9 August 1923

Die Welt-Post, Thursday, 9 August 1923

Page unknown

Yagodnaya Polyana, 10 June 1923

It has been a long time, according to the church chronicles 47 years, since the first people emigrated from Yagodnaya Polyana and crossed the ocean to America to begin a new life. Since then many others have followed them; also in this year some are going on that long journey so that there are now few families in Yagodnaya Polyana who have not left for America. There is a strong bond between us here and you over there because of a common homeland and a common faith. Friendship still has some value among we Germans! But such a bond, strong as it may be, fades in ones memory like the colors of an old picture and the memories of your old homeland would have become mixed and faded to many of you had not a higher power in its infinite wisdom renew the image of your old homeland upon your souls. Not the picture of you homeland as you left it, no, but a picture of ruin, devastated by war, impoverished by failures of harvests, weakened by epidemics, your homeland in which the people go around in rags, in which in most houses not the smallest piece of bread can be found.

You have been told of this in letters that have come to you from your friends, each one complaining about the emergency and misery just like the sons of Jacob did to Joseph in Egypt during the time of the famine. These letters and pleas came to you across the sea and each letter was like a beggar's bag held out to Joseph. Help us in our emergency, stand with us, do not forget us! And truly love your homeland and comrades in the faith. As you thus read these letters something awoke in you that had been buried and shuttered, the colors which had begun to fade became fresh again. There it stood before you, your old village between the green mountains, the reddening of the white houses in the gardens, and it became alive again for you and everyone. The facial features of so many dear people that you had loved and nearly forgotten. And you did what Joseph did, you opened your barns, your stores, took money from your purses, clothing and footwear and said: "Yes, we want to help and do what we can. Yes, they are our brothers" and you got together, the men and women from Oshkosh, Colfax, Endicott, Farmington in the State of Washington, Calgary in Canada and other places in which Yagodnaya Polyana folks live. With the leadership of your Pastors and other men collected, donated and sent, and after a time of waiting and hoping almost everything arrived at our village and was correctly distributed.

You have dried many tears, given much comfort and aid and new belief in God's mercy. You awoke to the great emergency. For this, your help, I say to you all in the name of the community, our heartfelt thanks. At the same time we also give our thanks to the representatives of the National Lutheran Council who brought us the joy of their gifts every month. May the good Lord richly bless each of you who have done good here.

Further, these lines should serve also as a picture of your homeland as things stand now and I hope that many of you will welcome it and that the bonds between us her and you over there will be tied more firmly and deeply.

It is always a wonderful time here when the hard and angry Russian winter that blankets the mountains must give way for the summer. A marvelous time when the spring waters pour down from the mountains around us and transforms our tiny river into a boiling stream as it flows downward through our valley into the Volga. It is as though the village has been aroused from a long and deep sleep. Many people who haven't been seen for a long time emerge from their musty rooms, old people sit in front of their houses in the warm sun and reminisce about the hard times. The youngsters bring out wagons and farm equipment and get it ready, horses receive better fodder, bread is baked in advance from flour in order to save time because the work will be difficult and the path is long and many must travel 30 to 50 versts to their fields and remain there in the cold and damp for the entire week.

After a few days the wagons left the village in long trains, the horses looked better than they had last year when fodder was in short supply, the people are livelier, the children miss the snow.

There were 255 confirmed, 115 boys and 120 girls, a number only reached one time before for those attending church in the morning for religious instruction. In the afternoon the Pobochnayainhabitants take the Pastor their village where 90 children from Pobochnaya and 80 from Neu-Straub who have made the long 5 verst journey each day on foot from Neu-Straub to Pobochnaya in order to participate in instruction. The entire confirmation process was a refreshing example of the agreement of the necessity of religious education among our colonists, the desire and love of the word of God, the longing for guidance and the path to goodness that is, thank God, a deeply and firmly held conviction in our people.

Because the representative of the Volga Relief Society, Mr. Jacob Volz obligingly handed over 5 yards of manufactured cloth for the confirmation class and further, a gift sent to us from the Women's Association of Trinity Church in Endicott of 25 pairs of stock boots and several other things and other gifts, we were able to give our confirmation class beautiful gifts on their day of honor which brought forth shouts of total joy and gratitude from the children.

In Yagodnaya Polyana, where we had more things available, each child received 3 arshin [7 US yards] of manufactured cloth for shirts, many boys received boots, also from the gifts we carried, suitable items were distributed. In Pobochnaya and Neu-Straub each child received 1 3/4 arshin [4 US yards] of manufactured cloth. One saw many children coming to confirmation in their new blouses. Your assistance came at the right time as they otherwise would not have had anything else to put on.

At Pentecost the confirmation: At 9 a.m. the Pastor fetched those to be confirmed who had gathered at the barn on the Dippel homestead not far from the church. The parsonage, the schoolmaster's house and the School building were taken from the church and were no longer to be used as such. The Pentecost conference of the church brethren was to take place in the Dippel's barn and it had already been cleaned and prepared with a coat of paint. From there past a row of young Birch trees that the children had planted on a path covered in white sand praying and singing into the house of worship. It was richly decorated with leaves and wreaths of Lilies of the Valley and Forget-me-nots. The Altar, the Pulpit, everything draped in festive floral decorations. Roaring like a fog horn the organ sounded and the children entered singing:

     "Herr Jesu Christi, dich zu uns wend,
     denn heiligen Geist das zu uns send."

