Sunday, March 3, 2013

Living in War-torn Europe

August Schalin (1853-1927) was the eldest son of Gottlieb Schalin and Julianne Zander and was my great grand uncle. He married Henriette Arnholtz (or Arnold) on 07 Feb 1878 in the Volhynia area of what was then Russia. It is now part of Ukraine. When several of August's siblings decided to move to Canada in 1893, August and his wife decided to stay on their prosperous farm. This is the story of their daughter, Ernestine, and her family and the lives they were forced to live in war-torn Europe.

Ernestine Schalin (1879-1946) married August Hildebrandt on 02 Feb 1897 in Tutschin. In 1909 August traveled to Bremen, Germany, and sailed to the United States, arriving in New York on 16 Jun 1909. 

North German Lloyd Line SS Grosser Kurfurst
He traveled with his brother-in-law, Julius Schalin, and a friend, Ferd Wutzke. They wanted to earn enough money in America to pay off the mortgage debts. August worked in a paper mill in New York, a meat packing plant in Chicago, construction in San Francisco, and in a mine. After three years, August returned to his family in Russia and resumed farming.

In 1915, during World War I, nearly all of the German residents of Volhynia were exiled to various parts of Russia far away from the battle fronts.  The Tsar's generals were afraid the German farmers would support German invaders. The Hildebrandts were sent to Caucasus region between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. When they returned to Volhynia in 1918 a Galician family was living on their farm. They were not able to get it back until 1919.

Molotov signs the Nazi–Soviet non-aggression pact. Behind him are Ribbentrop and Stalin
Twenty years later there was more upheaval. After the non-aggression pact between Germany and Russia was signed, a massive resettlement program began in 1939. Thousands of ethnic Germans, including the Hildebrandt family, were moved westward to Poland and placed on farms formerly owned by Polish farmers in the Wartegau area near Lodz. The previous owners were sent to the areas vacated by the Germans in parts of Russia. August died in 1945. Later that year, Ernestine was forced to flee from the advancing Russian Army. She died the next year near Truenbritzen, Germany, while enroute by train, again uprooted and off to a new destination.

Imagine what their lives would have been like if they would have all gone with August to United States in 1909?

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