was classified as a "political" trip. Anyone who had imagined such a "political” trip by members of the Landsmannschaft of the Germans from Russia a few years ago, would have had the soundness of his mind questioned. However, now in May of 1994 everything had changed.
As one would expect of a “political” delegation, there was discussion on the trip from Bavaria through Austria and Hungary into Ukraine: About dissension among people, about the humanitarian aid, about today's political attitudes among our countrymen.
A particular subject was the discussion about a “report” broadcast, in which “Volk auf dem Weg” had been considered to be similar to publications of the radical right. Most of the participants felt this report to be slander. However, there was one among us, also a native-born German, who purported to be a friend of our group of people and maintained that among our countrymen there was a shortage of understanding of democracy. One should at first explain to the resettlers the basics of the fundamental law of the Federal Republic of Germany. In this manner, two differing viewpoints were pervasive throughout the entire trip. (They, however, were not directed at “Volk auf dem Weg,” but at the attitude of our countrymen. Editorial comment. ) A so-called “shift to the right” in the Landsmannschaft could not be detected.
A second theme of discussion concretely concerned the ca. 4,000 fellow Germans living in the area of Odessa: should they stay or should they go? Should one help them?
The discussions on the bus took place without heat. The participants in the trip, whose ages varied from approximately 20 to 50 years, showed themselves to be tolerant in regard to all points of view.
At the Hungarian-Ukrainian border in Chop (Tschop,) we were processed in a very friendly manner and relatively quickly, between 10:30 and l2:30. In the customs declaration we needed only to declare money over DM-400 and as most of us did not have such a large amount of money with us, this line of our declaration stayed blank. However, one was asked about weapons and, what was new to us, about radioactive elements.
We were almost embarrassed that our tour bus was processed more rapid1y than the so-called “minor border traffic” between Ukraine and Hungary. On the one hand we were happy about it; on the other hand we had a bad conscience.
At the border, through the good offices of the our trip 1eader, in reimbursement for his year-long care of the resettlers in Freiburg, our only native-born” German had his passport stamped in red with the text “Tamoshnja Tisa.”
The first kilometers in Ukraine impressed us mightily. Instead of the well-known communist slogans of the past, one occasionally saw the exhortation to protect the local environment (“Beregite ridny prirodu.”) Only once did we see, on the high tower of a cement factory, as a remnant of the communist might, the old slogan "Slawa KPSS." Apparently one coLildn't find a crane iu order to reach as high as the saying.
The sovereignty of the new Ukraine produced town signs on which Russian texts were pasted over with Ukrainian letters.
The so-called Carpatho-Ukraine (Sakarpatskaja Ukraina) made a good impression on us, if one overlooks the rough roads. The stone markers on the graves with Ukrainian inscriptions are cared for. Everywhere on rural and village streets one sees simple freshly planed wooden crosses, some as high as 7 meters. Everywhere we notice a kind of renaissance of Christian belief. Even in the smallest village we see newly-built or partially-built attractive churches, in some places even several. When we ask where the money came from to bui1d these churches, we hear unanimously that it all came from donations of the members of the church and that the biggest contributors are the old babuschkas.
The sacred buildings, usually with several silver-gray onion towers and covered with sheets of zinc, fit harmoniously into the mountainous landscape from Ushgorod over Mukatschewo, Stryj, Tarnopo1 as far as Chmelnitzkij. In other towns, all the way to Odessa, we could no longer observe similar phenomena. Beginning in Ushgorod the streets become worse and worse, so that our modern tour bus that has already endured quite a bit in its trips to Königsberg rocks back and forth and left and right like a yo-yo.
On an old town-sign we read that at one time a collective farm named "Nagirne" must have been here. Astonished, I establish that nothing remains here of 50 years of collective farming: the large cow barn on the hillside is empty, the tiles have been taken off of the roof by an unseen hand, the small transformer house is still standing, but the transformer is gone and the remains of a Tschetese tractor lie about as rusty junk. The administration building is empty; the windows nailed shut and covered with a tangle of barbed wire.
