The village of Streckerau extended over a broad area along the banks of the river Volga. As far as the eye could see there were lush kitchen gardens, orchards, farm buildings and herds of cattle. The village people spoke German exclusively; only very few adults were able to to talk in Russian. The farmers were well-off.
Josef Wesner had beautiful children – his daughters Maria, Emma, Lida, Polina and the little son Alexander. Lida had finished the workers’ faculty and was now teaching the children in her mother tongue at the local school. Mother Rosa did not go to work, she was taken ill very often. All family members used to help with the house-keeping.
The year 1937 plunged us into misery for the first time. Without any warning all men living in the village were arrested, 100 individuals altogether, regardless of their education, employment or position. They fetched them because of their nationality, because they were Germans. At two o’clock in the morning a militia man came to lead Josef Wesner away. He did not give any explanation about where he intended to take him. The reason for his arrest was a ukase published in the newspaper. The next morning there were almost no classes at school, for all male teachers had not come to work. Only much later rumours were circulating that they had been sent to the town of Gorkiy to build a factory. In all, more than 28000 Germans were sent to one out of 14 camps there. None of the family members received any letters from them. Shortly after the outbreak of the war, they were deported further to the north-east, to Siberia, right into the taiga. Only one year later, when they were already in Siberia, a man came to see the family in the village of Beliy. He was one of those few who had survived, and he informed them that he was working with Josef. He told them that Josef had become ill, due to hunger, cold and hard labour, that he was at the end of his tether. They had left him behind in some little Siberian town. Josef died without knowing that his family had not been living far from him. What a terrible time it was, when news were transmitted so slowly, with such a delay!
Until 1941 the Wesner family lived in the Volga region – in a place called Streckerau. At that time they still had the faint hope that all would come right in the end, that father would return home and that everything would turn out well. The Germans did not have a guilty conscience. However, theywere guilty for being Germans by birth. The men were never heard of again.
The 6th of September 1941. All teachers of the school where Lida was working were asked to work in the field that Sunday. They were eagerly gathering wheat. Around noon they took their lunch. One of the woman teachers said she would prefer to go home for lunch. “For some reason I have an urge to go back to the village. Iam going to eat my lunch there and come back afterwards”, she promised. However, she did not return for a long time. Around four o’clock she returned to the field and immediately called all together. “Come here! I have to tell you something. In the village they say that a new ukase was passed, according to which we are all to be resettled – probably to Siberia”.
Lidia Josifovna recalls:
- Having completely lost our composure by these news, we returned to the village without delay. The people there were frightened to death. Nobody was able to believe the brewing disaster to come definitely true. They were not given any time to pack up their belongings. The next morning we all had to get on broad platforms hitched to tractors. The orders of the militia men sounded abrupt, like lashes of the whip. “Get going! Climb up there! Faster!” Our questions “where” and “for how long” remained unanswered.
They did not permit us to take along any baggage. We were forced to depart in the clothes we were just dressed in, leaving everything behind – our house, our personal belongings, everything we had acquired in the course of time by hard work. They took us to some railroad station, where we had to get off the platforms and wait in a large field. There were many people – women, old people, children. We had nothing to eat. Many were unable to hold back their tears. The Wesner family was in the crowd, as well. The exhausted and overtired children were sleeping right on the ground. The following day a freight car approached. Once again the people were loaded on a train. During the day they had to sit on the ground, during the night they were to sleep in the very same place, one beside the other. Nobody knew where they were taken to. They expected the very worst: that they would all be taken into the wood to be executed.
But the journey by train, which was nothing short of a nightmare, went on, and the people had to think about how to survive. They appointed an elder from among the prisoners of the waggon – Gavril Schechtel, former chairman of the kolkhoz farm (the only man who, in 1938, returned from the labour army – owing to serious illness!). He managed to get two buckets from somewhere, received some soup and a little bread and then caused for an equitable distribution.
