The Story of Andreas Reichel's Family

by Annette Parrish

This information on Andreas and Marie Elizabeth (Kramer) Reichel comes from Maria (Koch) Reichel, their youngest son's wife who currently lives in Dietel, Russia.

Andreas and Marie Elizabeth came to America in the early 1900's but returned to Russia some time later. They had three children before they came to America (David, Andreas Jr. and Marilis) and, as far as we know, had four more children after they returned to Dietel, Russia (Eva, Katharina, Alexander, and Jacob).

The senior Andreas Reichel was deported to Siberia (reason unknown) and died shortly thereafter in late September or early October, 1941, from tetanus which was contracted after an injury sustained while chasing a cow out of the yard. He was probably serving as a guard with the Russian Army Secret Police at the time. German men who were drafted were sent to the front and then sent to villages to guard the German people held captive. He is buried in the village of Bungonowa in the Omsk Oblast of Siberia.

Their oldest son, David, was born in 1905. In about 1934, David was picked up by the KGB in a Mastrok (truck) and taken away, never to be seen again.

Andreas Jr. and Marilis were twins born in 1907. Eva was born in 1908 or 1909 and was called Eflis. Katharina was born in 1912 and was called Katja. Alexander was born in 1914 and was called Sander.

We have the most information on Jacob, the youngest son of Andreas and Marie Elizabeth. Jacob was born on May 8, 1920. He married Maria Koch in Dietel on February 20, 1939. Maria Koch was born on May 14, 1915. They had a son on July 26, 1940, named Waldemar.

On September 14, 1940, Jacob was drafted into the Russian army and was sent to the front. In May of 1941, the war started and deportation of all Germans commenced. Waldemar was barely a year old when, on August 30, 1941, the Russians took Maria and Waldemar, along with four other families, in a truck to Siberia. They were given very little time to gather a few clothes and a little bit of bedding. The trip took 14 days. They had no cooked food, a little dry bread and very little to drink.

When they arrived in Siberia in the village of Uschim, it was snowing, and they had to search just to find a place to sleep. The next morning they arrived in the district of Tyumen, Kreis Tschim, village of Nowo-Lokti. They were all put in one house without a stove. The children were cold, and there was no food. A neighbor woman brought a load of bread for them.

The Soviets kept them captive in this house for more than two days. When the Soviets left, Maria and her son remained in the house over the winter until March when they moved to an old house without a roof. They lived in this house for several years. It had one window, one door, and no toilet. The roof was made of poles with a covering across them. According to Maria, "When it rained, it rained inside also". Waldemar and Maria shared one room with Waldemar's Aunt Amalija, her daughter Ella, and his grandmother.

Maria worked in a business where cheese and butter were made. Later, she and another German lady worked with two driving ox. They cut wood in the forest with a hand saw. In the summer, they loaded the wood onto a wagon; in the winter, onto a sled. In Waldemar's words, "In the winter if there was much snow, they toiled themselves like the ox". They were paid very little. When there was nothing to eat, Maria traded clothing and goods she brought from home for potatoes.

For six years, Jacob and Maria had no idea where the other was nor if the other was even alive. In the fall of 1947, Jacob Reichel was released from the Russian Trudarmee. Maria was given his address by some people. Since Waldemar had only been a couple of months old when his father was drafted, he "met" his father for the first time when he was seven years old!

Jacob and Maria were reunited and then transferred to a collective farm under the watch of Russian guards. The farm had no money to pay them, so they were paid in the fall with a little bit of grain. Maria had planted potatoes, most of which she sold so she could pay taxes. For seven years, they had no cattle, but they did have "200 liters of milk, 16 kilo of meat, 200 kilo of potatoes, and 200 eggs", and they paid their taxes every year.

In 1947, Waldemar went to school in bare feet. Maria and Jacob had a daughter on February 20, 1952 and named her Frieda. Three years after Jacob returned, he and Maria were able to buy a house in Siberia. Up until 1956, they were not permitted to drive further than five kilometers from their village.

On January 3, 1958, Jacob and Maria returned to Dietel (Dittel) with their family. It was illegal for them to return to their original village, but they were able to do so, possibly by bribing the authorities. They were once again without a home and had to build one themselves. Jacob's mother (Marie Elizabeth Kramer Reichel, wife of Andreas, Sr.) lived with them until she died at the age of 84 on December 1, 1962. Jacob died on January 17, 1979. Maria still lives in the house she and Jacob built.

Waldemar married Emma Ruff and immigrated to Germany in 1992. His sister Frieda died in Dietel (now called Aleshniki) on October 28, 1993. She is buried next to her father, Jacob.

Maria holds church services in her home every Sunday, as she has done ever since returning to Dietel. Church is three hours, primarily singing old German hymns. They are Evangelical Lutheran, and approximately 20-25 people attend. Lately, that number dropped to 15 and continues to drop due to Germans immigrating to Germany and elderly members who have died. The attendees are mostly women, as many of the men have also died, and they begin arriving on foot at about 7:30 a.m. Some come from nearby villages by bus and then walk the rest of the way. Almost no one has a car.

Life is still very primitive in the villages. Most people have electricity, and there are a few televisions and telephones (most of which do not work). Maria's home was improved when a water spigot was installed in her yard; now she does not have to walk down the street and carry water to her property.

Baths are taken in a traditional Russian bath house, which includes hauling water to a metal trough, stoking a wood fire, and mixing boiling hot water with cold water from a milk can into a small wash tub. Most houses do not have indoor plumbing. Maria also does not have indoor plumbing; her outhouse is about 50 feet from the house.

Maria grows most of the food that sustains her throughout the year. She can buy meat, cheese, and flour at the market, when it is available.

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