We spend the night in Chmelnitzkij in the hotel "Podolia," a concrete building reminiscent of the last decade of the Soviet epoch that one ca\' also see in Germany. The town itself presented itself to us in its green summer raiment with oaks and beeches in the front gardens of the two-story brick houses dating from the time of the dual monarchy. The food consisted of four or five courses and was very fatty and rich in calories. One can easily become accustomed to it. There is no coffee, but instead a great deal of tea, black, fruit tea or the "Odesskij," a mixture of peppermint and dandelion. It is even palatable.
The third day of travel took us from Chmelnitzkij by way of Winniza and Umanj on the Kiev-Odessa throughway towards our goal. The well-known panorama from our childhood stirred our memories, and we asked ourselves: "What would have become of us and our old homeland, if there had been no war?"
There was little time for sightseeing on the trip. Everyone, including the trip leader wanted to reach our goal as fast as possible. But in a restaurant named “Hirsch," 35 kilometers from Winnize, we found time at least to ask about the prices in Ukraine. The prices at the counter (all in Karbowanzy) were as follows:
|1 spoonful sauerkraut||837|
|1 kg goose sausage||81,700|
|1 boiled egg||2,750|
|1 bottle vodka||85,000|
|1 bottle sparkling wine||160,000|
According to our rate of exchange that was almost normal, but for the saleswoman with 234,000 Karbowanzy per month, what she offered was unaffordable. She told us that she and her husband and two children could not have manages without their own pigs and cows.
As we were discussing the high prices we met a “lost” son of our people, born in the Crimea in 1941, grown up in Karaganda and at the present living in Winniza using the name of his Russian wife. We could converse with the “German-Russian” in German without difficulty, until he tearfully bade us good-bye.
As we came nearer to the Odessa region and saw a road sign with the name “Perwomajskaja,” black earth covered with delicate green plants like a carpet spread itself out to the right and left of our bus. One saw the endless acres of lush green winter wheat and imagined the boundless golden yellow sea of the ripe fields of summer. This picture gave our farmers the feeling of limitlessness of this world, a feeling of safety and freedom on God’s earth. One who has had these feelings instilled in him in his childhood cannot forget them even 50 years later in a western land of Cockaigne.
Tired from the difficult trip, we arrived in Odessa late in the evening from the direction of Perwomajsk and Akschibej-Liman. Here we made ourselves comfortable in the sanatorium, “Rossija” in the city borough of the Arcadians. From now on we were guests of the sanatorium, an institution for former functionaries, generals, etc.
The stated goal of our trip, however, was information about the mass terror of the years 1937-38. We knew that there were no families of German colonists on the Black Sea that had lost no close relatives at that time. No wound dating from our prewar history pains as much as this one.
At that time there was no German settlement that was not affected by this terror, but the ones affected the most were the Germans of the city and area of Odessa. Many members of our older generation have been waiting for almost 60 years for the working-up of this part of their history. This chapter of German and Russian history can only be minimally found in the files of the former NKWD. Hundreds of the victims’ relatives wrote to the officials of Odessa during the years between the 50’s to 80’s, trying to find out something about those people of who they did not know anything definite, but suspected the worst.
The whole extent of the tragedy is more and more uncovered, since in Odessa itself, a branch of the organization “Memorial” started by Andrei Sacharov had opened. Its director is Nicholai Nikolaievitch Danilov, who has already been introduced to the readers of Volk auf dem Weg many times.
After the publication of the first names of executed [shot] Germans in the “Neues Leben” of Moscow as well as in Volk auf dem Weg and in the Heimatbuch [homeland book] 1990/91 of our Landsmannschaft many of our countrymen recognized their relatives. The terse information (number, name, year of birth and date of execution [by firing squad] in Odessa) is naturally not sufficient for exact research. According to our information, the more than 2,000 names of executed Germans have been publicly named, and they originated from an institute from murder: the Odessa Prison. As “Memorial” informed us, until now only 40% of all the cases of those arrested have been worked up.
We want to have the entire tragedy of our countrymen funded and thoroughly investigated. For this we have received a green light from the national head of the Landsmannschaft. Unfortunately the Landsmannschaft does not have the means to finance such a research effort, at least not at this time.
On May 19, 1994, Mr. Danilow was at our disposal for the whole day. Every participant in the trip had the opportunity to inform himself privately about the fate of his executed relatives. The fate of 37 victims could be spontaneously reconstructed.
(To be continued in the next issue.)
Reprinted with permission of Volk auf dem Weg.