of the high death rate in the early years and because of the difficulties
some of the immigrants encountered in adjusting to farming under
the unfamiliar conditions, landholdings frequently changed hands.
Sometimes colonists sold their land in a particular village only
because they wanted to move to another village, where they thought
life would be more congenial for them."
Germans who migrated to Russia in the 1760's did not all go to
the Volga region. Among them was a group of 147 families, mainly
from Upper Hesse, 2 who ended up in the Ukrainian province of
Chernigov. Here, in the region where Peter the Great in 1708 had
defeated Charles XII of Sweden in a major battle, these 147 families,
in 1766, founded six villages some thirty versts southeast of
the Ukrainian town of Borzna. Four of these villages, Belowesch,
Gorodok, Kaltschinowka, and Rundewiese, were settled by Lutherans;
the other two, Gross-Werder and KIein-Werder, by Catholics. The
whole group of six villages was usually called the Belowesch settlement.
original land grant, as in the Volga region, was thirty dessiatines
per family. An exception was made for Gorodok, which was to serve
as the town for the new settlement. Here the artisans were settled
and, so that they would have time to ply their trades, were given
only eight dessiatines of land each. "
colony Belowesch was near the river Kalchik, about 168 versts
(1 vefrst = 0.662879 miles) from Alexandrovsk and 240 versts from
Ekaterinosla. It was named by the mayor, Georg Bechthold. Colonists
received no financial help to get settled, but each family had
brought along 400 rubles to provide for itself. "
of our family surnames of people living in the colony of Rundewiese
in 1807 and 1809 is:
Bechtold, Seibel, Weber, Littau
their land was fertile, the Belowesch settlers failed to prosper
to the same degree as most other German settlers in Russia. The
isolated location of their villages, far away from the main trade
routes, hampered progress. The settlers here engaged in subsistence
farming, raising grain, vegetables, and livestock mainly for their
own use. Eventually tobacco became a cash crop on a small scale.
Although few suffered serious want, almost no one managed to acquire
any amount of wealth. More than a century later a chronicler mentions
only one rich man, 'der reiche Laukart.'"
young people of these villages married early and raised large
families. The population grew so rapidly that land shortages developed
at frequent intervals. Following Russian law in this region, at
a father's death his land was divided equally among all his surviving
sons, daughters inheriting only when there were no sons. When
there were many sons, they all became poor. The need for land
brought an exodus, every thirty years or so, of groups of young
people who went to other parts of Russia to found daughter colonies."
early as 1802 there arose in this way seventy versts east of the
Belowesch settlement the village of Kreschtscharik, founded by
thirty-six families. In 1831 a group of 131 families founded five
new villages in the Mariupol region, named after the mother colonies:
Belowesch, Kaltschinowka, Rundewiese, Gross-werder, and Kleinwerder.
In 1861 another group went to the Crimea to found the village
of Byten and in 1878 another to the North Caucasus to found Deutsch-Chaginsk.
Towards the end of the century forty families went to the Turgai
region east of Orenburg to found a settlement there. By the time
the mother K Iein-Werder o /-, ", , oGross-Werder Rundewiese o
o Belowesch Kaltschinowka o ^ Gorodok Borzna A Konotop Bakhmach
^ colonies were wiped out during the second world war, the descendants
of the original 147 families numbered thousands of people scattered
over the vastness of Russia."
following statistics illustrate the population growth during the
first century; "
147 families, an estimated 700 people; 11 1806: 194 families,
1,201 people, in the original six colonies; 36 families, 205 people,
in daughter colony, Kreschtschatik; total: 230 families, 1,406
people; 12 1860: 2,064 people in the original six colonies; 285
people in Kreschtschatik; 2,367 people in the Mariupol daughter
colonies; total; 4,716 people. "
majority of Belowesch settlers were Lutherans and the village
of Belowesch became the Lutheran parish center for the settlement.
The first minister, Pastor Schneider, came with the immigrants
from Germany and served them for the first thirty years. His successor
was a Pastor Horn from Moscow who served for eighteen years. These
men laid a good foundation for the religious life of these villages,
so that a relatively high moral tone became characteristic of
the Belowesch Protestants."
founded the two villages, Gross-Werder and Klein-Werder. In the
early days, according to the report of a Mennonite leader who
visited these villages in 1794, the Catholic parish here had a
German-speaking priest, Innocentius Watler. Later, however, the
priests were always Polish. This parish, unlike those in other
German colonies in Russia, never came under the jurisdiction of
the German bishops of the Diocese of Tiraspol, but remained part
of the huge Archdiocese of Mohilev. The Polish parish priests
who were sent here took no interest in preserving the German language
but allowed their people to become ukrainized. By the end of the
nineteenth century only a few old people still understood and
spoke German. The rest continued to mumble their prayers and to
sing hymns in a German which neither they nor anyone else understood.
