Schoendorf

Schoendorf (Pretty Village) was a Lutheran village located on the Jeruslan River about 60 miles SE of Saratov. Although it was funded initially in 1855 by settlers from Yagodnaya Polyana, 487 settlers from Pobochnoye added to the population in 1857. Family names included the names listed under Pobochnoye and Schoenfeld, but also Beitel, Dill, Dubhorn, Frick, Fischer, Funk, Haag, Hergert, Keil, Kohnschuh, Orschler, Reich, Rothermel, Stapper, Straub and Vitul. There was a lot of social contact with the "mother colonies" Yagodnaya Polyana and Pobochnoye and with nearby Schoenfeld. This included marriages, births, baptisms and burials. There was LITTLE contact with the nearby Russian village Karpenka (Karpionka) four miles to the southwest.

People made their living by farming and animal husbandry. Rye, barley, flax and wheat were grown. Animals included cattle, horses, camels, pigs, chickens. ducks, geese. Large gardens and fruit trees were tended.

In September 1941 the villages were deported to Kazakhstan and Siberia under Stalin's orders. Men were assigned to the work army "Trudarmee". Women were sent there a few months later. Children were often left to starve to death or to be cared for by aged grandparents, who had little or no resources.

Otto Felker was born in Schoendorf 12 December 1926. His grandfather George Rudy, Lutheran pastor in the village, was killed by the communists in 1930 because of his religious beliefs. Otto's mother died during the starvation years of 1932-33. His dad Heinrich Felker had to go to Astrakhan on the lower Volga to find work. He would return on weekends to bring home fish and other food. Heinrich was taken away in 1937 by the communists, who worked him to death in Siberia in 1944.

Otto was deported in September 1941 to Kazakhstan. He survived the winter, and he turned 16 years old. The communists sent him to work in the coal mines near Chelyabinsk the Ural mountains in southwest Siberia. Here he worked twelve hours a day throughout WW II. After that they went to eight hours a day shift. Then Otto was able to take night courses to try and educate himself.

In 1964 the Germans were "forgiven" their "crimes against the state" and were allowed to return to European Russia. But they could not return to their home villages. Few returned.

After 21 years in the coal mines in the Urals, Otto was able to get a transfer to a mine in Kazakhstan, where he worked for ten years. Then he went to work in a mine in the Caucasus. After a few years, he became a construction worker and built houses.

In May 1986 Otto Felker returned to his home village of Schoendorf, now called Repnoe, for a one day visit. He had been gone 45 years. Where his family house had stood was a hole in the ground, overgrown with grass. His grandfather's Lutheran church had been turned into a social club for the Russians. The building had burned down, and a house had been built on the foundation. His grandfather's parsonage had been torn down. The town government building had been turned into the communist party headquarters. In fact the village had become the headquarters of a kolkhoz, a collective farm. Only about 15 of the 160 homes were still standing; and they were in bad repair. Half of the people in the village were Russians; half were Kazaks.

Village Coordinator
Laurin Wilhelm

Volga Villages