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Our Emigration from Tiegenhagen

in Southern Russia

November 1925

by G. Schellenberg (P.25)

[Gerhard Jacob Schellenberg, August 26, 1871 - June 29, 1962]

By 1924 about ten trains had already left with emigrating Mennonites. Among them were almost half of the "full-farmers"1 from Tiegenhagen. Their farms had been bought by others, for the most part by Lutheran Germans from the district of Jekaterinoslav2. Those Mennonites who had remained behind did not feel at home among the newcomers. Besides that the authorities were becoming more and more "proletarian"3. They had therefore already made efforts to emigrate since January, 1925.

It was a question of acquiring the Canadian entry permit, the Soviet passport for foreign countries, health certificates and other documents. In these matters the young men were more determined than the older ones. They held parleys and went to the authorities in the cities of Berdjansk, Melitopol and Yekaterinoslav [Jekaterinoslaw].

In the beginning our family hesitated, but decided to join the group of those determined to emigrate for fear of remaining behind alone.

This happened in August during threshing time. At that time already, threshing had to be undertaken in a primitive manner. In the village there remained only one single threshing machine. All the others had been sold for a little grain during the year of the drought4. A group of neighbours would combine (unite) for collective threshing. Every participating farmer provided two workers with a horse and had one "desjatine" of wheat and a little feed grain threshed. If I remember right every eighth pud5 had to be turned in for the use of the machine.

In order to procure the necessary papers for emigration, I went several times to Halbstadt. I was glad to receive them without undue difficulties. After that I had to go to Melitopol.

On this trip I met Heinz Fast for the last time. He drove with his wife into the area of, Orenburg6 where he had accepted a teaching post in the Mennonite settlement.

1 Farmers owning 65 desjatines of land
2 To-day the district Dnepropetrowsk
3 This is probably meant "Soviet-oriented".
4 Probably the winter of 1921-22
5 1 Pud = 16 Kg. = 35 Ibs.
6 Now Tschkalow

Very soon after my return from Melitopol I received the request to come to Jekaterinoslav to pay the passport fees (about $70.00 for each of the three passports). We were surprised to receive the passports so soon, at the same time as the group who had tried to get them since January. On my return trip from Jekaterinoslav, on a beautiful, sunny September day, I saw a train of emigrating Mennonites from Gnadenfeld at the railway station of Stulnewo (Waldheim). The whole area around the railway station was full of vehicles in which friends and relatives had accompanied the emigrants. The sight of the emigrants and the turmoil at the station made a profound impression on me and confirmed my decision to emigrate. I said to myself at the time: "The rolling stone cannot be stayed!" Our decision was adamant and remained so.

Now everything took its course quickly. First we had to sell our property. The farms were sold on an individual basis by each family, the movable property, however, at auctions. If I remember right, auctions were held on five days, one a day and on the last day even two. The prices were often low, but nothing had to be given away, since many eager buyers had come, especially from the neighbouring Russian villages.

A farm with stables and sheds yielded from four to eight thousand rubles Thus we did not have to borrow the money for the trip ahead of us.

In the last days before our departure a service was held in our church in which David Woelk from Fischau officiated. On November 5, 1925, on a Thursday, we left our farm in the morning. Our driver was one of the new Wollhynian neighbours with a small vehicle that he had brought with him from Wollhynia. Our two dogs, a small one and a big one, also wanted to come along. The new owner, whose name was Bedke, had to drag them back from the street.

We were worried about our one-and-a-half-year old son, who did not feel well. In Fischau we stopped at the schppi and had Borscht for lunch with the Thiessen's. After that we drove to Lichtenau, where our train was already waiting. A short farewell service took place in the church and we received church attestations. After that we bade farewell to our relatives the Johann Friesens, the Heinrich Friesens, the Heinrich Schellenbergs and to friends who had remained in Fischau.

Towards evening our train, which consisted of fourteen cars with about 230 people, left the railway station Lichtenau (Russian Swetlodolinsk) for Alexandrowsk. We arrived in Alexandrowsk the next day (November 6) at noon. On Saturday (November 7) we reached Losowaja by way of Sineljnikowo. Here the train stopped until Sunday, November 8.

Before our departure on November 5, our group of emigrants had elected Peter A. Friesen as leader, P. Isaak as assistant conductor and Jakob J. Braun as treasurer. Among the passengers in each car a speaker was also elected. In our car (no. 7) I was elected as speaker or "elder" (Starschij). Our family travelled together with the Johann Brauns and the P.A. Friesens in one car.

Each speaker had to report what equipment each car contained. In my car there were twenty planks, two cross-beams, one lantern, one shovel, one box, one cast-iron stove, two window casings, and in addition four pud of coal, which we had received in Lichtenau.

