[Ger-Poland-Volhynia] Re: 1915 Deportation

GVLESS at aol.com GVLESS at aol.com
Fri Jul 2 10:51:29 PDT 2004

Because so many of us do not have "stories" of what it was like in Volhynia 
as some of you are reporting or asking about the 1915 deportation is exactly 
why I have been trying to obtain stories of Life in Volhynia the last few years 
for SGGEE.  I have received a few but not very many.  The purpose is to be 
able to have these available to those of you who do not know or did not hear it 
being talked about by your parents/grandparents.  These stories are so 
important to our younger researchers whose older generation family members no longer 
are living.  

For example:  here is a story that came out of our research on my husband's 
family background that relates to the 1915 deportation.  I will give you just a 
summary for now. 

 Gary Less' aunt Anna Less Schoenrock Unrau was still living in Volhynia in 
the early 1900's.  Her two brothers, Edward and Freidrich Less (who was my 
husband's father) had already immigrated out and living in the States.  Anna with 
her second husband Julius Unrau, 6 children from previous marriage and 3 from 
his marriage were forced by Russian authorities to leave their home in the 
late summer of 1913.  (Much earlier than the famous 1915 date).  They and others 
reached a site about 100 miles south of Moscow called Kaluga.  Julius Unrau 
and his oldest stepson, Gottfried Schoenrock, were immediately conscripted into 
Russian military service to fight for the Tzar because of the conflict between 
Russia and Germany that had just begun.  The women and children of these 
first deportees were left to fend for themselves.  Even so, they were more 
fortunate than the thousands who later in 1915 were deported from Volhynia.  When 
chaos reigned in Russia in 1917 many Russian soldiers deserted the army and 
returned to their homes.  Julius Unrau and Gottfried Schoenrock were among them who 
returned to Kaluga.  Soon there was a thriving German community but the 
people in Kaluga did not realize the enormity of the civil war raging around them 
until someone came back after a traveling to Volhynia with the hopes to return 
to their homeland.  The Kaluga Germans were told that Germans were being 
dragged from their homes and shot on the spot.  By late 1918 the Unrau family made 
the decision to flee Russia for Germany.  They were able to escape into East 
Prussia where they became "slaves" (as the family story elaborates) to a rich 
estate owner.  Julius though that by then they just might return to Volhynia so 
left the family to explore.  He was not heard from for many months when one 
day he showed up in East Prussia at their family doorstep, bedraggled and lice 
infected.  He told them he found conditions terrible in Volhynia, and was able 
to make it back by traveling only at night and hiding during the day in order 
to evade the authorities and the roving bands of Bolsheviks.  Julius died in 
Prussia in 1927.  In meantime Anna had found her brothers addresses in the 
States and establish contact with them.  They sent funds to help them emigrate 
which they did one or two at a time.  The family settled in Nebraska.  Gottfried 
and his wife and family soon moved into Canada  to settle near Barhead, 
Alberta.  The rest of the family members remained in Nebraska.  The family in 
Canada comments:  When their mother, Hertha Bucholtz Schoenrock in her later years 
saw the play, "Fiddler on the Roof", she was deeply moved and remarked, "Yes, 
that's the way it was for us too.  That's the way we left Volhynia."

My husband and I are so fortunate to have this story in the family history.  
But, as I said at the beginning, so many of you have no idea what was 
happenning at a particular time in your ancestor's lives.  Those of you who have 
something, please share it with all of us.  I will be at the convention in Calgary 
in August and will be glad to hear from you then.  Or, you can e-mail 
something to me.  Just a simple story, a paragraph or two, will be enriching and 
helpful to others.  

Virginia Less
(Check last SGGEE Journal for my snail mail address if you wish to respond 
that way.)

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