People had driven here from all of the surrounding little settlements [chutors]. The day before the schoolmaster of Erblichen Chutor, 60 versts from here, had arrived with 22 students who came to be confirmed with the Yagodnaya Polyana inhabitants. More than 1,000 communion guests had come. It was a festive, moving, living and driving people remembering with total gratitude that the worst of times in the emergency were past and even if there were still dark clouds in the sky, the worst had been overcome. Know that many had you in their thoughts.

On the next day, Pentecost Monday, I drove to Pobochnaya, 7 versts from here. It was the same picture there and also the following Sunday's Trinity in Neu-Straub. Overflowing churches, a great throng at the communion tables. I was in Pobochnaya until 5 in the afternoon. I returned to Yagodnaya Polyana and followed up on a late afternoon invitation of the conference of brethren and spoke before a large crowd in the open air about the words of Jesus in Matthew 5, 6. "Blessed are they who hunger and thirst after justice for they shall be satisfied." About our spiritual hunger over which Jesus has [word obscured]. Yes, it was hunger and thirst for the spiritual life that I had been seeing these days. God give us the strength to satisfy the people. There are many difficulties to overcome, many valid concerns stand before us. In Pobochnayaand Neu-Straub our heated prayer houses were taken from us in which, up to now, winter services were held. The churches are not heated and we must not now become an ever more narrowing strip of land on the mountains. We look outside where yesterday everything had still been white or gray to see the sun already shining on the fresh green of the meadow. In the distance one sees the grain fields and then the forest begins to gleam and to shine on the mountains, first the tender green Birches, then the Aspen and finally the last to receive their spring garb, the linden and the oak: The buds of the apple and cherry trees swell, a beautiful warm day and all of Yagodnaya Polyana stands there bedecked like a young bride, totally wrapped in the festive white of the numerous orchards, each little house standing between cherry, apple and pear trees. This is the most beautiful of times, the nightingales everywhere sing, a lovely scent fills the roads. The misery and raggedness of every one of the poor huts is graciously veiled into a beautiful house by the riches of Mother Nature.

If one climbs the mountains the village is see from above like a sea of white blossoms. The village had decorated itself. Our farmers had gathered in the church before they had driven out to work the fields to ask God for his blessings upon their work and their fields and also to bring about a benevolent end to the great emergency of the previous year.

After the Pastor's sermon and prayer they began to sing the old song:

     "Unsere Aussaat segne Gott, 
     dass sie auch in Schoss der Erde keim, 
     und unser Täglich Brot, 
     unter seine Aussicht werde, 
     Ohne dich du Quell des Lebens, 
     wäre Menschenfleisch vergebens."

And so far God has heard our prayers. The winter sowing went beautifully, the fruits of summer have been planted. We have sown, only the work of the horses remains weak in comparison to earlier times. Everyone however, has done the best they could. After the sowing it did not rain for a long time. The faces of the farmers again began to furrow with worry lines. They told the people that if there were a few more days without rain the grain would be lost. Then came plentiful warm summer rains and now we could look to the future with confidence. We will not have a harvest failure unless some unexpected special misfortune occurs. The outlook for the harvest is good. This does not apply everywhere, so far the harvest outlook is quite different elsewhere. There was a terrible hurricane with hail that caused great damage. The prices of the farmers crops are disproportionately low. For 1 arshin [2 1/3 US yards] of gingham, the simplest material to be had here, the farmer must give all of 5 pfund of butter or 1 pud 10 pfund of grain. For butter one must pay 8 million rubles per pfund, for grain 20 million per pud. One arshin of gingham however, costs 25 million. With a rich harvest the situation can become even worse if the farm production created in Russia is not sold there and the farmer again gets nothing from his labors. It is especially hard for those who have no working livestock and must let half their acreage go unharvested, and unfortunately, this is still the case in many villages which do not possess any horses. The donations that you have sent your friends helped some to purchase a horse and thus helped them through the great emergency.

Recently we had the Pentecost celebration. A celebration which many among you will recall, is the day on which you entered God's house in solemn procession to the pealing of the bells in order to be confirmed and participate in Holy Communion for the first time. Before confirmation there was much excitement. Now since religious education is forbidden as "harmful for the soul of the child," we are afraid that it will also be impossible to hold the traditional teaching [Catechism] with the children before confirmation. This instruction is made all the more necessary as during the course of the last few years religious education was mainly the only education the children had at all. Regular school were only irregularly attended by a portion of the children so that the education of the children has suffered terribly. The pastor went to Saratovand after consultation with the authorities obtained permission for the holding of confirmation instruction and after his return instruction in all 5 villages of the parish was quickly organized. Anything can be done if the people wish and are willing and put their hearts into it. So it is here. In spite of all the time necessarily required for them to work in the fields the children come to the church in bright crowds for confirmation instruction. Also not one hour of our Godly service was canceled because of winter. Still we have different concerns with the satisfaction of spiritual hunger but apart from them we have firm hope for the assistance of the Heavenly Father who so visibly helped us through the last year.

As I recently drove out of the village I saw a handful of children at the end of the village running and singing merrily in the sun, "There," I said to myself, "Thank God the children are playing again, they have easily forgotten all of the emergency; a year ago they did not play, they stood pale and weak in front of their houses without desire for life. Now they play again, than God."

May this experience seem like a bad dream to them from which they now are awake. May the future be kind to them and spare them and their children what our times have seen.

     Pastor Feldbach


This translation provided courtesy of Hugh Lichtenwald.