On Sunday, November 8, we drove from Losowaja to Charkow. In Charkow we did not stop in the railway station, but at some distance from it. From the place where we stopped no trace of the city could be seen. Abr. Loewen's daughter, who was working in the Rusen Pa1 , met our train here and said good-bye to her relatives.

At night we reached Orel and on November 9 we reached Tula. Here we bought "Tulskije Prjaniki" (a kind of spice cookies) for the occasion of Marichen's birthday [Mariechen Kornelsen? [Maria Kornelsen], February 2, 1897 - January 4, 1971 married to Heinrich Willms ]. Everywhere there was a lot of dirt. After that we went to Belgorod.

At the railway station Skuratowo J.J. Braun missed our train. But, before Moscow, he caught up with us on a passenger train.

On Tuesday, November 10, we arrived at the Kursk railway station in Moscow. Soon after our arrival P. Isaak and H. Rempel, who had gone ahead of us, came accompanied by two doctors. The doctors examined our eyes for trachom 2. To me the doctor said: "old smooth scars". Except for a certain Wilms, who had to go back, all were declared healthy.

After the physical examination we went on the "Okruznaja Doroga" to the railway station "Windawskij". In our car the money for the boat tickets was collected on November 11. Then our chosen representatives bought the tickets for 32 000 rubles. Alltogether [sic] I paid 1,800 rubles or $851.00.

Towards evening Marichen and I went to the Ljubljanskaja Ploschtschad (Ljubljanskaja Square). On November 12, the Johann Brauns, the Jakob Reimers, Sarah [Sara Kornelsen (February 5, 1882 - 1979] and I visited Moscow on foot. We were in the glass-covered market hall (Passaz) and on the Red Square we saw the mausoleum. We bought a pair of gloves and some grey thread from a Jew. Unfortunately, I later lost the gloves from my coat pocket.

In the evening we departed from the Windawskij railway station (also called Pribaltijskij). On November 13 and 14 we drove through beautiful birch and fir woods. On November 14, a Saturday, at 12:00 noon, we arrived in the border town Sebez. We had no difficulties at the customs. An official

1 Probably a Russian abbreviation
2 a dangerous infectuous eye disease

came into the car, rumaged a little through the vegetable basket and the clothes- basket and asked how much money I had with me. At 6:00 we left Sebez. At 9:00 P.M. we drove through the customs' gate and reached the Letvian border station Zilupy an hour later. Here we met a C.P.R. representative. We had the Russian border behind us and were in a joyful mood, especially uncle J. Isbrand Rempel.

For thirty-five kopecs we got a supper at the railway station Zilupy. After that we transfered with our luggage to another train, which stood nearby our Russian (Bis 100)1 . My window casing, which I had brought along from home, went back to Russia. One could sleep comfortably on the passenger train. We left at 5:00 A.M. on November 15, a Sunday, and arrived in Riga in the evening. There we got off the train and were quartered in baracks. The luggage was brought to sheds in two open luggage cars.

The dispatching of the luggage was difficult and consumed much time. In the process some things were lost too, for instance Jakob Braun's raincoat. Then we had supper: a thin vegetable soup and for us a quite unusually thin slice of ham. After we had eaten, we went into the shower and into the de-lousing station2. For the women this proved to be somewhat difficult.

We were content with our accomodations in the baracks, which we shared with the Johann Brauns [Joh. Brauns ]and the Jasch Brauns. The food was also satisfactory. Every day we drove around the city on the tram to look at the sights. The city is very beautiful, the Dtna river (Zapadnaja Dwina) was spanned by a beautiful bridge and there were German stores and bakery shops with fine merchandise there. Many shopped here for the continuation of the voyage; in our opinion they did so at reasonable prices. Shoes, clothes and coats could be bought especially reasonably at Alexander Stidas ( now Jung and Poliejewsky). I exchanged 2 000 rubles for U.S.$100.00 and a few cents in the "Latwija Bank". We bought a very nice suit with shiny buttons for [son] Jakob.

On November 18, on a Wednesday, our family had to appear before a commission of physicians. Thank the Lord, we all passed. Three to four days passed before all members of our group had been examined.

The whole stay in Riga lasted from Sunday, November 15, in the evening, to Saturday, November 21 in the evening; in other words: six days. On November 21, immediately after breakfast, everyone, except for those who had to stay back on account of trachom (Mrs. H.Wiens, Mrs. Dobrisch . . .)3, was brought to the Riga Harbour by train. There we went on board of the ship "Baltara".

1 Probably a Russian term for the type of train.
2 This word seems to be "Lausecur" in the original, which probably means "de-lousing station".
3 The ending is illegible.

We were assigned to cabin 77-80 in section "F", second class. It was a beautiful, warm cabin. We ate lunch in the dining room of the second class. On November 21 at noon the anchors were raised. A group of Lithuanians was travelling with us and their friends and relatives started to sing a beautiful song.

