Die Welt-Post, Thursday, 14 July 1921
11 January 1921
To: Christian Merkel in America (but where?....editor)
Dear son, brother and brother-in-law Christian:
We, your parents and other relations would like you to know that we are still wonderfully healthy and are very pleased to have received your letter of 6 January. We would have much to tell you if we were face to face that we cannot write in a letter. Our family has gotten quite a bit larger because we now have 5 children and they are all noisy girls, of them Lydia and Lea are already quite large and strong. Your sister Maria married in the fall with her cousin Philipp, Karlpaetter's son in Niedermonjou. For now, things are going quite well for them and they wish you well.
The last news we had of you before we received your letter was written to us by Wolf, 2 years ago from Niedermonjou, who informed us that you and he had traveled a great distance together until being turned back. So you can imagine how happy your letter made us.
Your sister Katharina sends you special greetings. We must share with you that your brother-in-law Heinrich went into eternity; he died in February, 2 years ago. Your sister now lives here with her 6 children and doesn't know how she will get them through this period of poverty and sadness. May God be merciful to them and give them the ways and means, because everything rests in his hands.
This letter is being written by Gottlieb Lemke's wife who also sends you her greetings.
We ask that you answer soon; but if you yourself were to come we would love it a thousand times better.
With many greetings we remain,
Parents and siblings
(Remarks by the Editor: This letter to Merkel was sent to us for publication by the Volga Society in Berlin. We do not know if Merkel is in Germany or America. Plainly, it is an awkward thing that some people do not observe the most important rules of letter writing by not including their own address as well as that of the addressee.)
This translation provided courtesy of Hugh Lichtenwald.
Warenburg, Samara Region
28 April 1921
To: F. Klein, Berlin, Germany
We received your letter of 31 March with great joy and we thank you for it.
You would never have thought that here in Warenburg such hair raising things could take place as I must now sadly tell you. It was once again like it was 2 1/2 years ago when the terrible and murderous rebellion took place here. On this occasion my father met his death. He was shot on the 10th of this month, along with 4 others, on a Sunday morning. It is an extremely terrible thing to be thinking about let alone to be describing the horrible act in writing! "Ach," what revolting atrocities have happened in our area during the last 2 months!
Truly, the misery is very great and the emergency has risen to it highest. Now we are 8 orphans in our family. Everything we had left that was of any value was taken from us forcibly. And in this we are not alone, there are many hundreds, yes thousands of such poor, their fate in the hands of the heavens above. But when this emergency is at its highest, God's help and care will come. This is and remains our only comfort.
I judge your greetings to be very timely as I have definitely decided to do as you did (that is, emigrate to Germany) and so I very much welcome whatever you intend to send to us.
If you know the address of Jacob Jegerovich Klein, I ask that you please forward it to me. We also received a letter from David Jegerovich Klein and from it we learned that he is not well and is suffering from Appendicitis. By the way, he also wants to come to Germany, to Dresden.
How does it stand with the food and bread question in Germany? With us here it is a famine in the truest sense of the word. What are the chances of my finding a position there; and could I find accommodations somewhere? Please answer me these questions in detail.
Yes, I believe that if you came back to Warenburg you would hardly recognize it, so much has our village changed in the last 2 years. It is the same with the people. More I certainly dare not write.
Looking forward to a quick and happy reunion. Many thousand greetings from us and all your acquaintances.
Impatiently waiting for your reply, your devoted
This translation provided courtesy of Hugh Lichtenwald.
9 February 1921
To: Mr. Heinrich Volz, R. 2, Moline, Kansas
Dear brother-in-law, sister-in-law and sister:
Six years have gone by since we last had news of you. We are very worried about this and would very much like to know how things are going with you and if you all are yet living. In a span of 6 years much can happen, especially in a difficult war time period such as we here have lived through. Thus you must understand that we have yearned longingly for some sign of life from you.
For 3 long years Postal Service between us and our home has been cut off and during this time we have received no news. At long last we have finally received our first letter and oh, what sad news it has brought us! Our dear old father informed us that our brother Johannes and sister Katharina died in August of last year, but that was not all of the bad news. --- Two months later the Grim Reaper also took our mother from our father's side, that was in October, so now old father is without help and stands all alone in the cold world. It is our intention to bring him here in the spring if it is possible.
