[Ger-Poland-Volhynia] WWI and War Wives

kaiser116 at aol.com kaiser116 at aol.com
Wed Oct 31 07:43:26 PDT 2007

Hello Rita...
I offer the following with reference to your post on your grandfather. I believe the period of time 1865 to 1945 was very convoluted and confusing (not to mention dangerous) at times for the German settlers in Poland-Volynia when conflict broke out. My family (Arendt) had such a mix of fates. As a very young man my great-grandfather on my grandfather's side served in the Russian Army (cavalry) during the Russo-Turkish War of 1877. He fought at the battle of Plevna and for his actions was given some high award along with free land near Alt Krausendorf, Zwiahel, Volynia, Ukraine. His wife died young and he re-married?around age 50?a 16?year old Jewish teenager.?His son, my grandfather Heinrich, who was but 14, was constantly taunted by this young woman who was ostensibly his step-mother. One day when he wasn't looking she apparently hit him in the side of the head with a wooden bucket used to draw water from the well on the farm.?When my grandfather sought justice from his father, he was scorned and basically told the wife was in charge. My grandfather left home forever and took up with an uncle who raised him to be a totally self sufficent individual. My grandfather, who was a staunch German and spoke only plattdeutsch was later thrown in prison by the NKVD in the 1930s for failing to support the Bolshevik regime and serve in their army.

On my grandmother's side, whose family lived in Neu Gruental, Ukraine, her father quietly reported for duty with the Kaiser's army in East?Prussia as a reservist in?the 1st Dragoon Regiment of cavalry during the summer of 1914 in the immediate aftermath of the Archduke's assasination. He took?a train from Zwiahel to Koenigsberg and served on the eastern front 1914-1918 with his regiment and then rode with a band of?Cossacks during 1919 for Ukrainian independence! He died in Volynia, Ukraine in 1932. Meanwhile, my grandmother told me that during the summer of 1915 the entire community of German colonists where she lived were?sent into exile deep into Russia?to Orenburg where they lived among Bashkir (turkmen)?nomads until summer 1918 when they were able to return to?western Ukraine.

I've heard many stories of ethnic Germans (Volksdeutsche) serving the Russians or serving with the Germans in WWI and WWII. It all depended on circumstance and personal preference, for good (not much of that it seems) or evil. The EWZ records on Germans from Russia at the US National Archives II in College Park, Maryland are full of handwritten letters and stories of familes who were ever at the mercy of "one side or the other". My grandparents always reminded me it was only by the grace of God that they and most of?our family came out of?eastern Europe alive and thanks to the Lutheran Church were able to emigrate to America in 1952.

Hope this gives you some more insight,
H Kurt Gillies
Concord, NH

-----Original Message-----
From: rlyster at telusplanet.net
To: ger-poland-volhynia at eclipse.sggee.org <ger-poland-volhynia at eclipse.sggee.org>
Sent: Wed, 31 Oct 2007 2:01 pm
Subject: [Ger-Poland-Volhynia] WWI and War Wives

Once again I need some help understanding part of a story:

My grandfather married in 1909 and in 1910 began 4 years of service in the 
Russian army.  His wife was taken to Germany for safety.  This confuses me 
because he was a Russian soldier, they were fighting the Germans, she was the 
wife of a Russian soldier, yet of German heritage.

Does anyone know about this?

Rita Lyster

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