The ship bell called for supper. Everyone went except I. The ship glided out of the swampy bay into the Baltic Sea. It did not sway. However, I had the sensation that I no longer had solid ground under my feet. Nor did I feel like eating. I presumed that a spell of sea sickness was coming on and went into the cabin to sleep. In the morning I drank a glass of port in the ship's canteen, as I had been advised to do. My nausea disappeared, and since then, thank the Lord, I have never missed another meal.

On the Baltic Sea

Without our realizing it, the ship stopped at Danzig at 10:00 P.M., as we were told it would. Even though the sea was calm, Sarah Bold [Sarah Boldt] and her children became seasick. In the evening of November 23, we entered the Kaiser Wilhelm canal at Kiel. Unfortunately, it was already dark, and we could not see much. The lighting, however, was magnificient. Officials came on board; their German language sounded beautiful. To the officials, I handed letters to Russia and a picture postcard for W. Krausen [for W. Krauses: Wilhelm Krause (January 18, 1897 - December 9, 1983), son of Wilhelm Krause (July 8, 1875 - September 30, 1950] in Bischofswerden [Bischofswerda], Sachsen. In the morning, after six hours, we were already in the North Sea. Judging from the scale of the map, it was about 100 miles. In the canal we had passed under two bridges.

On the North Sea

On November 24, a Tuesday, we saw the lofty red rocky coast of Helgoland in the morning. We saw it for hours on end. The North Sea turned restless. We thought that this was already a storm, but the crew assured us, that it was not one yet. Most of the passengers were seized with sea sickness and even had to pay tribute to the sea. Nothing happened to me, only walking was a little difficult.

Arrival in London, England

On Wednesday, November 25, we arrived in London in the evening. Until noon the waves were still high, then they subsided. We passed into the mouth of the Thames. Wooded banks, many docks and factories passed by us. We even saw folding bridges, which parted when we went through. Over them trains and electrically operated busses passed. For a long time we watched the busy traffic and were amazed to see how far man had progressed.

We stayed one more night on the Baltara. In the evening we went to a service and after that a public assembly took place. November 26 we left the ship after breakfast. After our luggage had been searched, we were on our way to the railway station in two-level busses containing thirty passengers each. From there we rode 1 1/4 hours on the train, which consisted of small cars, to Southampton. The last stretch to the Atlantic Park we once again covered by bus.

The "Atlantic Park" had served as a air-defence outpost during World War I. The hangars now offered shelter to emigrants. When we arrived it was cool. In the "Atlantic Park" we met a lot of emigrants, who were not allowed to continue on their voyage to Canada on account of trachom ailments or for other reasons. We met there The Abraham Walls [Abram Walls] from Klippenfeld. They had already been there for a month, but were soon allowed to continue their travels with us. First we all had to go to the baths (was that ever a confusion:), then before the physicians. With me, Cornelius Loepp, Peter Thiessen, Jakob Reimer and twenty-two other men had to appear before the health commission on that same Friday. Everyone except Heinrich Willms [Heinrich Willms, September 21, 1896 - March 5, 1975] passed.

On the Atlantic

On Saturday, November 28, we embarked on the ocean steamer "Melita". Once again we had been brought to the ship by busses. At three in the afternoon the anchors were raised. It was a sunny November day. A group of our people, probably all those who were healthy, stood on deck and with bare heads sang the hymn: "Jesus, lead the way". This is the manner in which we bade farewell to Europe.

Slowly Englands coast disappeared. In the evening it could no longer be seen. The next morning, November 29, we could see the Irish coast at a distance to the right. Our cabin (No.785R) was very beautiful, a little warm and there were four beds in it.

On Monday a strong wind came from the West and most people were once again seized by sea sickness. In the evening passengers were brought on board by a small boat (Fender) from Ireland.

The stretches covered daily were as follows: on the first day after the departure from Southampton to Cherbourg, 83 sea miles; on the second, 195 miles; on the third, 239 miles. On the fourth day (Tuesday) the weather was magnificent. On the first day it was windy until noon and there were waves. In the afternoon the wind died down. In the evening we travelled across the Gulf Stream.

Sara, Lenchen and Jascha did not feel well. On Wednesday, the fifth day, we saw a colourful rainbow in magnificent weather. On the sixth day, Thursday, during the night and in the morning  there was heavy swaying. During the night my watch slipped off the night-table and the glass broke. The deck was completely interwoven with ropes and passengers were prohibited from going on deck. The vaccination, which had been scheduled for this day, had to be postponed. Sara was in bed all day. On the seventh day, Friday, the swaying subsided, and, whoever was free of scars, was vaccinated. On the eight day, Saturday, the weather was nicer, but, on account of heavy fog, we could not see an island, which was supposed to be situated to the right.

