Three Very Short Russian-German Stories
My grandmother was of German descent; her ancestors were German colonists living near St. Petersburg since 18 century. Here are some of the tales she told me.
1. Garbage in Berlin
Some German colonists in Russia, especially more well-to-do, visited their Fatherland. One lady, not exactly young, went there for the first time, well before the World War I. She spoke German, perhaps not exactly as it was spoken in Germany, but still it was German. She liked everything in the old country – the order everywhere, nice clean people, all speaking German, electric trams, theaters and all the high culture. In Berlin, she bought something, I don’t remember what, was it a sandwich or a nightgown, it doesn’t matter. Out of the store she went, immediately unwrapped her purchase, admired it and dropped the package on the pavement, as some people in Russia used to do. A police officer walked to her immediately, picked up the package and said, very politely, “Madam, you dropped something”.
The German-Russian lady replied, also very politely, “Thank you, but it’s garbage, I don’t need it.”
Officer: “I don’t need it either”.
2. Deadly Silence
In 1918 St. Petersburg was starving. People were literally dying from lack of food. The German colonists had their vegetable gardens and were relatively OK. But people from the city proper often came to their land to steal the harvest. They were digging potatoes from the earth and it was not easy to catch them, as they usually came at night. But one colonist was very vigilant, he decided to keep watch all night. Indeed, after dark a young semi-starved man came and started digging potatoes from the colonist’s plot. He had a small pillow case and he collected his loot there. The colonist approached him from behind and hit him on the head with his hoe. He killed him with one hit. The corpse was lying on his land. It was 1918 and the law and order didn’t exist, or rather the Bolsheviks were murdering people left and right without much reason. Nobody was interested in just a single body and a bloody pillow case.
None of the colonists informed the authorities. There was no inquest, no police investigation. But none of the colonists spoke to the killer since. He left the colony.
3. Courageous Good Bye
My mother was learning German (her native language being Russian) and she had a private German tutor, an ethnic German. It was 1941, German-Russian war just started and Russian Communists were sending all ethnic Germans to Siberian camps. It was very dangerous to have anything to do with the Germans at the time. My mother’s tutor was given 24 hours to collect her stuff before going to Siberia. Everybody was avoiding the German, they were like lepers. Still my grandmother instructed my mother, “Go to your tutor’s place and say good bye, wish her good luck”. And it was done.