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Familiar Stages in Life – Evoking Memories

Kludt, Erich. "Familiar Stages in Life - Evoking Memories." Volk auf dem Weg, April 2013, 35.

Translation from the original German-language text to American English is provided by Alex Herzog, Boulder, CO.


The story about Ernst Aman published on page 40 of the January issue of Volk auf dem Weg brought back many memories for me.

I did not know Enrst Aman, who was much older than I, but I am familiar with all the places he mentioned. From 1928 until 1935 I lived with my family in the German colony of Friedensfeld, county Novo-Nikolayevka, Zaporozhye, Ukraine.

Between 1888 and 1916 Ernst Aman’s father was the pastor of the church community in Friedensfeld. The beautiful large church of Friedensfeld was built between 1910 and 1912. It seated 1,200 people and had central heating, which was never used.

This was the largest Ev.-Lutheran church in Russia. The local Russian authorities wished to prevent the building of a church and, thinking it might dissuade the community from erecting one, had set up rather stringent specifications. However, some donations and a special levy on land owners of three rubles per desyatine [ca. 2.7 acres] made the construction possible, with the exact dimensions that had been submitted to the authorities.

Well-to-do community members, including the estate owner Müller and the brothers Schmidt donated important equipment such as the organ, three light fixtures, the altar with its wood-carved life-size figures of the four evangelists, the beautiful altar painting, the chancel, and many other items. The organ alone, manufactured in Stuttgart, cost 5,000 rubles, the money having been donated by Messrs. Sperling and Schmidt.

The church was dedicated in 1912, on the important annual feast of Pentecost. People from all eighteen villages of the county came to be there after finishing their farm work. On the adjacent meadow there was hardly a place for all the wagons, and every seat in the church was filled.

Things continued in that manner until 1929. Pastor Aman was succeeded by Pastor Birth, who was subsequently promoted to Senior Pastor in Kharkov. Between 1929 and 1934, my father, Simon Kludt, was the pastor of the Friedensfeld parish. Senior Pastor Birth and my father were executed by shooting, although they were entirely innocent.

Equally tragic is the subsequent history of the beautiful church. As Nikolaus Grün, my countryman from Friedensfeld, reported in a 1994 issue of Volk auf dem Weg, the cross along with the bell tower and its two bells were torn off, and the church was turned into a club and a cinema. Later, after the beginning of the war, the organ was removed and, according to rumors, given to the Philharmonic of Zaporozhye. It is especially tragic that our German Russian countrymen carried out this work.

When I was living in Alma-Ata I knew a doctor in Kalpashvo who told me that the local NKVD property had an underground stream where the bodies of murdered prisoners had been found. Local residents would look for their relatives there.

My family and I lived in Alma-Ata between 1961 and 1995. Between 1972 and 1978 I worked as an engineer in the phosphor industry under the Ministry of Chemistry. Many business trips took me to Dzhambul.

Finally, a few words about my roots in Bessarabia: after the Thirty-Years War my ancestors emigrated from the Rhine region near Köln to the vicinity of Poznan in Poland, which at the time belonged to Prussia. From there they moved to Bessarabia in 1856. My great-grandfather, Friedrich-August Kludt served for forty years as küster-teacher [a küster is a pastor’s assistant – Tr,] in the Maloyaroslavetz II (Alt-Postal) colony.

My family and I ended up in Germany in 1995. Without even knowing it, I had passed through the same places as Ernst Aman had done earlier.

Pastor Simon Kludt.
The Church in Friedensfeld, Pictured in 1931.
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