Irma Georgievna Yelztsova, born in 1938
Hamlet of Marinino (dairy sovkhoz), Kuragino District – 14.07.2017
Parents: Yegor Yakovlevich Bohl, born in 1905, and Yekaterina Yakovlevna, born in 1906. Four children – brother (born in 1935), sister (born in 1936), brother (born in 1941), brother (born in 1947). Lived in the hamlet of Gukk, Balzer District (canton of Balzer), Saratov Region.
Owned a farmyard: cows, pigs, geese, a garden. They had a relative in the USA, who used to send them parcels.
1941 deported to the hamlet of Irba, Kuragino District.
"We were so hungry, so terribly hungry. Mother had taken along feathers for cushions, but she exchanged them for a sack of potatoes. And for the cushion she got – a bucket of potatoes ". On the Volga they confiscated their entire property, but in Irba they were just given a cow, which they only held during the summer. In the autumn it turned out that related taxes were much too high, and they did not have any money after all. They took a rope, tied it to one of the horns and brought the cow away. Brother Victor, born in 1941, starved. "For weeks we did not have a bite to eat. We were screaming all the time: «We are thirsty, we are thirsty, we want something to drink». Mother sets off to get some water; upon her return she gives us a little of it to drink".
The father was mobilized to the labor army; there he caught a lung disease, so that he was unable to work on. He started to make himself useful by repairing drinking cups (soldering them). "In return, someone would give him a potato, another one some fish or a carrot; sometimes we have nothing to eat for weeks; we cook soup, nothing but water broth, which we then slowly slurp. Mum used to blow it for me, until it had cooled down a little; and mother carefully watched that I got something to eat. She said: «It looks that this is all we have for today». But God gave us food -he made sure that we survived. We had such a life at that time. We suffered from hunger, we were insulted and beaten up by the children of the local residents: they came running along with a piece of glass in their hand, which they then smashed and told us to walk over the splinters. Fortunately, I was the smallest; they felt sorry for me. But they used to force my brother and sister to walk on them. My sister and I go to collect alms and the people will give us something; but there are others, who bar our way and take everything away from us; hence, we remained hungry. We somehow managed to survive, but I cannot say, why I succeeded to survive".
We lived in Irba for 3 or 4 years . Father found himself a job with the Southern sovkhoz, where he worked in the bakery. "We collected ears of corn, harvested crops. Father would bring us to the field to collect ears. Having returned back home, we would grind them and cook wheat porridge for him. The second time we were caught, and everything was taken away from us. We cut nettles and herbs; mother did that by means of an axe; she then cooked them, and we ate that".
"...In the first time father took care of the cattle, but our mother did not have any clothes to go to work. He receives 700 grams of bread, which he takes home for the family, and they cut off slices by using a thin piece of plastic, so that each of them has something to chew. We have no felt boots, but father has; he goes to work, he is working the whole day, and at nighttime he uses to tack felt boots. He does this during the night; the boots are all wet, and the next morning he has to leave for work again".
The parents spoke German at home, they started learning Russian only later, but they spoke poor Russian. The children acquired knowledge of the Russian more quickly.
The parents were baptized and had their children be baptized, too. They were of Catholic faith. At first they continued to maintain manners and customs, later they stopped doing it. But they liked to song German songs. Today Irma Georgievna is hardly able to speak German anymore.
She recalls that her mother used to prepare krebli and bake bread and shangi with quark (she does not remember what it was called). "When they began to have a better life, they were provided with small quantities of flour: five kilograms, two kilograms. There were no potatoes available, but they had nothing to plant any. Ich you have the possibility to plant potatoes, you will have enough to eat for half of the winter, but we don’t have any, we are going to starve".
"Potatoes in the morning, potatoes for lunch, potatoes in the evening. There is no bread, nothing else is available at all. Just water – potatoes, water - potatoes. That’s all. "
"The first farm she went to was, of course, occupied by Germans, acquaintance; people met there, talked to each other. There was a woman named Valentina Alekseevna Geidova; She went to visit her. She paid visits to the Geidovs. They came to invite her for the funeral feast; she learned how to sing «Holy God», she used to sing it in a thin voice. She was singing with us – at German funerals, as well as Russian funerals.".
On the first farm there was a German ensemble, the most important person there was a certain Birich – the father. He was provided a bus; people came to sing German songs and pray. "Later-on, the Russians would not sing that often anymore . According to German custom, they bring the coffin, and then we, the children, have to surround it five times. This is how they buried the father and the mother, as well. They are both lying here in the cemetery. The father was sick, he suffered too much hunger when he was in the labor army. He was 72 years old when he died. Mother became older than him".
"I want to report about school yet. Till the age of seven we used to sit naked on the stove; we had no clothes to go to school. Later mother gave birth to a little boy, that was in 1947. We were given 10 m of white cloth, from which she sew tight little dresses for us. I went to school for a year, but I learned nothing there; I ran away to search for someone, who would give me a job and feed me. I went to the Belousovs, cleaned the floor, took care of their cow, did every kind of work. They poured me skimmed milk from a bottle, and I am content. No milk, but skimmed milk. That’s how it was at that time. And the four of us remained illiterate".
She got married to a Russian man, the parents had no objections. The sister left for Germany, after her children had already lived there for a while.
Nowadays, German customs and traditions are no longer considered. There were three bibles in the father’s family; when he died, the handed them over to father Birich. Irma Georgievna considers herself a German.
Her mother spoke very bad Russian.
Estonians lived in the village, too. They used to wear their national dresses and liked to dance in their huts. Igatson always said: «Come over here, we want to sing songs with you».
In 1951 I took up work – I went to milk cows. I have to provide them with water, go to the field and cut the grass. I have to milk the cows three times, four times. Then I start to work in another place, where I have at least a chance to get a little gulp of skimmed milk in the evening.
The interview was held by Yelena Zberovskaya.
Expedition of the State Pedagogic V.P. Astafev University Krasnoyarsk on the project "Ethnic groups in Siberia: Conditions for preserving cultural memory", 2017. Districts of Karatus and Kuragino.