Conversation between Lydia Hass Knadle
and Joy Hass Stefan
August, 1993 - Session 1
Transcription by Joy Hass Stefan
Editing and proofreading by Mary Lynn Axtman
Lydia was 94 at the time. She died in February,
1994. The village she calls Nikolaev has since been determined
to be Neu Nikolajewka, Bessarabia. Joy is Lydia's niece and was
taking Lydia to visit her only remaining sister, Hilda Hass Smith
Brown, in Kerrville, Texas.
Joy: How big a place was Nikolaev; was it like a
Lydia: No, it was a little town. I think that's
all they had then; they don't live out in the country like they
Joy: Was it like the little villages like you see
in movies, with
little narrow streets?
Lydia: Yes, yes. Just a little town.
Joy: Did they have paved roads?
Lydia: Oh, no.
Joy: They were all dirt roads?
Lydia: Sure. Too long ago for pavement, ha ha.
Joy: Well did you guys travel by buckboard, or carts,
Lydia: Yes, yes.
Joy: Did they have carriages?
Lydia: Well, the rich people did, I guess. No, we
Joy: Sometimes you see in the movies, like Czar
Nicholas and Alexandra, they had all these regal carriages....
that's what you mean that the rich people had carriages.
Lydia: Yes, yes, sure.
Joy: There was you and Rudy and Emma, and I guess
Hilda was born
there too... so there were only the four of you kids before
you came over here...
Lydia: Let's see... Yes, I think so.
Joy: Nettie I think was born there too...
Lydia: Yes, Hilda was the baby.
Joy: Okay, then Nettie was older than Hilda.
Joy: Did you have grandparents that lived there,
or other cousins
or aunts and uncles?
Joy: In Nikolaev.
Lydia: Oh gosh, I can't remember that! But we must
have had because, you know, that's where they originated.
Joy: You didn't get together for family celebrations
that you remember?
Lydia: I can't remember that far back.
Joy: Well, you celebrated Christmas, didn't you?
Lydia: Well sure.
Joy: Did they have Christmas trees there?
Lydia: Ha ha. I don't know, I really don't remember
Joy: Well, you remembered that you celebrated Christmas...
Lydia: Well, we always had Christmas, of course...
Joy: Did you have special meals, like where we have
Lydia: Oh I think so, yes. I can't think what we
had, but I'm
sure we had the Christmas dinner that was in the family.
Joy: Well, did they make a special cake or...
Lydia: Ha ha. I'm sure they did... I can't remember
we had, but I'm sure they had things they fixed for the
Joy: What kind of work did your dad do there?
Lydia: He was a school teacher.
Joy: What did he teach?
Lydia: Gosh... everything, I guess. Because there was only one
Joy: They just had like one-room school houses?
Lydia: Yes, just one room where everybody was in
that room going
Joy: So he was your teacher, your school teacher
Lydia: Sure, to start with.
Joy: What was it like, having your dad be your school
Lydia: Ahhh... Gosh, I don't remember.
Joy: Well, did you ever feel like he expected you
to know it all,
or know more than the other kids?
Lydia: Ha ha... Oh, no, I don't think so.
Joy: Well, that's good. I think that would be kind
having a relative for either a student or a teacher.
Lydia: Having your dad for a teacher, sure. Oh,
I think we just
made it fine.
Joy: So he was a teacher and a farmer and a hardware
store owner, kind of a jack-of-all-trades.
Lydia: Sure, well after we came over here, of course,
he was in
the store mostly.
Joy: I wonder why he didn't try to continue as a
teacher, or was
the store a better job. I mean, did it bring in more money?
Lydia: I suppose so; I have no idea. All I remember
is the store.
Joy: Do you remember taking any trips or vacations
or anything like that when you were still in Nikolaev?
Lydia: No, I sure don't. The only thing I remember
about there was that we had this big room and it had a fireplace
in the wall, you know, and bringing in hay; we had stacks of hay
that we kept the fire going with.
Joy: Oh, you burned hay?
Lydia: Yes, well, grass or hay, whatever. It was
mostly hay, I
Joy: Well, was it cold there most of the time, or
did you have
a chance to...
Lydia: Well, I remembered that much about it. Now,
whether it was cold all year round, or cold just in the winter
time or how, but I remembered that... bringing in that hay stuff
and how I sat close to the fireplace.
Joy: Did they tie it together in bundles to make
it burn a little
Lydia: No, no...we'd just throw bunches of hay on...
Joy: Your house there, you said you don't remember
a whole lot, but was it like one big room that had a table sitting
and a fireplace in one end, and I guess... did your mom cook
over the fireplace, or was there a stove?
Lydia: No, I think she had a stove. Because I don't
cooking in the fireplace at all. All I remember is having
that big pile of hay and keep throwing it in to keep the fire
Joy: Well, I can imagine doing that if it were really
cold out- side, and wanting to be sitting close to the fire...
Lydia: Well, sure. I'm sure it was cold there then.
Joy: Well, were the houses made out of stone or
wood, do you
Lydia: Well, the best I remember, it was kind of
a stucco house
that we had there, that's the only house I remember. It was white
and must have been just stucco.
Joy: Did they have... thatched roofs rather than
boards and shingles or something like that?
Lydia: Yes, I remember them too.
Joy: Do you remember if you had a thatched roof?
Lydia: I think that's the only thing I remember;
I don't remember
Joy: Since you were in town, you didn't have farm
animals or any-
thing like that, right?
Lydia: No, I don't remember any animals. I wish
I did remember
more about that part of my life.