I and my wife and children are still wonderfully healthy, which we also wish for you. Please, reply as soon as possible. As soon as we hear from you we will immediately write you everything. It is our intention to emigrate to America and come to you, so write frankly about all circumstances and conditions.
In closing, be greeted and kissed in spirit a thousand times by your brother-in-law and his family,
Balzer, Saratov Region
18 May 1921 (the 2nd day of Pentecost)
To: Benjamin Kalbing and family, Lincoln, Nebraska
Much beloved children:
I, your father, as well as your mother and your sister Olga, send you our most affectionate greetings and it would please us greatly if these few lines find you in good health. We had received no news of you for 3 years until we finally heard from Alexander Heil in Germany, that you were still alive. Also Wilhelm Habermann, who left Lincoln, Nebraska a few months ago, came to Balzer with many letters from America. He told us that you were still well and that Johannes had died during his childhood, which seems nearly unbelievable to us.
We three are still wonderfully healthy, only we are living through the most difficult period of our lives. The Lord pays us what we earn. In order to give you a picture of the situation in our country, I need only to refer you to some chapters in Holy Scripture. First read Isaiah 24, then Ezekiel 7, then 5 Moses 28 and lastly Matthew 24. I ask that you read these chapters very devoutly and if you still love God it will be a source of enlightenment. Yes, mark well what your father has written because these lines could be the last lines I write to you in this life.
Dear children: My writing is short but my heart is full of sorrow. May God grant that we meet and speak together once again. How happy I would be if I could be with you for as little as another year, for I still have much to share with you. You may also like to know about my occupation. I presently work making soap, where I can sit while I am at work. I have so many orders that I work from 5 o'clock in the morning to 11 o'clock in the evenings. I produce different kinds of soap, among them them the most elegant soaps. If you were here you could watch me at work and help me; but I advise you to remain where you are, even though we would be happy to have you in our midst.
We would most dearly love to come to you because we are getting older. Mother has already gone white from all of the pressure and worry and has become very thin because we lived for such a long time in uncertainty and suspense and heard nothing from you. We now live in the woodworking room, the Dummlers, of Krasnikut, once rich people, live in the "Bäckhaus" (baking house or summer kitchen). Three Russian families also live on the place.
A greeting to you Katharina and your little girls, Emma and Emilie. Grandmother's husband died and she married again, in Norka. Also a cordial greeting to Jakob and Pauline and to everyone who asks after us.
Now we come to a close and we affectionately greet everyone and hope for God's rich blessings upon you and ask that as soon as you receive this letter, to write us a long letter.
From your parents and your sister Olga
Page 5, "A Letter from Russia"
Introductory remarks by the editor:
The following letter was forwarded to us by the Volga Society in Berlin. The letter has no village or origin and no signature. We are however, of the persuasion that it comes from Dönhof, Saratov Region, based on the following points: In one place there is the name of a village "Den.", while later the name Galawa appears and the name Galawa comes, to our knowledge, from Dönhof:
Written April 25, old style, 1921
Dear son Christian Merkel:
Greetings from us, your parents, your brother and your sister-in-law and our 5 children and from sister Katharina and her 6 children. We herewith share with you that yesterday we safely received your letter of 24 April with great joy, wherein we could see that you were still in good health.
You wanted to know if everything here was still in order. It is so in order that 2 to 3 people die from hunger here every day, namely in the village of Den. Everything has been taken from the farmers and there is no more wheat for sowing, except for those who had some hidden away or those who have Soviet Groschen (money) and can pay 100,000 rubels a pud for wheat (40 pfund....editor) like the landowner Marklofs Konrad whose property is worth about twice a hundred and twenty-five thousand rubels. From this you can get an idea of how things stand and are going here.
Your father is also sick from hunger. Our wish is that you would come and get us like the Schneiders Galawa. He came and got his entire family along with his 2 brothers and their families. If you believe that one can still live in America, then do thus; because all hope of the people here surviving is lost; if no help comes very soon from Katharinenstadt then many will not live to see the new harvest. It is ever so windy and dry and it looks as though it will again be another barren year. If the dear Lord in Heaven does not take pity on us and send us rain soon then we are all lost.
