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 publication
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 germanized.
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 slowly.
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.