In the morning there was a German service in the dining hall. A young man, unknown to me, spoke on Psalm 107, a certain Reimer from Prangenau spoke on the paralytic and a certain Janzen from Hamberg, formerly from Terek, spoke on Martha and Mary.

In the morning I wanted to dispatch a telegram to Jacob Kornelsen [Jacob H Kornelsen (March 14, 1899 - April 10, 1948)] in Coatsworth [east of Wheatley, Ontario]. The interpreter did not find Coatsworth, only Coatwold. Thus the telegram was dispatched to Jacob Kornelsen in Coatswold. It said: "Landing Sunday in St. John. Are coming to Waterloo. Gerhard Schellenberg"[Gerhard Jacob Schellenberg, August 26, 1871 - June 29, 1962]. The fee was eighty-five cents. Then I also dispatched a letter to J.J. Thiessen in Fischau, Southern Russia.

In Canada

On the ninth day, a Sunday, on December 6, 1925 at 1:30 P.M. we arrived safely in St. John, N.B., Canada. The Lord be thanked for it. In the morning we were to appear before the doctor once again. We did indeed assemble in the dining room, but the doctor failed to appear. We were led from the ship to the railway station, where we were examined by two Canadian doctors. They were mainly concerned about trachom. We all got through safely. Since the emigrants were called before the physicians in alphabetical order, our family's turn came almost last. After that we went to our luggage, which had already been arranged in order of family. Jacob H. Janzen went together with me. After that we were welcomed by the following representatives of the board: Jacob Friesen, from Neuhalbstadt, J.H. Janzen and Zacharias. Like many others I had written Waterloo, Ontario as point of destination before my departure. This was also stated on all the luggage tags. Now the representatives asked us to move into the country westward. (J. Friesen especially tried to convince me). I declined with determination, but K. Loepp, Jacob Rempel, P. Isaak, Jacob Rempel [Jac. Rempel] and G. Duerksen changed their plans and indicated their assent.

Then we got on the train, which was already waiting. It consisted of seven cars, of which five were destined for the West, by way of Winnipeg and two for Leamington, by way of Montreal, Toronto and Windsor. Jacob Friesen came along in our car as an escort as far as Toronto. The other two board representatives continued travelling to Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Altogether, there were eighty-seven people in the two cars, of these forty were in our's (no. 1) and forty-seven in no. 2. Jacob Epp and I were asked to prepare roll-lists for the cars. The young twin brothers Thiessen aided me in this endeavor. Later Epp and I made good copies of these lists in the office compartment of the train. At the great speed of the train, that was not easily done. In the evening of December 6, our train left St. John. Before the departure I had managed to buy apples and other things for the children at the station.

On the next day we saw a rolling landscape with a few unsightly farm dwellings. Jacob Janzen pointed out the Jersey cows, which are so highly esteemed in Canada. The fast speed of the train caused heavy swaying. On Monday, December 7, we arrived at 5:00 P.M. in Montreal. We travelled across a bridge which spans the St. Lawrence river.

Here our two cars were separated from the rest. We watched the other five pass us by on their way to the West. W e bade farewell to Sarah's parents, the Kornelius Loepps [Korn. Loepps], the Jasch Rempels (jun.), the P. Isaaks, the Johann Brauns (jun.), [Joh. Brauns (jun.)] [,]  the Dan. Dicks and others.

In the evening our two cars continued from Montreal. During the ensuing trip the cars slowly became emptier. The Reimers transfered to another train the next morning, Tuesday, December 8, in Toronto. During the night the Jacob Loepps had already gotten off, as they wished to go to Kaethe's parents, the Johann Warkentins in Markham. When we arrived in Waterloo at 10:00 A.M., most people got off. Among them were the Willms, the Epps, the A. Rempels and the Peter Friesens.

A Willms' family and my family continued on to Windsor together, where we arrived at 2:00 P.M. at the C.P.R. station. From there we went to the streetcar-stop by taxi for eighty cents. Our travelling companions apart from the Willms couple, were a bachelor and three spinsters. We drove to Kingsville in the streetcar. From there Johann Schroeder (formerly of Halbstadt) and G. Dick (formerly of Tiege) took us in their car to Leamington. Here the two organized a taxi for both us and the Willms.

For the twenty-eight miles to Coatsworth I paid $6.00. When we arrived at 6:00 P.M. at the Jakob Kornelsens [Jacob H. Kornelsen, March 14, 1899 - April 10, 1948], it was already dark. Jakob, who was in the yard at the time, came to the taxi and welcomed us. Now we had arrived at our destination in Canada. The trip had lasted thirty-three days, from November 5 to December 8.

[Genealogy of Heinrich Kornelsen, 1807-1975, compiled for Ernest J. Klassen by K. Peters, Winnipeg (Winnipeg, December 1, 1975, pp. 77-84 - Original German: pp. 69-76]