From the Refugee Camp at Frankfurt a. O.
Wolgadeutsche Monatshefte: Number 15/16; August 1922
Translated courtesy of Hugh Lichtenwald
The Refugee camp Frankfurt a. O. has granted temporary accommodations to thousands of poor Volga German refugees over the last 3 years. There are still well over a thousand of our compatriots there. With mixed emotions I look back at the fate of those who had forsaken their old motherland Russia and come to this their second homeland in this old German city, in whose proximity they found their first admittance.
Behind them, the escape, before them, an uncertain future, bound to their present hard and merciless life as refugees in a strange environment with all its behavioral and moral after effects. Strange humans, who face their fate but are unable to influence it. How deeply has this difficult time without hope, without a goal, entrenched itself in their hearts? How deeply do the after effects of these days still affect them these days? But the Volga German is hard — steel-hard! He wants no more difficulties and restrictions! Finally after a long pilgrimage filled with privations, he lands physically and mentally broken, in the old homeland. The 3 hour trip from the border to Frankfurt arouses new life and hope in him. A new goal forces itself upon his consciousness.
The friendly reception in Frankfurt, a new life in a new and unfamiliar environment — has awaken a new courage. Frankfurt a. O. has become the symbol of greater Germany, the Germany of work, organization and order.
Establishing contacts with Russian-German organizations in Berlin, reestablishing letter contact with family members and friends back home and finally, contact with family members in America — all fill up the first days of this new life. What joy rises yet again at local church services.
The children can again, after a lengthy interruption, go to school and take up all those things on needs as a youngster, to develop into adulthood.
But the joy is soon displaced by new concerns. Thoughts of their future are like heavy weights upon these souls. Living in a camp is the greatest of drawbacks. Being squashed together with hundreds of other persons in a room has physical and mental consequences of the worst kind, particularly upon the young. How often one sees here young men damages in body and soul who are hardly able to be made well again.
In this connection, a serious word of reminder, particularly to our students; what a large task you have before you! The young person yearns for knowledge to satisfy his spiritual needs. You who have had the good fortune to have grown up under better conditions, gather these young unto yourselves and give them the benefit of your experience. In your conversations together, at sporting events and the like, you can sow many good seeds in the souls of the young and they will thank you for it! For this one needs no organization, love of people, a willingness to help and a sense of duty are enough. In this manner much true service can be rendered unto the people. The young are the hope of our homeland and we shall not forget that our homeland, once asked (((passage obscured))) when we have not fulfilled our duty. Much in this regard was missed but nevertheless much can still be carried out if we adhere to the task with a firm resolve.
On top of all this is still more: The tension of awaiting entry to America. Many of our countrymen were filled with joyful thoughts of being in America where they could take a job and make a living. Many have now waited in vain for over a year. On July 1st, the tension was released as I was able to inform them that now the possibility for travel to America had been arranged during the months of July and August. Their patient waiting now seems to be at an end. — But not all are in the happy situation of having a sponsor and a passage ticket in their pocket. Many have no relatives in America — Their future is uncertain. Our welfare service must now make them their first priority. Work and settlement possibilities must be arranged. Each and every countryman who has the good fortune to be able to soon leave Frankfurt for America has a duty to remember their companions and workmates who remain behind. They were united by emergency, may this oneness and brotherliness not be broken by the comfortable life of one and the further suffering of the other. Therefore you countrymen, you who go to America, remember your brothers staying behind.
The Youth Growing Up Here:
How many aspiring young persons does one know who would not gladly dedicate themselves to an occupation, happily training in this or that technical specialty like Tanning or Weaving, etc. These must be afforded the greatest attention and support. A robust, determined welfare service must be established so that our homeland sees in Frankfurt a symbol of where determined work began to preserve and stabilize our traditions. The months and — unfortunately — for may, years of unhealthy camp life can be transformed by the blessed efforts of a determined welfare service. This must be our next task.