Report given by Emma Nikolaevna Schwabenland, born in 1956. Emma Nikolaevna ist he daughter of Yekaterina Genrichovna Gartwich (Hartwig), deported from the Republic oft he Volga Germans in 1941.
Emma Nikolaevna was born after the war, in 1956, near the gold mine of Vyerkhniy Amyl, District of Karatus. Her father left her mother after the daughter’s birth, and soon after the family – mother, grandmother, grandfather, great-grandmother, sisters and brothers – moved to the hamlet of Sagaiskoe in the same district. The adult women went to work; at that time all were working for the tobacco plantation, and the older family members stayed at home with Little Emma. Grandmother and great-grandmother only spoke German during the whole period of their exile; consequently they did not learn the Russian language. It is thanks to them that the grand-daughter learned the German language practically from birth and without apparent effort. She remembers German words until today and is still able to speak eloquently. Besides the language German culture was passed on to the next generation – grandmother and great-grandmother taught her prayers, chants and poems. Before falling asleep, the grandmother would ask her to say a prayer, and then she wished her grand-daughter a good night in German.
Emma Nikolaevna recalls that, when she was a child yet, they always used to celebrate German Christmas. They lived in great poverty, but for the holidays they always bought some caramel, baked kolaches and thoroughly cleaned the whole house. On Christmas night they had their grandchildren sit on a bench, in order to wait for Snegurochka to arrive, which corresponds to the German Christ Child and brings along gifts. To receive the gifts they had to recite a prayer in German. One of the adults every time disguised himself as Snegurochka, came in and distributed the gifts. Emma remembers those days very well, even though she does not celebrate Christmas anymore in the way she did during her childhood. But she still has this feeling of solemnity, and she principally does not work on this very day.
Thus it happened that Emma, when she had grown up, married a German – a fellow from a family, which had also been deported from the Volga, and lived with her mother-in-law under one and the same roof for twenty years. They lived in very friendly terms helping each other as good as possible. The mother-in-law – Theresa Petrovna Schwabenland – was heavily marked by fate, even though nobody among the deported Germans could boast about an easy life in those years. Theresa Schwabenland was born on the Volga in 1926. According to what her mother-in-law reported, they had owned a house, a farmstead there. There was a bland, hot-dry climate and therefore no need for warm clothes. Firewood was not available, either; if they wanted to heat the rooms, the gathered dried cow and horse dung. They were forced to leave for Siberia in a hurry and to leave behind elevators filled to the brim with grain and all the cattle. Theresa Petrovna arrived in Siberia in the autumn, when she was a 15 year-old girl. She recalls that upon their arrival, in order to get something to eat, they dug out frozen potatoes, which had remained in the field after the harvest; many people, however, died after such a meal as a result of enteric infection. The father was mobilized to the labor army at once, where he lost his life in a tragic accident – he was run over by a trolley. After Theresa had become 16 years of age, she was also sent to the labor army - to Ufa. The mother-in-law recalls the time in the labor army as the worst, when she badly suffered from hunger. It was very cold inside the barracks, everything was covered by hoar frost. The prisoners of the labor army were fed with sorrel soup and a little piece of bread. Theresa Petrovna reported that, when she went to sleep in the evening, she had only one wish: that she would die. And when she awoke in the morning, she saw the prisoners, who had passed away during the night. After 1945 the situation improved – they went to the market, bought leek and salted butter; they minced the leek, poured over melted butter and dipped a piece of bread – that tasted good and, besides, was a substantial meal. During the years in the labor army her mother died in Siberia, but the sons who buried her, were not even able to remember, where her grave is located. Hence, Theresa Petrovna has been seriously affected all her life by the fact that she had no chance to visit her mother’s gravesite and pay her last respects to her. She never had any professional training. Without parents there was no way of getting a better education; she was compelled to work. Having returned home from Ufa, Theresa Petrovna went to work at once and quickly learned the Russian language; she lived on her own for a couple of years, therefore she had no opportunity to speak German to anybody. Her private life turned out to be without luck, too. After the birth of her two sons her husband decided to leave her for another woman, so that Theresa Petrovna had to educate her children all alone. However, she had a really good and warm relationship with her daughter-in-law Emma. Both communicated in German and educated the children together. Emma‘s first child died from a staphylococcus infection at the age of just one year. They buried it according to German habits – the relatives came to their home, they sang chants.
After the Siberian Germans started to leave for Germany in masses, Emma Nikolaevna also decided to travel to Cologne upon invitation of her uncle, but none of her family members wanted to stay there forever, none of them intended to move there.
Recorded by Yelena Zberovskaya and Marina Konstantinova
05.07.2016, Sagaiskoe, District of Karatus
Expedition of the V.P. Astafev State Pedagogic University Krasnoyarsk and the Krasnoyarsk „Memorial“-Organization on the project „Anthropologic turn in social-humanitarian sciences: Methodology of field research and practical experience in the realization of narrative interviews“. (Sponsored by the Mikhail-Prokhorov Foundation).