Geography of my Life
This is the final installment in a series. The previous installment was published in Volk auf dem Weg, May 2010, 40-41.
Becker, Heinrich. "Geography of my Life." Volk auf dem Weg, June 2010, 42.
Translation from the Original German-language text to American English provided by Alex Herzog, Boulder, Colorado
In Hanover we came to a transition camp, and after only four days we were taken by bus to Unna-Massen, a registration place. There we spent three weeks in an apartment house and were very happy to be visited by relatives. Finally we were reunited, finally together again – and on German soil!
We were able to have Christmas in Neuss and surrounded by relatives. Our first residence was in an apartment house, and it took us only about another year before we were able to find a three-room apartment in Neuss-Erftal, not far from our relatives. There we lived for ten more years.
Our wish to be able to live within our own four walls had strengthened during these years. So in 1998 we bought a building lot in Neuss, where we built a house by ourselves within another two and a half years, enabling us to move from our rental apartment into our own home in January 2000.
As we moved it, the house was only half bricked up, and the interior was also not finished. Together with our sons, who had jobs by then, we completed the house, having lived the first year or so practically on a construction site.
We set aside the first floor for me and wife, and the elder son, already working for ten years for a large firm in Neuss, moved into the attic floor. After his studies, our youngest found work in Bonn.
Looking back now on the time right after our return to Germany, I keep realizing how great a change 1988 brought to our family’s life. We left the Soviet Union because we wished to return to our historic homeland, and after so many trials and tribulations, our hope to get to the land where we would be able to live as free people, was actually fulfilled. For that I am eternally grateful.
As the first of six children of a German grain farmer, I was born on April 26, 1928 in Kukkus in the Autonomous Republic of Volga Germans.
At the age of seven I attended elementary school in the neighboring village of Stahl. After completing fourth grade I worked alongside my father in a collective farm until 1941. The start of World War II made further schooling for me impossible. In August, 1941, we in the Volga area were visited upon by the deportation edict issued by the Supreme Soviet on August 28, 1941. This marked the onset of times of deportation and forced labor for all of us as we were forced to get on the road to banishment in Siberia.
Within a short time we were transported by train to a forest settlement near the rail station of Tugan, not far from the Siberian city of Tomsk. At the beginning of 1942 my father was forced into the Trud “Army, “and during the subsequent year my mother was accused of stealing two pounds of grain and sentenced to jail. My siblings and I were then taken to a children’s home in Tomsk.
Later, until 1956 our family lived under the so-called commandature [the arrangement the Soviets invented to keep all deported Germans under constant and strict military supervision – Tr.] in the collective Malinovka in the Tomsk region. At that time we [as were all other Germans – Tr.] were not allowed to leave out place of residence without permission from the commandant. After 1956 this cruel arrangement was ended, and that allowed us to leave Siberia.
While looking for work I came to Aktyubinsk in Kazakhstan in March, 1957. There I completed training as driver of excavation equipment and worked for several construction firms.
In 1958 I met my future wife, Eugenia Geilfuß, who was from a Black Sea family. We were married that same year, and the next year our first son was born, and his brother in March of 1966.
In 1978 I moved my family to Dnyepropetrovsk, Ukraine. Until we emigrated to Germany I worked for a construction company for nearly ten years.
It was in Dnyepropetrovsk where I turned in our very first application to emigrate to Germany, and only by 1988 were we allowed to leave the Soviet Union. So in November of 1988, I, my wife, and our two sons arrived in Unna-Massen in the Federal Republic of Germany. At this time I am retired, and my wife and I are living in Neuss in the Rheinland.
Our appreciation is extended to Alex Herzog for translation of these articles.