Bishop Cieplak, Polish coadjutor of Mohilev, who visited this
parish in the last years before the revolution, advised its people
to re-germanize their children to preserve the faith. In contrast,
the Lutheran villages, whose clergy were German throughout their
history, preserved the German language to the end. "
in the Lutheran colonies, superior in this respect, education
was in a sad state for more than a century. Throughout this period
the teachers were men chosen from the ranks of the colonists and
their quality degenerated from generation to generation. In the
1860's, we are told, they could not spell correctly. Their instruction
was restricted to reading and memorizing of the catechism, Bible
sayings and prayers, and the elements of writing and singing.
There were no school houses. When winter came on, the villagers
looked around for a house in which there was an empty room. A
farmer was then prevailed upon to hold school there. The children
had to bring whatever book they had, a catechism, a hymn book,
or any other. They were told to learn their lessons and when they
were ready they had to recite them to the "teacher." At the age
of fourteen school attendance ended, although in most cases the
child could not read. "
church authorities issued directives that schools were to be built
and proper instruction given but the colonists kept delaying on
the plea that they could not afford it. In the 1870's the Russian
local government built two Russian schools in the settlement,
each with a Russian teacher, and capable of accommodating twenty
children. These schools did not solve the problem because German
language and religion were not taught there, nor could they accommodate
all the children that needed schooling. An improvement was finally
brought about by Pastor Neander and his wife, who served in Belowesch
from 1880 to 1908. They trained teachers and prevailed on the
colonists to build schools. As a result the new century started
with much more promise for the children of the Belowesch settlement."
early months of the war in 1914 brought the threat of deportation
to the east and the proscription of the German language in church
and school. In 1915 Pastor Jurgens left the settlement and for
nine years Belowesch remained without a pastor. The parish sent
a delegate to the General Synod of the Lutheran Church which met
in Moscow in 1924. In the same year Pastor Mollmann came to Belowesch
to restore 3 normal religious services. "
did not last long. The Stalin regime dealt harshly with the Belowesch
settlement. A total of 193 men were deported to slave labor camps.
The death rate during the famine year of 1933 was high. Pastor
Mollmann was arrested and deported to the east. The church and
the parsonage were torn down and the stones were used to build
a theatre (which, however, was never completed). From 1937 on,
instruction in German was forbidden. "
pastor, who was a sergeant-major in the German army, visited the
Belowesch villages in December 1941 and January 1942. 23 He found
great poverty and a fervent desire for the consolations of religion.
There had not been a religious service here since 1933, He held
a Christmas service and a New Year's service for them and baptized
many children. To make the season happier for them he managed
to get food and blankets from army supplies for the poorest."
the withdrawal of the German armies from the Ukraine, the people
of these villages were evacuated westward and the Belowesch settlement
came to an end. There were 3,726 people in the six villages at
this time. "
brothers - Lenhart, Ludwig, and Carl - immigrated to the United
States in the 1890's. That left 8 brothers and sisters in the
Ukraine. To see what MIGHT have been their fate after WWI and
WWII, I have found the following story on the Frank/Brunnental
Village Newsletter, online addition. In the story, several Seibel's
are mentioned. As of this date, I have not been able to see exactly
what relation they would be with our line of the Seibel's.
From Brunnental -- 1921/1922,
as published in the Summer 1994 Issue of the Frank/Brunnental
accounts have been written about the escapes from Brunnental during
the early 1920's. These have appeared in several issues of the
AHSGR Journal (Spring '82, Summer '82 and Fall '82). In these
articles, the author, Adam Giesinger, gives us an excellent account
of the history leading up to this exodus and tells us what was
going on in the Volga colonies at this time. I would like to use
direct quotes from his articles to give you a little history about
that time period. Then we will bring to you several personal accounts
from 3 different families, describing what it was like during
that era in Brunnental and personal memories of their escapes
from Russia. "
a little history according to Adam Giesinger:
the years 1918-1920 the Bolshevik (Communist) regime, which had
seized power in Russia in November 1917, was locked in a desperate
struggle with the so-called "White" armies, led by former generals
of the old regime. To feed its soldiers and its working class
supporters in the cities, the "Red" government resorted to ruthless
requisitioning of grain and livestock from the peasants, depriving
them of nearly all reserves of food. When a crop failure hit the
Volga region in 1920, there were immediate food shortages and
soon widespread famine. The Volga farmers, both German and Russian,
blamed the Red regime and its local collaborators, and in the
spring of 1921 rose in armed insurrection against them. By this
time all German villages had some Communists among their own people,
mainly such as had been poor before the revolution and now saw
hopes of bettering themselves. Won over by Red propaganda, they
collaborated with the regime against their better-off-brothers,
which led to bitter feuding within the villages and eventually
to unbelievable cruelties on both sides."
