21 April 1921

Page 5, "Letter from Russia"

Frank, Saratov Region
18 January 1921

Much beloved sons Georg and Jacob Sekinger in Lincoln, Nebraska:

We bring to you today a sad message; it is doubly sad because in the last 3 months the dear Lord has heavily afflicted us. First our son Heinrich died from a gunshot wound and three months later your dear mother died of jaundice. With Heinrich it happened thus: Eight days before "Kerb," (??) on a Sunday, all the hunters were out on a wolf hunt and our sons Heinrich and Konrad were among them. By mistake Heinrich shot and wounded himself in the side with his own rifle and died 24 hours later.

Mother had been ill before his death but had been improving, but his death had such an effect on her that she became more ill afterward and died after three months. I am also not healthy in my old age; I have a steady cough that has been troubling me for two years now. All the others, Konrad and his family, your brother Heinrich's widow and family are well. All send you their affectionate greetings. Write us soon and be a thousand times greeted and kissed in spirit by me, your father. 

Konrad Sekinger

Some more lines to Georg Sekinger:

Valued and most esteemed Comrade:

As the writer of this letter from your father I am letting you know that I am also still alive. Since the 9th of April 1919 I have been in Frank working in the "Secretariat" just as my father once did when we were such good comrades. After being in Saratov for 27 years I am here again revisiting old friendships and had the honor of accompanying your dear mother to the cemetery. I can imagine the deep hurt this sad news has caused you. Oh how happy we would had been if you would have been able to attend the funeral. Hopefully you know by now who I am; namely Jacob, the son of the old Village Secretary, your best comrade. My best greetings to you and your entire family,

Jacob Hill


Page 6

Wiesenmiller, 27 February 1921

Highly Esteemed Mr. Repp: Please send these following lines to an American newspaper editor:

Much worse than all the enemies with whom we have had to deal with up to now and who sometimes pressed us quite hard, was the harvest failure with which we were afflicted in the year 1921, and the naturally following hunger.

Already the previous autumn the people had begun to slaughter their livestock one after another, that thanks to being kept in pasture, still remained. But naturally the meat had to be eaten without bread.

It was a bit of luck that some pumpkin and root vegetables were still available as a poor replacement for bread up until September. Soon most people had consumed the last of their remaining food and the emergency began in earnest. In vain they looked for assistance among their German brethren on the Bergseite, who were themselves without any means.

Then they began to load up clothing and farm equipment and drive further out into the district where the harvest should have been much better in order to trade their things for food. Unfortunately they received little in exchange. For entire wagon loads of different things the farmers often received only 2-4 pud of fruit, which was like putting a drop of water into the sea.

The people paced back and forth in despair and asked whether it would be possible to expect any help. Fathers and mothers despairingly wrung their hands and pulled out their hair as they were forced to watch their beloved children, one after another, become more pale and miserable until finally they fell into the bony arms of death, the black enemy.

A terrible fright seized the people: House and homestead and everything that remained were sold for ridiculous sums and they began a journey which was more like an attempt to escape. Where? None knew what to say. "Only away, away," they shouted, "so that we will not starve!" Those Poor! They wanted to escape from death and walked right into his cold cold arms.

Meanwhile, in November, a small amount of support came from the government, but what was that to so many? Yes, if Jesus had been on hand now as he was in the Gospel with the 5,000 and the 4,000, but the wait for Him was in vain and time seemed to have become our enemy. While man had often heard the voice of the Shepherd calling persistently to the faithful, it seemed that He now did not want to hear the urgent cries of the suffering. But it only seemed that way, for that day has now come, the Lord, while those here prayed and called out, had already warmed the hearts of the people over there in the New World, with love for those suffering and in misery here on the Volga, just as before 30 years ago, and guided them like the waters of a brook, so that they should bring their gifts of love to us.

Oh, forever thank, next to God, the noble man, who by now should be the Governor of the State of Indiana, or so I have been told by a reliable source, who initiated the start of this work. And a thousand thanks to all the other chivalrously disposed people in America who so actively took part in God's work!

I personally know only a few, only Mr. George Repp and Pastor Wagner, but these two gentlemen are irrefutable proof of the fact that God has selected the best tools to carry out this charitable work.

429 years ago as the crews on the ships of Columbus caught sight of the mainland in the distance and excitedly cried "Land! Land!" so here in the last days of November when extremely joyous news came that products had arrived for the opening of a Children's Kitchen, came the shouts of "Bread! Bread!" Who can describe the joy of our dear little ones as on November 27th, for the first time in months, they were able to sit at a laden table? They could hardly believe their eyes as the "blütenmeissen Kuchen" [a basic cake made from flour with Lavender blossoms-fresh or dried added to the batter. Rose petals may also be added as a garnish or in the batter, or both - Translator] and a good rice porridge sweetened with sugar were set before them and they once again could eat their fill.

