In response to my public, Pedantry is returning to pre-revolutionary Russia for a few more instalments in my series of posts taken from my recently deceased grandfather's papers.
My great-grandmother - Grandpa's mother - was born Katharina Abram [Ekaterina Abramovna] Neustädter in 1895, 108 years ago this August, on a rural estate in Gubernaya Ekaterinoslav, now part of the Republic of Ukraine. She died in early 1988 in Winnipeg, Manitoba when I was 16. She never fully mastered English and used standard German, not Mennonite Plautdietsch, as her most regularly spoken language. I never really mastered standard German and I am still nowhere near as comfortable in it as I am in French, so I had few conversations with her and I have little to recount about her in the first person. My memories of Grandma Dick are all of a very old woman. She was a few days from her 76th birthday when I was born.
I always knew that her parents were murdered, but I don't know if anyone ever told me the details.
I have promised the rest of Grandma Dick's story for some two weeks now. The first part is here, and there is a link from there that lets you go back to the rest of Grandpa's memoirs. This story should be contrasted with my grandfather's memory of the same events, which were not the same.
We pick up Grandma Dick's story again in 1927 - she says almost nothing about the years between her parents murder and her exit from the Soviet Union, except a series of dates for her baptism, her marriage and my grandfather's birth. For her, Russia symbolised a misery that I don't think she was ever comfortable talking about, while Canada was her liberation. Russia was where her parents were murdered, where she spent her teen years in misery with her foster parents, and where her husband died less than eighteen months after her marriage.
I have a question on matters of blogger etiquette. Someone has posted in appreciation of my series on my family, linking to each post in turn. Since I already link to ReachM High Cowboy Network Noose, I have little of the unofficial currency of blogging to offer. What do I do? The best I can think of is fan service.
So, for my fans, I have a pair of letters from my great-grandfather, Kornelius Peter Martens, to his girlfriend, my great-grandmother Tina Neustädter. This is nowhere near complete correspondence. Even as a child I remember hearing about other letters, letters about life in Moscow, at school, and Great-Grandpa's thoughts on WWI. But, Grandpa must not have had them or I'm sure he would have included them. This is what I have.
Grandpa Dick was, as I have already recounted, my grandfather's adopted father and the only father he knew. Grandpa Dick was born David Davidovich Dick on the 17th of October, 1900 in Apanlee, one of his family's estates, located in the Molochna colony, the largest Mennonite enclave in Ukraine.
I know this because when I was a young Russian student in Montreal, Grandpa sent me a photocopy of a document in Russian that he couldn't identify. I was able to tell what it was pretty much right away. It was Grandpa Dick's birth certificate. Translating it, however, was quite difficult. First, I had awful Russian. I was - I think - in my second semester, not too long before I quit Russian to concentrate on my core courses. Second, this birth certificate had been written and certified in 1913, and the Russian language went through a huge reform after the revolution. They didn't just change the way words were spelled, they actually changed the alphabet. The result was that I had a hard time even looking the words up in the dictionary.
It has come to my attention that my great-grandfather's family estate, Apanlee, features prominently in a work of historical fiction called Lebensraum, written by Ingrid Rimland, a Holocaust denier and current owner of the Zundelsite (link leads to the ADL website). I am not, nor is anyone in my family as far as I know, linked to Zündel, Rimland, Holocaust denial, neo-Naziism or anything even dimly related to that end of the political spectrum. Some in my clan are quite politically conservative, none that I know are anywhere near so far to the right.