On the third day the fourteen-year-old Alexander Wesner died en route. Since his early childhood he had been suffering from a serious disease – stress and hunger had now lead to a change for the worse. As if he had had a presentiment of his death, he had wanted to stay in his native village of Streckerau by all means, even if he would have stayed there alone. However, his mother did not want to leave him there, she would never have allowed him to do that. Now shebroke into loud lamentations, almost mad with pain: “It woould have been much better, my dear son, when you had died three days earlier. That case I would have been sure to bury you in our home grounds. But now they will take you away, without even looking for an appropriate burial place”. At one of the next stations, Demias, Sasha’s dead body, wrapped in some cloths, was taken out of the waggon. They probably cremated him. There were many cases of death on the other waggons, too. The weakest and oldest people did not survive the trip, which continued for many days and nights.
At first the Germans were taken to Novosibirsk. However, the authorities made clear: “We do not need them here!” And so they were transported further to the Altai region, where nobody was willing to receive them, either: “We really have enough problems with our own people!”
Such reactions made the resettlers believe that, if they were so useless, they would probably be killed soon. They had already been en route for more than eighteen days and nights. Finally, they reached the station of Karasuk. The escorts were in a bad mood; they were furious of the Germans, because they urgently needed empty waggons. In Karasuk the prisoners were finally received. The authorities were willing to disperse them on kolkhoz farms. Horse carts supplying grain from the last harvest to the district town, carried the Germans with them on their way back. Thus, five families, among them the Wesners, happened to get to the Lenin kolkhoz farm.
Khimych, the chairman of the village soviet, asked the heads of the families to come to see him. Having carefully read through the accompanying documents, he said: “You got here by error. Actually, you were assigned to another village. But you may stay here. No matter where we are taking you, you will feel strangers, anyway. You are supposed to work for Fyodor Chekh – he is a good brigadier, who will not offend or insult you, the newcomers”. He himself arranged accomodation for the resettlers, placing them with families, who had some additional space available. In the meantime, all residents of the village had turned up at the village soviet. They were all newcomers from the Ukraine, and none of them was able to imagine, what kind of a people these Russian-Germans were. In the crowd there was a man suffering from a heart disease – Levko Karpenko, who now addressed himself to the gathering people: “Why are you wondering at them? They are just such people as we are. And so far it has not occurred to any of you to get them at least a piece of bread. These people have been on the train for a long time, and they were not allowed to take any food along”. Then he went home, pulled a big cast iron cooking pot with cooked potatoes out of the oven, and then his daughter brought along a bowl full of potatoes. Thus, he was the very first to supply the German newcomers with food and welcomed them. Not without good reason we say: “There is no world without good people in it”. Many residents began to help them; they dropped in, were interested to learn about the Germans’ way of living and, in the wintertime, brought along warm clothes and blankets.
“Of course, there were rancour and hatred, too – because of the war”, - Lida Josifovna says. – The uneducated, uncultured local residents believed that the Germans had just come directly from Germany. When our village received the news about a soldier who had been killed during a battle, a torrent of abuse and accusations poured down on us. They exclusively blamed us for what had happened. We tried to defend ourselves, tried toexplain, but all efforts were in vain. They called us “fascists”. We did our utmost not to take any notice of these insultings and avoided to reply in the same way, i.e. by calling them bad names, too. We considered it more advisable to keep quiet and show patience. Nobody said anything to anybody else”.
The Wesner sisters worked for the hogpen and in the fields, where they had to do the dirtiest work. Neither Lidia, nor Maria who were a teacher and a hospital nurse by profession, were assigned job-orientated tasks. The authorities gave them to understand that there was no need to employ additional personnel of this kind.
In the course of time, the people learned that Rosa Wesner was an excellent tailoress, who was able to cut out and sew together whatever garment they wished to have, even coats and men’s suits. She somehow managed to find a sewing machine and then began to work to order. Her customers used to pay in kind. Grandma Eva span wool into yarn and knitted. This was how they earned their living.
