History of the Village of Krasna (Krassna), Bessarabia
Chronik der Gemeinde Krasna
Entnommen einer alten Aufzeichnung, durchgearbeitet von Josef
Riehl (z.Z. Cappel - Wesermünde)
Taken from an old document in the German language, no year of
Edited by Josef Riehl
Translation from German to English by Brigitte Wachter von
Budde, German Translator, Germans from Russia Heritage Collection
This summary text was published by Josef Riehl (1 August 1895
- 9 April 1960) in 1948. It was reprinted on behalf of his wife,
Hilaria nee Dressler, and his daughter, Katharina Skarneck.
For the village of Krasna, the year 1939 is a historical point
of reflection, from which to view all previous historical events
which have occurred during a period of 125 years. During 1914,
our community should have reminisced for its 100th anniversary
[since the colony's founding].
The community anticipated to celebrate with ceremony this historical
fact. Unfortunately, with the outbreak of the world war, such
plans were impossible. Therefore, this year of 1939, we want opportunity
to remember our history as much as we can trace our past, with
as much as older people can share their memories with us. Present
circumstances prevent us to write a detailed history of Krasna.
In compliance with requests from many members of the community,
at least a brief history of our community is to be published.
Not a trace of an archive remains in the village office or elsewhere:
because, after the war, these records were confiscated by evil
people. Therefore, for historical documentation, we must rely
on old texts.
I would like to start with our ancestors who have founded the
village in 1814. The majority of them have changed their homeland
twice. Some sleepless nights must have preceded this change of
decision for seeking a new homeland. What drove our ancestors
from a comfortable homeland into moving to a strange land? It
was hardship caused by disastrous military campaigns of French
Revolutionary troops who devastated southern Germany from 1800-1803.
This hardship made them [our ancestors] receptive to any propaganda
to emigrate. Most of them had lost everything they owned and roamed
about their country region.
As, as it is known, Catholics and Protestants have their own
holidays and customs, a harmonious living together was often disturbed,
which greatly affected development of community life. Therefore,
in 1825, the community agreed to ask higher governmental authorities
for permission to allow Evangelical families to move to the newly
founded colony of Katzbach which is located 8 km west of Krasna;
permission was given. They settled soon afterwards at the lower
end of Katzbach. In Poland, eight Polish families joined the German
families from Krasna on their emigration. Today, they are completely
Our ancestors received in advance building materials and eight
Rubles in cash for the construction of houses. Every family also
received some farm equipment such as plough, wagon, etc., as well
as draft cattle. Every family received four tschetwert of wheat
and two tschetwert of potatoes for sowing. The supply center was
in the, back then, newly established colony of Tarutino. Poor
colonists were frequently shamefully cheated by the suppliers.
The cattle were thin and unsuitable for work, equipment was bad,
flour had often spoiled, and money was often not paid on time.
Certainly, model farms were unthinkable under such conditions.
Many farmed together; others put their seeds in with a hoe. Everything
was overcome by hard work and continuous perseverance, and the
people recovered gradually and gained affluence and wealth.
At the beginning, the village was called Elisabeth, later Konstantinschutz.
After a few years, the colony received its name 'Krasna' on the
order of highest authority in memory of the battle by Krasna,
Russia, during the war with Napoleon I.
Today, Krasna exists already of six rows of houses; thus, since
the settlement, we have two new village streets. The distance
from the county seat, Cetatea-Alba, Akkerman, is 90 km and 120
km from the capital of the province, Kischinev.
At the beginning, upon settlement, the houses were rammed down
(earth) or built with clay bricks, and covered with reed. The
last house from the settlement era was leveled in 1911, and belonged
to Josef Johannes Kuß. The presently oldest house is the
house of the widow Emerentiana Fähnrich. Wells, which were
dug at the beginning and had a depth of four to six meters, provided
the drinking water. In time, the water in these wells turned bad
and people were forced to search elsewhere for good drinking water.
In 1911, many neighborhoods set out to dig artesian wells in
the middle of the streets. Although they had good, yet murky water,
all but one [well] turned bad after a few years. Until 1936, this
one well supplied almost the entire community with good drinking
water. In this year, the village office had a new well dug in
front of the governmental office. Later, in 1937/38, two new wells
were dug in other places so that the community is now provided
with good drinking water.
The acreage of the village of Krasna is 7,512.11 ha or 6,810.2
dessiatines of unsuitable land and is divided into 114 farms.
Thirty families without land are in Krasna.
At present, the land is distributed as follows: farm land 5,670.69
ha, grazing area 1,363.44 ha, narrow streets and farmsteads 357.98
ha. In addition, some farmers own approximately 2,500 ha of land,
purchased from another village. In general, Krasna owns more land
of lesser quality than good land. Much sand and clay is on ridges,
saltpeter in low lying areas.