We have 4 desyatin rye and 1 desyatin (about 3 American acres----editor) of millet from which we took in half. Then we have some sunflowers and potatoes. We have absolutely no wheat or maize. If you now believe that one can live over there, you can write to us. Here are your sister Katharina's children: Jacob, Henry, Conrad 8, Christian 6, and David 3 years old. Dorothea and your brother's children are: Lydia 12, Leah 10, Hannah 6 and Dorothea 3 years old and Amalia 8 months. Your sister Maria married her cousin Philipp D. Things are going fairly well with them but they are also short on food. They were here yesterday, are healthy and send you greetings.
Now a few words from me, your comrade Gottlieb Lemke and my wife. I also come to you and request that, if it is possible for you, to write about being allowed to emigrate when you come to get your family; because I am sick of Russia.
This translation provided courtesy of Hugh Lichtenwald.
Page 5, "A Detailed Description of the Living Conditions in Russia"
(We took the following firsthand description from the "German Newspaper of Bessarabia.")
How comfortably we again now live in fortunate Bessarabia. We hardly notice any differences between the prewar period and today. Inflation is still high, you say, --- What is inflation? The important thing is that we can once again get anything. If you need a suit or underclothes then you drive to the market and select a quantity of pleasing material (yard goods); you can have a pair of boots made or buy them ready-made; we get something for the home; we no longer have to economize on sugar, on coffee, on rice, on oil, on salt, on Soap and such like. You can even find a great many machines again. What more could you want? We do not actually notice the high prices quite as much as we do the pleasing displays.
How much worse it is in the Ukraine than it is here! "What will we eat, what will we drink, with what shall we clothe ourselves?" These questions are on every family's daily agenda.
What will we eat? --- For the housewife it is not so easy to prepare their daily fare. Many homes are even missing the all-essential daily bread. We do not even wish to speak about the cities. It is simply a mystery how so many poor but children-rich families acquire the necessary quantity of bread, when a pfund costs between 600-1,000 rubels. --- Also in the villages the housewife often has nothing more to bake. There is very little wheat flour to be had and one cannot get along without it. Either the Bolsheviks have taken all the wheat or the mills, near and far, are totally ruined so that one can no longer get anything ground anywhere. In the villages around Odessa one finds in many houses, bread made only from barley or prepared with very coarsely ground Maize. --- There must be something to go along with the bread, that is our custom. We have meat here in quantity. We cook a kind of rice mash, also sometimes a plum soup or the like. They haven't seen rice over there for some years. Plums and other local fruit have also disappeared since trading was forbidden. They must likewise be very economical with the meat, because 1st: The Bolsheviks took many of the Pigs for the Army; 2nd: They are only able to keep 1 or 2 pigs (sometimes not even any) because of the shortage of fodder, and 3rd: They cannot preserve the meat because there is only a little salt on hand. They make no sausages for the same reason, because there is no Pepper to be had for any amount of money anywhere. For the meal, dishes, plates and crockery are also necessary. They have been rapidly decreasing in most homes in the last few years. There is nothing in the way of kitchenware that is available to buy, therefore many homes are terribly poor when it comes to kitchen and tableware.
What will we drink? --- This question seems less important because everyone thinks of drink as being Wine or Beer. But what about Tea and Coffee and Milk? These things have become such a matter of course with us that we cannot imagine breakfast without them. Over there they have been cured of this habit, because tea, coffee and sugar have become the greatest of rarities and are perhaps completely unavailable. For some time the much despised Saccharin was a very sought after article. They could at least to some extent satisfy their need for sweeteners, until it too ran out. Milk became a rarity because cows were redistributed so that there was only one cow per family. What do people eat for breakfast? --- That which they also eat for their noon and evening meals. In a country where equality prevails, the same applies to the food there.