The first year of their stay in the little village of Beliy passed by. Having become more or less settled into their new surroundings and the little log hut, the family was now hoping to somehow survive the misfortune, which had hit them. But fate was already on the point of preparing some new ordeal for them. On the 2nd of December 1942, Emma, Maria and Lidia were asked to come to the village soviet, where they were informed that they would be mobilized into the labour army, because they were Russian-Germans. Their departure was fixed for the next day. The sisters were separated. Maria was sent to the region of Krasnoyarsk, Emma to Kuibyshev, Lidia came to Bashkiria. She spent 14 years in the labour army – from the 18th to the 32nd year of her life.
Lidia Josifovna recalls the following, while tears are welling up in her eyes:
Life was hard. 64 people lived in our barracks. There was no heating, and during the winter one could see the stars in the sky through all the clefts in the roof. Work in the fields began before dawn – they had to thresh and winnow. They worked till late in the evening, even in the wintertime, standing in the snow up to their knees, drenched to the waist. They had nothing to wear but short cardigans and thin trousers. Day by day they returned to the barracks in entirely frozen garments. The skin of their legs cracked, until blood came out, and these wounds would not heal up before the spring. There was no space to dry the clothes; in this desperate situation they spread their garments out on their own bodies, hoping that they would became at least a little dry. The following morning, however, they had to get dressed in the same moist clothes they had taken off the evening before.
During the first winter, Lidia was threshing grain. And when the spring came, they wanted her to work for the pig farm, where she had to prepare the forage. She was working there for three years. There were better conditions, the kitchen was well-heated. She was to cook potatoes in huge tubs for the pigs, but, of course, she also took away potatoes for her own meals. Moreover, they received 400 grs of bread per day. They had to work from dawn till dusk, without any days of rest.
In 1945 she got married to the repressed Bulgarian Nikolai Dyadov. Children were born to them – Dmitriy, Volodya, Valya, Ivan, Musya, Vera. One month before the presumable birth, she was exempted from work. She was also allowed to stay away from work one month after having given birth. The children were freezing. They kept crying all the time. They suffered from hunger. The elder brothers and sisters took care of the little ones. Nikolai and Lida now had to share their labour army ration among eight individuals. Those, who did not work themselves and were still living off their parents’ or other people’s expense, where not entitled to any bread ration at all.
In 1956, when they received the permission to leave, they went away to the Caucasus, from where the Dyadov family had been transferred together with Greeks, Armenians and Tatars. However, they only stayed there for less than a year, since Lidia did not stand the moist climate well and fell illl very often. Therefore they decided to return to Siberia, to the district of Karasuk, the village of Beloye, to where the two sisters had moved after their release from the labour army. Maria got married and built a house with her husband Vasiliy Bauer.
Soonafter, the people also began to help the Dyadovs to build their own, spacious house. They worked together, sharing their joys and sorrows with the others. A sorrow shared is a sorrow halved. And what a sorrowful life they had. Having already shared the tragic lot of their repressed and persecuted people, Lidia Josifovna also suffered heavy personal losses: at the age of three her son Dmitriy died from meningitis; Musya, on her way to school, was run over by a car – she was killed in this accident; and son Vladimir, who served in the army for the Pacific cean fleet, lost his life in a very tragic way, too. Due to this mother’s neverending sorrow, tears are still welling up in her eyes today. Where did this brave woman, the Russian-German Lidia Josifovna Dyadova, take all the strength from to be able to live her life, smile and bake the beloved “ribbelkuche” for her grandchildren on Easter?
Her answer was simple and short: “With the help of God!”
I decided to ask Lidia a question difficult to answer:
- You had to suffer a great lot, you have gone through misery. Aren’t you resentful to your native country and the authorities of those times, which carried out all those colossal reprisals?
- Not to my native country. We have to forgive the people for having done all this, just as Jesus did, after they had nailed him to the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they are not aware of what they are doing!” I accepted my fate such as it was predestined to me”.
Galina MIRONENKO, village of Beloye, district of Karasuk
“Sibirische Zeitung plus” No. 8 (26), 8/2000 (newspaper published in Novosibirsk)