The Language Barrier for the Late Settlers is Often too High. Fifty-Eight Years ago Stalin Ordered the Expulsion of Volga Germans Lawyer Complains of Inhumane Treatment by German Officials
Schmalz, Peter. "The Language Barrier for the Late Settlers is Often too High. Fifty-Eight Years ago Stalin Ordered the Expulsion of Volga Germans Lawyer Complains of Inhumane Treatment by German Officials." Die Welt, 28 August 1999.
Translation from German to English by Carter Wood, Bismarck, North Dakota
Gera - The 28th of August marks a fateful day that brought hunger, suffering and death to hundreds of thousands of people. On the 28th of August, 1941, three weeks after Hitler's attack on the Soviet Union, Stalin signed the order to resettle the Volga Germans. "Thousands and tens of thousands of sabotuers and spies had planned attacks with high explosives," the Supreme Soviet claimed to justify its actions. Within a few months, 900,000 Germans in the Soviet Union were deported under brutal conditions to Siberia, Kazachstan, and central Asia.
Men and women, in the notorious 'workers armies,' were forced to lay rails, build factories or cut timber. Until 1955 they fell under the supervision of the NKWD (People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs). Among them were the parents of Lilie Judin.
The 38-year-old daughter of farmers Wilhelm and Maria Ferbert lives today with her two sons in the east Thuringen city of Gera. In her hand, she holds a reply from the Thuringen Office of State Administration, Form 207, that appears to her to be documentation of a new exile.
According to the officially numbered "201.41-2061.14," the authorities had notified her a few days earlier that she had not satisfactorily demonstrated her German national heritage. She had failed her language test, a barrier raised several years earlier that today proves unconquerable for many late settlers. "It is clearly evident," Form 207 reads, "that in your case the requisite mastery of the German language, above all in household usage, and including a German-influenced upbringing, has failed or not sufficiently occurred."
"Inhumane treatment by German officials," says Oleg Lyamin, a Russian attorney who made his mark in Germany after the collapse of Communism, defending young Soviet army deserters in East Germany. He now lives in Gera.
In a letter to the former president of the Bundestag, Rita Suessmuth, he pleaded for help. "Where should these people go? They can't go back. Their friends and relatives are in Germany, and they've sold all their property. No one ever told them that once they survived the language test in the German embassy and came here, they would have to repeat the process in Germany. No one ever said a bureaucrat could send them back to the place where Hitler and Stalin persecuted them.
"We have many such cases," says a spokeswoman for the diocese of Eisenberg, the seat of state government. "They are decided correctly according to the law. But only according to the law."
Lilia Judin's parents grew up in the village of Red Colonie near Rostov on the Don and were deported after Aug. 28 1941 to an area near Novosobirsk far to the east of the Urals. When Lilia Felbert came into the world in 1961, her parents were simple people who could neither writer nor read, and who spoke a Swabian dialect. She recalls: "When I was little, we only spoke German at home, because it was scorned in the streets.
There were very few Germans in our village, Krutschki. We were outsiders and often taunted. They used to call me 'fascist.'"
She met other Germans at her grandmother's, where they sang and prayed. Since the town lacked a middle school, Lila attended a boarding school, where no German was spoken. After that she moved in with an uncle in Kirgistan and learned sewing. She was hearing the German language again, but often answered in Russian.
"I could understand everything, but after all the time in the boarding school, speaking German was difficult for me." In 1980 she married Anatoli Judin, a Russian, and lived with him and his Russian parents in the village of Dschangi Dsher. In 1981 Vacislav was born, and a year later, Nikolai. About that time a Lutheran church opened opened in the village, with a German pastor. She baptized the children, and later she and her sons were confirmed. Her husband died in 1987 in a workplace accident.
She had long ago applied for emigration to Germany as a late settler. In the meantime, terms of acceptance had been toughened, but Lilia Judin took a language test in the German embassy in Kirigstan's capital of Bischkek. She and her children were accepted for emigration to Germany. She arrived on Christmas Eve in 1998 and was required to take another language test soon after. She could manage barely to get a word out.
"We know about that sort of thing from other cases," the diocese says. "People get so worked up that they can't say anything." Judin, the widow, has appealed her rejection, and the next step is another interview with the state administration.
Our appreciation is extended to Carter Wood for translation of this article.