A Trip to Alexandertal in 2001
In May 2001, Dick Kraus had the great good fortune of visiting the Saratov region as a member of the 2001 Russian German Heritage Tour lead by John Klein of Lincoln, Nebraska. John will likely be doing more tours in the future; if you have any interest in participating in one, I urge you to contact him at: RGHTours@aol.com. The following report is based on my visit to Alexandertal on May 19th. All photos are thumbnails; click on one if you wish to see it full size.
Alexandertal was named for Czar Alexander I. who was much beloved by the Germans in Russia. Here is his tomb in the Peter and Paul Cathedral in St. Petersburg where all the Romanov Czars are buried. His tomb is behind his name plaque. As you can see from the scaffolding, considerable renovation was going on in May 2001
Alexandertal is known today by the Russian name Alexandrovka, and is some 140 km (87 miles) south of Saratov.
As you can see from the picture, the village lies 2 km (1.25 miles) west of the new "Astrakan" highway, the main road leading south from Saratov on the west side of the Volga River.
The highway is paved and in quite good shape. The picture was taken looking north. As you proceed west on the access road, after about 1 km in you come over a small rise and you get your first view of Alexandertal as shown in the next two pictures. Part of the access road is paved, part is not, but overall it was one of the better access roads we found in the area.
The cemetery is on a low rise about 1/2 km to the south of thevillage up a dirt trail sometimes barely discernable through a pasture. The three people in the picture are from left to right: 1) Elena Oginskaya, our very able interpreter, 2) Frau Horst, Russian lady whose German-Russian husband is buried in the Alexandertal village cemetery, and 3) Ed Hoak, a fellow member of the 2001 tour and a member of the AHSGR international board. You can see that the village now consists of a total of some 20-25 buildings including out buildings. There are only about a dozen homes, most of which are "modern" built of whitish tile-like brick. These brick are invariably laid without any "pointing" so in spite of the slick bricks the appearance of the houses is fairly disheveled.The village was once much larger.
According to the book The German Colonies on the Lower Volga by Gottlieb Baretz, the population in 1912 was 1860. There are only two houses left which the villagers say were built by Germans. The larger is shown here. If built by Germans, this house was built before 1941 and possibly before 1900. This house, like the other "German-built" houses, is lived in.
As you can see, the village homes are served by electricity and phones. In this second view, you can see, the street, which beyond the grass and weeds is mud, has some fairly heavy "litter".
This third photo shows the decorations above and around the windows on the German built houses.
This is the second "German-built" house. An older male occupant's shoe can barely be seen through the open gate. I think he was trying to figure out what I was doing and was trying to decide whether to come shoo me away.There were two streets in the village which intersected roughly at right angles.
"Main" street is shown here. The street is not paved and not well maintained. However iit was guarded by the village goose:
The other "street" crossed "Main" behind me when I took the picture of "Main" street looking north. This other street ran west a short distance to the railroad tracks. I did not go down it. I should have!
This is a picture of Dick Kraus, Anna Etsel, and Ed Hoak in front of Frau Etsel's married daughter's home. The picture was taken by our intrepid driver, Yuri Bartenev. Frau Horst has two married daughters living in the village. She herself lives in Germany where her sons live. Her husband Paul had been born in Schuck coming here in the late 70's or early 80's. They moved to Germany in 1984. On the day of our visit she was in the midst of a two-week visit to Russia to see her daughters and grandchildren. This picture was taken across the street from the first "German-built" house shown above. The camera is looking south. Frau Estel went with us and showed us the way to the village cemetery where there were fairly recent graves of Germans.
The grave of the Lauman's is shown in this photo.
Another German grave is shown here, with Frau Estel and Elena also in the photo.
Finally we have a picture of Dick's "village visit team", Elena, Dick and Yuri. Altogether we visited seven German villages in three days.
These visits were for Dick Kraus the culmination of a life-time hope. Words cannot express what they meant to me.