Today, Krasna numbers 512 farms with 2,873 residents of both
sexes. They are all Catholic except for five Orthodox families.
In the course of 125 years, very many families emigrated from
Krasna into all directions. Thus, in 1874, a large group moved
to Dobruja and founded the community of Karamurat (Ferdinand I).
Today, this community is a very attractive village with its own
church and school. In 1884, another group moved to Patrakaß
in the Kantemir Valley onto leased land, and from there on to
Emmental, district of Tighina. Today, the [village of] Emmental
founded by people from Krasna is a parish with a very beautiful,
impressive church. In 1907, people from Krasna moved in smaller
groups to Siberia, and in 1908, to the Caucasus. Before the war,
94 families and 29 singles, a total of 567 people, emigrated to
America where they established two separate villages with the
names 'Krasna' and 'Straßburg.' After the war, in 1925,
a group numbering 25 families moved to Brazil. Then, in 1929,
a second group followed. In the same year, many families emigrated
also to Canada.
At the beginning, farming proceeded only slowly. Two things were
lacking: draft animals and ploughs. Agricultural equipment was
totally insufficient. The wagons still had wooden axles. Grain
was mowed with sickles and scythes, and cleansed with the winnowing
shovel. Grain had very little sales. At the beginning, retail
stores were in Odessa, [and] later in Akkerman (Cetatea-Alba)
and Kilia. Prices were very low, and therefore [generated] small
earnings. Our ancestors had to build their lives accordingly.
It was very simple. They made their own clothes from flax, hemp,
and wool. They produced relatively many products but received
too little money. A man with 200 - 300 Rubles was considered a
wealthy man. The price of land was ridiculously low. So, you could
buy half a farm for half a quart of schnapps. In the 1860s and
1870s, price for land rose to 300 Rubles. Many things, such as
illnesses, wars, held the economy back. Cholera, which raged in
Krasna in 1831, claimed many lives. Typhus occurred very frequently.
The Russo-Turkish wars of 1827 and 1877 brought much billeting
and loss of material to the colonists. Our people were met also
with other blows. They suffered from the poor harvests of 1830,
1832, 1833, 1834, and 1839. Due to a lack of feed, a number of
cattle was almost completely destroyed. The great enemy of the
farmers in the Budjak region, the suslik, did great damage in
1822, 1823, 1824, and in 1848, and grasshoppers in 1825, 1826,
1827, 1836, and in 1847. Farmers were not even spared from hail.
In 1843, it destroyed the harvest. Rinderpest occurred heavily
in 1827, 1834, 1839, 1844, and in 1859. However, our Lord also
gave good fortune and blessings through fruitful years so that
our farmers forgot all problems and gained considerable prosperity.
Agriculture experienced a special boom in the 1880s, when better
agricultural equipment came on the market as for example mowers,
cleansing mills, iron harrows, etc. Yields increased significantly
by rotating crops and through a different arrangement of fields
especially by deep furrowing after the war. In the 1880s, the
red winter wheat and 20 years later the white winter wheat was
introduced. Summer wheat disappeared almost completely. As of
1906, a renewal in agriculture began in Krasna. In that year we
had a good harvest of winter wheat. From this time on, the price
of land started to increase dramatically. Since then, until 1914,
200 - 300 Rubles were paid for one dessiatine. In 1910, the record
harvest of winter wheat contributed to a further increase in prices.
In this year, farmers of Krasna thought themselves to be well
enough off so that four farmers bought a steam threshing machine.
Afterward, the world war devoured a large part of the wealth through
various billeting, requisitions and mobilizing the best work force,
and through the general devaluation of the money.
After the world war, the economy experienced again a rise until
1927. Then came a setback. 1928 was a bad year. As the farmers
had to buy seed and feed at a high price (120 Lei per pud of barley),
many went into debt. As a result, the community depended on taking
out a joint loan. This loan in the amount of 2,400,000 Lei was
taken out at the General Savings Bank of Hermannstadt in Transylvania.
Eighteen men from the community gave the guarantee. They hoped
to be able to soon pay off the debt especially as the year of
1929 produced an excellent harvest of barley. However, the general
world crisis thwarted the plans. Prices fell fivefold. The repayment
of the loan dragged on so that the last debtor had to make use
of the conversion (or: debt rescheduling) law. Fortunately, today
this debt is paid. The crisis began to subside and hopefully,
agriculture will see a again a rise.
Cattle raising in Krasna was always a lucrative branch of agriculture.
The people of Krasna took first to beef cattle; this was the white
and red cattle of the steppe. After the world war, the red cow
of Molochna was preferred. The Angler breed is accepted only very
Growing fruit was successful before the war but was ruined because
of the severe winter of 1928/1929.