Then in another
story Adam Geisinger goes on to say:
factor in causing the flight of many German families was a traveling
revolutionary tribunal which visited their villages in the early
summer of 1921. The purpose of this special court was to mete
out punishment to those suspected of having participated in or
sympathized with the uprising against Communist rule in the Volga
region during March and April 1921."
was a reaction against the violent requisitioning of grain and
livestock in the preceding months, which left many families destitute
and facing death by starvation. Both German colonists and their
Russian neighbors rose up against the oppressors, the Communist
officials and their local stooges, and killed many of them....eventually
the Red Guard were sent in to suppress the insurrection."
had been restored in this fashion, a traveling revolutionary court
visited all villages to punish suspected participants in the uprising.
The following article appeared in Mitteilungblatt der deutschen
Arbeiterkommune zu Katharinenstadt (Newssheet of the German Labor
Commune at Katharinenestadt). It was brought out of Russia by
an individual and was published in the semimonthly Heimkehr in
Germany. It read as follows:"
banditry, by decision of the Traveling Session of the Battlefied
Revolutionary Tribunal, the following persons from the village
of Brunnental, dangerous elements, active participants in the
insurrection, leaders of bands and known enemies of the Soviet
Wacker, son of Heinrich, age 28
2. Friedrich Kister, son of Konrad, 47
3. Konrad Gruenwald, son of Heinrich, 43
4. Konrad Gruenwald, son of Georg, 61
5. Alexander Schaefer, son of Karl, 32
6. Heinrich Koch, son of Heinrich, 62
7. Wilhelm Schauermann, son of Georg, 32
8. Johannes Bier, son of Philipp, 48
9. Johann Hartung, son of Heinrich, 35
10. Heinrich Hartung, son of Johann, 35
11. Konrad Ohlenberger, son of Jakob, 40
12. Georg Schauermann, osn of Johann, 40
13. Heinrich Wiederspahn, son of Adam, 23
14. Heinrich Stroh, son of Heinrich, 40
15. Heinrich Hardt, son of Heinrich, 37
to 5 years' imprisonment were:
1. Johann Becker, son of Jakob
2. Georg Seibel, son of Georg
3. Jakob Weber, son of Jakob
4. Jakob Gruenwald, son of Heinrich
5. Leonhard Seibel, son of Leonhard
6. Daniel Stroh, son of Friedrich
to death by shooting, conditionally:
1. Johann Seibel, son of Nikolaus
2. Karl Klein, son of Heinrich
3. Konrad Becker, son of Konrad
4. Benjamin Kister, son of Benjamin
5. Georg Wittenberger, son of Friedrich
6. Jakob Mueller, son of Johann
7. Wilhelm Schmidt, son of Georg
to five years' imprisonment conditionally:
1. Jakob Borger, son of Helferich
2. Jakob Loebsack, son of Heinrich
3. Alexander Schauermann, son of Heinrich...
Russia Heritage Society http://www.grhs.org/vr/tschernigov/RundewieseChern.htm
in Which Our Forefathers Lived: German Pioneers in the Ukrainian
Province of Chernigov by Adam Giesinger, AHSGR Journal, Vol. 2,
No. 3 (Winter 1979); http://c.ymcdn.com/sites/ahsgr.site-ym.com/resource/resmgr/1970_Journals/1979_Vol_2_No_3.pdf
- 1848 Village History; Copyright 1996,AHSGR http://www.grhs.org/vr/vhistory/Belowesch.htm
Vole 1 No 1, (1978) http://c.ymcdn.com/sites/ahsgr.site-ym.com/resource/resmgr/1970_Journals/1978_Vol_1_No_1.pdf
in Which Our Forefathers Lives: Early Daughter Colonies Near By
Adam Giesinger; http://c.ymcdn.com/sites/www.ahsgr.org/resource/resmgr/1980s_Journals/Journal,_Vol.__04,_No._1(Spr.pdf
Brunnental -- 1921/1922; Summer 1994 Issue of the Frank/Brunnental
Village Newsletter; http://www.brunnental.us/brunnental/newsletters/newsletter08.pdf
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