After even years of constant bad harvests a famine broke out in 1920, which carried off hundreds of thousands of human souls in the Volga region, and in 1930, another year of famine, just as many people starved to death. Apart from the bad economic situation of the Germans on the Volga and in other regions of the country life got worse by a series of infringements and limitations of their rights and even direct persecutions of the German population.

Someone had started to practice a system of stirring up chauvinist hostility against the Germans belonging to the Russian state, and all this was carried out from different levels of the state machinery by using rather filed out methods.

During the years of 1916 to 1920 the tsarist regime, and later, after ist downfall, the Soviet power, accelerated the process of closing all German church-schools.

From 1926 to 1936 the German farmers were ransacked – it was the time of the dispossession of the kulaks, who were turned out from their homes, from their land, and physically extermined. Between 1931 and 1935 the German churches were destroyed.

During the years of 1936 to 1940 the German schools were closed down.

Between 1941 and 1955 the Germans were exiled to Siberia and Kazakhstan and put to the Stalinist concentration camps; their families were torn apart to places far away from each other, and thousands of them were unable till the end of their lives to find their fathers, mothers or children again.

On the 22nd of June 1941 the Germans on the river Volga heard some terrifying news. Most of the men hurried over to the military registration and enlistment office, but there they were told: „Return home until further notice!“ But could any of the Volga-Germans have imagined in advance what this „further notice“ definitely meant? Even in the worst dreams one could not have pictured that everything the ears had already heard would soon become bitter reality. And this is what the poor people could see and read in the newspapers with their own eyes on the 28th of August 1941: „In view of the fact that many spies and saboteurs have been unmasked among the population of the Volga-Germans, the Autonomous Republic of the Volga-Germans will be dissolved by exiling its German population to other places of the Soviet-Union“.

In some damned minute this terrible thought had entered the head of the „father of all people“, a thought so rude and naive in all ist simplicity, so unhuman and cruel.

On the 1st of September, instead of going to school, the children were running busily to and fro, helping their parents to gather and pack up all their belongings. Nobody knew, where they would be taken to, which clothes to take along, and for that reason they put everything they could in the wicker-baskets – not only bast mats, but also their traditional straw hats and vests. Just to be on the safe side, they also hid the bible and a Lutheran cross at the very bottom of the basket, below the underclothes, as well as a couple of school-books and the albums with family photos. Thus, Veniamin and Amalia Sokolovskiy, my great-grandparents on my mother’s sside, set out on a long journey together with their five year old daughter Berta (my grandmother). As far as my father’s side is concerned, all great-grandfathers and great-grandmothers were sent away to Siberia with their children. Fyodor Yakovlevich Frank and Natalia Andreyevna with their children Maria (16 years), Fyodor (14 years), Robert (11 years, my father). Georgiy Yakovlevich Gof (or Hof) with his wife Yekaterina (Katharina) and their children Georgiy (18 years), Fyodor (17 years), Maria (13 years, my grandmother), Milya (11 years), Lydia (3 years). In great haste they were loaded on cattle waggons together with their belongings. The train my grandparents were travelling on first moved off to the north, to Krasniy Kut, passing through places that were known to them from their childhood; then it changed directions and continued for Kazahkstan. Many days and nights slowly passed by, the train going through endless steppes. They thought they would be asked to get off the train in Semipalatinsk, but two locomotives coupled to one another pulled the train on and on – and again there was the rattling of the wheels, when they were rolling over the rail junctions, the hills and birch groves behind the waggon doors and long stops, during which nobody was permitted to get off.



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