Viniculture had its beginning in 1840. In that year, 58 farmers
east of the village, in the Nede Valley, put in a vineyard on
a hill which produced quite well. Later, vineyards with up to
1,500 vines each were planted on the opposite side. After 1906,
in 1909, phylloxera appeared and destroyed every vineyard. Krasna
was left without wine until the world war. During and after the
war, all the farmers put in self/individual bearers (Selbstträger)
which produced wine of very low quality.
Trade has developed only slowly in Krasna. Presently, the following
craftsmen are in Krasna: 8 carpenters, 2 shoemakers, 6 cartwrights,
14 smiths, 6 seamstresses/tailors, furthermore 2 cement brickyards,
1 steam mill, 1 windmill, 2 oil mills, and 3 butcher shops.
The cattle and wagon trades, which were initially heavily used,
are, today, almost brought to a halt. Grain is usually sold to
Jewish middlemen. The necessary household goods were initially
purchased from peddlers. Only in the years of the world war did
the present Volksbank, which was then a small credit bureau, open
up an branch which, to this day, has in hand the largest commodity
trade. In 1925, the Volksbank Konkordia founded a dairy
business which folded up after a few years. Six German businesses
and one Jewish one supply the community with goods. Three private
dairies, which apparently do good business, were established after
the folded up dairy of the Volksbank.
To this day, since its founding, the church was considered a
meeting place for an intellectual and spiritual life.
The settlers held the first church services in a private home.
Only in 1818, a small church of stone was built in Krasna at the
location where Markus Ternes lives today. The present attractive
church in the center of the village was completed in 1866, and
was consecrated on October 6, 1874, by Bishop Vincenz Lipski.
Since its founding in 1814, Krasna forms its own parish and belonged,
until the founding of the diocese of Tiraspol, to the diocese
of Kamenetz in Podolia. In 1818, the first vicarage was built
next to the first church. The present vicarage was built in 1881.
In order to make the church life and the spiritual life more spirited,
Pastor Prof. Wilhelm Schumacher managed to build, in the parish
garden, an impressive building which has the name 'Our Home,'
and which is the property of the church. Presentations of all
kinds are to be given there. From 1919 - 1920, the church, which
used to own 145 ha (133 dessiatines) of land, was dispossessed
except for 18 ha. Until now, 28 members of the clergy have been
working in Krasna. Since founding the colony, a parochial school
existed next to the church. Today, Krasna has two schools. One
is the former parochial school and serves today as a school for
girls with five teachers. The other was built by the district
office (semstvo) and cost 20,000 Rubles; 8,000 Rubles of
which were paid by the community of Krasna, which supplied all
the labor. This school serves as a boys' school and has six teachers
with four class rooms. Overall, Krasna has twelve teachers including
the kindergarten teacher; of these, two were Germans and the others
non-Germans. The students, including the kindergarten, number
631 children. The future of our children worries us because soon
they will no longer be able to read or write in their mother tongue.
Since the birth of the community, it [Krasna] formed its own
volost office and as such had a district bureau. Until 1871, correspondence
was in the German language. Then the administration had to be
in Russian. After the world war, at the annexation of Bessarabia
to Romania, the office was called 'Primarie' with a chief
notary public. In 1930, our 'Primarie' building was remodeled
and, today, is quite an impressive building.
Thus, more than 125 years have passed since that time when our
ancestors immigrated here. However, we still did not come to rest,
still had no actual homeland. In 1940, in Europe, WWII had broken
out; we had to leave Krasna during the process of the German-Russian
exchange for people. Our assets were appraised by a joint commission,
and from September, 9, until October 9, 1940, the resettlement
to the Reich took place. First we came into a camp where all of
us shared one shelter and had meals together. Then, after approximately
one year, we were settled in West Prussia on former Polish estates
according to currently appraised assets. The people of Krasna
were housed in nine districts so that we needed days when we wanted
to visit a brother or a sister or any other relative or acquaintance.
We would have adjusted to this inconvenience, but it was to get
worse. We were less than four years in this new location when
we had to leave again. However, this time not as a result of some
friendly agreement and with all our possessions, but only with
horses and buggies, and minimal possessions which we could pack
- we did not know what to take along and what to leave behind
- that's how we left our quarters: in a big hurry. Meanwhile,
the war had spread all over Europe and had turned the former partners
to a treaty, Germany and Russia, into enemies. And that's how
the destructive war machine approached our peaceful farmland.
So, we had to flee into uncertainty. For eight long weeks, we
were on the road with all we had, in cold and in snow, hungry
and sick. That's how we finally arrived in the district of Wesermünde,
by the coast of the North Sea, and were housed in the village
of Cappel-Strich. We are still sitting here today.
So, I want to finish my report on the village of Krasna, hoping
for a good life in the near future.