The parents watched with tears shining in their eyes and all silently prayed: "Praise and thank God. Oh, that He would also take pity on us soon." But this time their patience was rewarded. It was bitterly difficult because even if occasional aid arrived from the government, it was so little it could not prevent hunger from doing its destructive work. The need was too great and our government could not, even with its best intentions, which they continually related, procure sufficient aid.

By the 19th of February hundreds of adults had fallen prey to death from hunger and likewise death had already selected hundreds more candidates -- when totally unexpectedly the glad tidings arrived: "The adults also shall not hunger! America will also help them!"

We received from the above mentioned Mr. Repp and invitation with an order to pick up food and distribute it equally among all living souls.

I feel myself unable and also not capable to describe the joy concerning this --- you had to have experienced it in order to understand it.

Perhaps it can be compared to the joy of one condemned to death receiving the news of a pardon?

The emergency is still great, yes, very great. Since Mr. Repp has encouraged us here and told us that still more will assuredly follow the first delivery of food, we will not lose our confidence and remain firm in the belief that God's mercy has no end. We cannot repay you, brothers and sisters in America, for that which you do for us now. But we shall ask that God henceforth protect and bless your country and keep it and each individual citizen inside it, in His grace.

I close with grateful greetings, Alexander Döll

(I addressed this letter to you, honored Mrs. Repp, with the permission of your highly esteemed husband, George Repp).

This translation provided courtesy of Hugh Lichtenwald.

Page 8, "Letter from Russia"

Frank, Russia 
30 December 1920

To Jacob Wacker, Hastings, Nebraska

Dear Children:

May the grace of God be with you now and for all eternity. Yesterday we received your letter of 12 November 1919. We were happy to hear that you are alive and well. When one hears nothing from ones loved ones for a long time then one is uncertain and imagines all kinds of things because inevitably death will daily harvest suddenly from one family and soon from another. Thus we are now glad and thank the dear Lord that He held you in His grace and support up to the time you posted your letter.

Praise God, we are also still alive and enjoy moderately good health. We still live in the old house; but no longer alone. Heinrich and his family have been with us for 2 years now. The children are grown. All members of a family over the age of 15 must work 8 hours a day. Cleaning (dressing out) chickens that were taken from the people by the government. Old father makes spinning wheels, mother spins wool for 5 families. Heinrich was mobilized for a time as a carpenter.

Since you left us there has been a great change here. The war created inflation which you can clearly see from the following prices: for a pair of boots on pays 800 rubels and that is still cheap. A spinning wheel costs from 30 to 35,000 rubels. A piece of beef costs 65,000 rubels. Additionally there are the difficult demands of the government. For example, we have to give the government 3 pud of meat, 7 pud of apples, 8 pud of potatoes and a head of cattle. That gives you an idea of the difficult conditions here in our poor Russia.

Further, we inform you that Kath.'s father is still healthy and is with his daughter Annamargareth. Schusterhannes had a stroke and lost the ability to speak. Lydia is 10 years old and goes to school; she is fed by the government. Georg is married and mother lives with him.

The Pastor's family lost the parsonage by order of the government, they have started a kindergarten. Since then the Pastor and his wife live in 2 rooms of our house, namely the two on the right as you come in the door. Yesterday old Margaretha Bauer, Katharina's mother, aged 74 years and 6 months, was buried. The Schoolmaster performed the service because the Pastor was away from home. When the way is once again open, I will send my son Conrad Bernhardt to you, as your share of the fortune.

And now in closing, be many times greeted by your father, 
          C. Bernhardt

PS: The above letter is from me, the Pastor's wife mentioned in the letter as living in some rooms in the Bernhardt's house. We are both still young in years. My husband is 29 and I am 21 years old. I am the daughter of the Pastor in  Saratov.

Life in both cities and villages is difficult; one must do without so many absolutely necessary things. In the cities bread is rationed; each person gets three eights of a pfund. In the country there is also a shortage of bread among many families.

One feels so isolated, one longs for news from America and other countries. If possible could you send us an American newspaper. (Unfortunately, even with the best intentions, this is not possible because our government does not have direct postal contact with Russia - the Editor).

In New York there lives a W.W. Dettit family who are good friends of my parents. Should these lines come before their eyes they will be informed that my parents are still living but have aged greatly. My brother is in Dorpat studying theology; we have not seen him since he first traveled there. My oldest brother and his wife are in Saratov, while I married in Frank and am happy. The address of our friend in New York is 105 East 22nd Street.

My best greetings to all of our friends in America. I remain your countryman, 
          Bertha Kluck

(The above letter was sent to us for publication by our friend C. Bernhardt in Hastings, for which we thank him - the Editor).




These translations provided courtesy of Hugh Lichtenwald.