The most difficult question is naturally: What shall we wear? Because in many houses no new clothing has been gotten since 1917, when inflation began. Currently there is not any clothing material available anywhere. Thus they wear nothing but old clothes. You can imagine the many times a piece of clothing had to be mended before it was thrown away as useless. In many villages, particularly those that were sacked after the rebellion of 1919, one sees children and adults frequently going about half naked. The total lack of shoes and clothing is often the reason children do not go to school and adults to church Where old fashioned Looms are still present - mostly among the Russians - they began making clothing material. But as raw material only Flax and Hemp were available because, as you know, there was little sheep breeding being done there. The small strips of sheeting material which were manufactured by the Russian farmer's wives and which were formerly used as kitchen rags, were bought by well-to-do people and made into clothing for themselves. "It scratches at first; they say, "but you get used to it." The most fashionable material for outer clothing for men and women is rough sacking cut in the fashion of popular doll's clothing from the latest French Magazines which also date from 1917.
But these three aforementioned questions are not the only ones on the long list of concerns for the head of a family or a housewife today. Nowadays the needs are much more diverse than they were 2,000 ears ago. --- How do I repair my Wagon or my Plow? the farmer in the Ukraine continues to ask. There he likewise encounters insurmountable difficulties. To take them to the Blacksmith serves no purpose because the Blacksmith has neither coals nor Iron and can no longer do his work. Temporarily repairs can be made with ropes, but when this no longer works, the wagon is taken to the old scrap heap and travel comes to an end. The Plow soon follows it and then all the other farming equipment until finally the entire farm economy is at a standstill.
The housewife stands before her hearth and asks: With what am I to start a fire? Because matches have not been available for a long time and the fires that were easily started and maintained in their hearths day in and day out have also coincidentally come to an end. Well, if the husband has taken precautions, he has, as was the custom in olden times, a Flintstone and some Steel. Using dried corn stalks as tinder, with a few strikes of flint on steel a spark catches hold. But the thing is not finished yet. The wife needs a good blaze so that she doesn't lose time, and an intelligent husband has taken care to cut thin strips of soft wood and smear the ends with melted Sulfur. One of these "matches" is held in the smoldering tinder and immediately the Sulfur begins to blaze and now the wife can begin her cooking. --- If though, the husband is in the fields and has taken his matchbox with him, the wife has no other recourse but to hurry to her neighbor's house and borrow some embers.
In the evenings new difficulties arise. There is no Petroleum. They have no candles. What is there that they can use to make light? But the prudent housewife has already made provision for such. Each year she especially takes a few measures of sunflower seeds to the oil mill to produce oil for lighting. Some of this is poured into a glass or piece of pottery and a rag inserted and then the rag or wick is ignited as described above. This is the usual manner of lighting found in both the country and the cities. Decorated lamps have become so commonplace that they are now the least valuable trade commodity because everyone has one or two of them to offer.
How am I to get my laundry clean? The housewife asks regularly each week, because soap ran out a long time ago and Soapstone is nowhere to be found. --- With what am I to replace the broken windowpane, complains the husband, because he can get neither glass, nor paper, nor materials. --- One day the neighbor's wife comes over, "Can you help me out? I have to write a letter to my brother but I have no paper, no pen and no ink at home." After searching through boxes and bedding a sheet of paper is finally found in an old book and a pencil is also discovered laying in another drawer. Overjoyed, the neighbor goes home. --- After a while she returns again --- "What is the date today?" she asks helplessly. "How should we know" the farmer and his wife reply, shrugging their shoulders. Because they, like the neighbor, have no calendar. Nobody in the village has one except for the Schoolteacher and the Village Secretary, and these they have made themselves on a piece of scrap paper.
Someone has died again in the village. It is happening far more often than in former times. What shall we do to make a coffin? the dead person's family ask themselves, because the carpenter hasn't had any lumber for a long time. Now fences are torn down and crates broken up until enough wood has been gathered. You can't find any in the city either. There most of the dead are carried to their graves in a coffin owned by the city administration. The coffin is simply too expensive to bury in the ground and for the dead it would be a redundant luxury. --- Naturally there is no thought given to constructing any new buildings and this shortage continues along with all the others.
And so it is that there are still a great many difficulties that one must battle in everyday life in the land of the Bolsheviks.
This translation provided courtesy of Hugh Lichtenwald.