In the 1700's Katherine the Great, the Russian Czar, invited her fellow Germans to settle in Russia. It was all downhill for the Wolgadeutsche (Volga Germans) after they migrated to Russia. The fertile pastures and autonomy promised to the Germans turned out to be a bust.

My existence (and likewise the existence of every human on this planet) was luck. In the 1800's My disappointed ancestors were smart enough to cash in their life savings and immigrate to the U.S. and Canada. Our ancestors knew the time to leave to avoid the wars.

Those who stayed in Russia faced oppression and "ethnic cleansing". In 1941 during the war with Germany, Russia announced that the Autonomous Wolgaseutsche region no longer exists, and the Germans are no longer welcome in Russia. Some Wolgadeutsche were forcefully relocated to Kazakhstan and those were the lucky ones. The majority were sent to SIberia or killed. Clergy were among the first to face imprisonment and execution.

The Germans settlements on the Volga river no longer exist. Churches were turned into Soviet Government Centers or burned to the ground. Whole villages were wiped off the map.

I never knew that I was in an ethnic group that was subject to "ethnic cleansing" and bigotry. It isn't surprising that I haven't make any connections with cousins in Russia. I don't believe any survived.

Nathan Smith-Manley (