Joy: Well, sometimes if you start thinking about
one thing, it
will make you remember another. Do you remember any of the games
that you played or things that you did?
Joy: Now you said that your dad was a school teacher,
so I guess
there were books around, and did you sit around and read in
Lydia: Oh, I can't remember that. I'm sure we did
too. But that's a long time ago and I can't get it clear in my
mind what all went on.
Joy: Do you remember if you had a pump in the house,
or did you
have to carry water from someplace?
Lydia: Mmm... I don't remember where the water came
from even. Do you realize that that's nearly a hundred years ago?
Joy: You guys immigrated in 1908, maybe?
Joy: Let's see, you came over on a ship. Did they
Lydia: Oh, no.
Joy: But they had trains.
Joy: Okay. Did you ever travel anywhere over there
Lydia: Well, we landed on the shore you know, and
Joy: So you took a train to wherever the ship left?
Joy: Do you remember where you boarded the ship,
or even what
country it was?
Lydia: Oh, no. I sure don't. That's too long ago.
Joy: I'm not even sure what the ships looked like
then. I've been on a replica of ships like the ones Columbus sailed
on, and they seemed so small.
Lydia: Well, I'm sure they weren't as big as they
are now. All I
remember about that ship is that there was a steward or
someone down there who gave me a banana.
Joy: I think you told Michelle he was the cook.
Lydia: Well, he was the cook or one of the stewards.
Joy: Were there a lot of other families on the ship?
Lydia: Oh sure, sure. It was loaded.
Joy: Were most of them also German, or were there
a lot of different nationalities?
Lydia: There were some different ones, but most
of them were
German on that one because it came out of that region of the country.
Joy: Do you remember if any of your other friends
you had there in Nikolaev decided to immigrate at the same time?
Lydia: I'm sure they did, but I sure can't remember
Joy: I don't imagine it was a real quick trip across...
Lydia: Ha, ha. Well, I don't think so...
Joy: What do you remember about things you did to
entertain your- selves; did you play tag...
Lydia: No, no. I don't think we did anything like
that. I have no memory of what we played or what we really did
to entertain ourselves.
Joy: Do you remember anybody getting seasick?
Lydia: Oh yes, a lot of people got seasick. We did
Joy: Did you get seasick?
Lydia: Oh sure. You can't help it when you get on
those ships and you're not used to any of that.
Joy: Did they have little compartments like they
did on trains
that you'd sleep in?
Lydia: Um hum. Yes, you had a little room that you
Joy: Well, did you pretty much just have to stay
in that little
compartment all day, or did you...
Lydia: No, I remember walking around on the deck
and watching the
water from along the edge of the deck. They had the deck
railing and I remember standing there and watching that water,
you know the ship throws the water like that. It was
fun watching it.
Joy: That ship was a steam ship, rather than one
with great big
sails, wasn't it?
Lydia: Oh yes. Steamers.
Joy: Do you remember how many smoke stacks it had?
Lydia: Oh, no. Ha ha.
Joy: Or watching the smoke come out of those smoke
Lydia: Gosh, no. Do you realize that that was a
long time ago?
Joy: Well sure. What did you think when you first
saw the ocean?
Lydia: Ha ha. Water, water.
Joy: Were you the least bit scared?
Lydia: I don't think so.
Joy: Well, when you got out on the ocean and got
out far enough
that you couldn't see any land anywhere...
Lydia: It was kind of boring.
Joy: I guess it would be, especially if you got
Lydia: Well, I don't remember being too seasick.
I don't think
I ever had much of that.
Joy: That's good. Now, your mom had just had a baby
got on the ship.
Joy: And he died while you were on the ship. Was
he sick from the time he was born, or I wonder if she just didn't
have things to really take care of him with.
Lydia: I really don't remember how that happened.
All I know is
that we were on there just a couple of days when he died. And
they buried him in the water. They dropped him down in
Joy: What do you remember about that?
Lydia: Not really anything special. They had a little
box to put him in and sealed it up and had a little service and
dropped him down in the water.
Joy: I know you had told Michelle when she called
you when she
was researching the paper she had to write, that they put
pieces of iron in the coffin...
Lydia: Oh yes, they weighted the coffin so it would
Joy: You told her that when they put the iron in
the bottom of
the coffin that all you could think was "that's not going
to make a very soft bed for a baby.!"
Lydia: Ha ha.
Joy: Well, when they did sea burials like that,
did they use a
flag from the country to drape over...
Lydia: No, I don't remember anything about the flag
other than that it was just the flag that was on the ship all
Joy: Probably whatever country the ship was registered
Lydia: Yes. Could have been.
Joy: Do you remember your folks ever telling stories
relatives or when they grew up?
Lydia: No, it was just too long ago. Too much was
going on. You
had to work too hard to keep living when you got here so you
kind of forgot those things.
Joy: Were either one of your parents very religious?
remember going to church?
Lydia: Oh sure. We went to church every Sunday.
Joy: They were Lutheran?
Lydia: Um hum.
Joy: Do you remember going to church when you were
Lydia: No, I sure don't.
Joy: Well, was church kind of an all day thing,
Lydia: No, I think we just went to church and came
home for dinner.
Joy: They didn't have everybody taking their picnic
to eat after-
wards or any of that stuff?
Lydia: No, I don't remember anything like that.
No, I think we
just went home.
Joy: I forgot to ask you what your first impression was when you
saw the ship that you came over on. I'm sure you hadn't
seen anything that big in your life, right?
Lydia: I was pretty young.