My Life Story

Miller, Melita (Schall) born at Selz, Kutschurgan District, South Russia (today near Odessa, Ukraine)

Text permission of Mary Ann Miller, Yakima, Washington, July 2012

I am Melita (Schall) Miller and I was born on November 15th, 1926 in Selz, Russia which is on the Dniester River.  My parents were Pius Schall, my father, and my mother Eva (Zerr) Schall.  My ancestors Jackob Schall and family came from Germany in 1808 to Russia on the invitation of Czarina Catharine II of Russia.

Czar Nicholas of Russia was deposed in 1917, imprisoned and executed with his family in 1918 by the Communists.  In 1917 was the Bolshevik Communist Revolution of Nikolai Lenin and the beginning of the Soviet regime.  Then came the suppression of the German language and cultural activities in Russia and the closing of the churches by the Communists.  In 1924 Josef Stalin became the supreme dictator.

The private property and the land of the people was taken away and everybody had to work in the Kolchoz which were collective farms.  My father was sent to Siberia with a lot of other people who had a nice farm and house.  My mother and my two sisters, Emilia and Ida, moved in with my mother’s family; our house was used as a blacksmith and carpentry center by the Communists.  My father escaped from Siberia and lived in Odessa about 40 miles from Selz and he worked in construction.  My mother worked in the Kolchoz collective farm, and the kids went to Russian language school.

There were 3150 people living at Selz in 1944.  In 1941 the German army troops invaded Russia.  My father came home from Odessa and we got our house and land back.  The churches opened and priests came from Romania and Poland and Germany.  The kids went to German language school.  They opened a school to train German teachers and I was accepted.

In 1944 was the retreat of the German Wehrmacht army and they took all the German people with them.  On March 25th, 1944 we left Selz in covered wagons with only some necessary food, clothes, pots, and one cow.  The old people and the very young stayed in the wagons; in the evening we stopped outside the villages to cook and sleep and give the horses and cow some rest.  We went through Bessarabia and in Romania they put us on a train to Poland because the Russians came too close.  We stayed about four months in Poland; our school gathered; my father was sent in the army to West Germany.  But my mother and two sisters didn’t get away and were sent to Siberia.  After the war ended, I found my father in West Germany.  In 1948 some relatives in Canada asked us if we wanted to come to Canada.  So we left in March of 1948 from Germany for Vibank in Saskatchewan, Canada.  My father found work in a bakery in Regina, Saskatchewan and I worked for four years in the Grey Nuns Hospital in Regina.

I met Balzer Miller in Germany and he came to Canada in 1949 to work on a farm in Glencross, South Dakota.  In December of 1951 he came back to Regina where we got married on January 2nd, 1952.

We got a letter from my aunt in Yakima, Washington and she asked us to come and help her because she was separated from her husband.  I didn’t want to leave my father; but he said go ahead and I will join you when I retire.  But he got sick and died on August 27th, 1965 and we brought him to Yakima for burial.  In 1952 on December 1st our oldest daughter Linda was born, and on the 25th of February of 1956 our second daughter Rose was born.  On October 3rd, 1963 our son Michael was born, but he got sick with water on his brain and died on November 2nd, 1965.  In 1967 on February 11th our daughter Mary Ann was born.

My husband Balzer Miller worked for the Mercy family and the school district in Yakima.  He retired in 1983 and later got sick with prostate cancer and kidney failure and he died on October 22nd, 1999.

Our oldest daughter Linda works as a substitute teacher in Beaverton, Oregon and her husband Jim is also a teacher.  They have two children; Kristi is in a Dental program at school and Kevin is a junior in high school.

Our daughter Rose lives in Cle-Elum and works in the Assessor’s office in the county courthouse in Ellensburg.  Our daughter Mary Ann works in the Public Works Dept. in the Yakima county courthouse.

Linda and Jim Doriss got married on August 9th, 1975 at St. Paul Cathedral in Yakima, Washington.

My parents, Pius Schall and Eva (Zerr) Schall got married on November 4th, 1925 in Selz, Russia.

Our house in Russia was long; in the foreground were the living room, bedrooms, and the kitchen; then the summer kitchen and the blacksmith shop; then the barns for the horses, cow, and chickens.  The outhouse was in the back on the side of the barns.  There was a cellar in the yard where we kept the vegetables.  In the attic we kept the beans, flour, hams, fruit from the trees, and sausages.  We had a big garden close to the river; in the yard there was a well for the animals.  And every four or five blocks were faucets with water for cooking and bathing.  In the summer we would go swimming in the river.

In the summer the cows were taken outside the village during the day; in the evening the cows came back into their owner’s yard.  The kids would go out in the streets to collect the cow chips that were used as fuel to heat the house in the winter.

At Christmas time a young girl was dressed in white and she came to our houses dressed as the Christkindel to bring some homemade toys and fruit to the children.  There also was a man dressed in a fur coat with reeds to scare the boys and he was called the Belsenikel.  There was no electricity, and we burned kerosene lamps.

When the Communists took over we had no private property and had to give some milk and eggs to the government.  There was a mill in the village where we could get some flour and cornmeal made.

After Stalin’s death in 1953, life became easier.

My mother and sisters came to Germany.  My sister Emilia worked in a supermarket cutting up meat and my sister Ida was a seamstress.

In 1978 my husband Balzer, daughter Mary Ann, and I went to Chemnitz in Germany for a visit.  My mother died there on the 12th of December, 1986 at age 84.

There was a store in the village of Selz in Russia where we could buy some material to make clothes.  My mother’s sister Karolina made all our clothes and boots; we bought rubber galoshes to wear with the boots.

The soap was made with lard and lye, to wash clothes and for bathing.  There was a little store where we could buy sugar, salt, and sometimes candy.  There was once a week a village market where we could sell some vegetables and fruit.  My mom worked in the Kolchoz collective farm and at the silk worm factory where she got some silk material for dresses for herself and for her four sisters.  Apples, pears, plums, and apricots were dried for the winter months.  One cow and one pig were slaughtered in the fall, and the meat was smoked for ham and sausages and the meat was packed in lard.  Pickles were made in barrels.  Tomatoes and watermelons were put in barrels, and also sauerkraut.

Permission to use any images from the GRHC website may be requested by contacting Michael M. Miller