familienbuch

August 15, 2021

You will often hear me refer to how the Universe works and delivers. My spirituality is deeply rooted in nature, and reading the signs that the Universe puts in my path. At the beginning of the summer a notice came out on the campus where I work about suggested books from campus authors that would be good summer reads. I picked up one of the selections from the campus library and read about half of it at the beginning of the summer. The summer started to fly by between kayak trips, soccer, work, and life and the book stayed on the coffee table whispering, and then yelling at me to please finish reading it!

This morning, I had a quiet moment to sit down and finish reading it. I am so glad that I did. It is a moving memoir that I would actually like to read again. It is call Siberian Exile by Julija Sukys. It is well written, deeply personal, and guttural. It is the type of story that pulls you out of your own privileged existence and try imagine what it was like to experience this as a family. It was the cover image that drew me into reading it. Julija honestly shares her family story and and research in a moving read.

The book explores the narratives of her paternal grandparents during her grandmother's exile to Siberia in 1941 and their subsequent multi-year separation. I will leave the rest to you to read with my highest recommendation. Now, here is where the Universe delivered some signs to me this morning. Throughout the book Julija does a really good job of weaving in the political and historical backdrop that is a central character to the narrative. In one of the later sections of the book she mentions the view of the cultural image of the Germans by the local Siberians and she mentions the Volga Germans. If you are unfamiliar, in the 1760's Catherine the Great recruited ethnic Germans to settle along the Volga River in Russia and lived there for a very long time. 

This immediately caught my eye, as I may have shared; I always thought my material grandfathers parents were Russian and have come to learn in the past few years that they were actually Volga German Russians from the Saratov region. My great grandfather Jacob immigrated to the United States right before the Bolshevik Revolution when he was just a teenager. I don't know the exact age my great grandmother Amalia immigrated here but she was also Volga German and likewise came from Saratov region of Russia. I am just starting to understand and put together an understanding of my own family history. I joined a Facebook group for Volga German ancestry and plan on trying to read and understand more about this part of my ancestry. Today inspired me to read more about Volga Germans, and I learned that during the same time frame that Julija's grandmother was exiled to Siberia; there was a mass deportation of Volga Germans to Siberia as well. Though my great grandparents immigrated about 20 years prior to this event, I can only image some of my ancestors that were still in that region experienced this mass exile. 

I think I was meant to read this memoir and family story. Though I don't have the letters and stories to piece together a part of family story in quite such an amazing way, I have a few maps and names of my ancestors and I feel the need to starting digging a little more and falling down the genealogy rabbit hole that seems to find people in their later years. Maybe it is that anticipation of milestone birthday next year that has me thinking about all of this. Time to find more family pictures, try to find more stories, and dive into the family history that is in my DNA. 



Till, then I will leave you with the definition of the title of this blog post, familienbuch. Sometimes it refers to a printed book, sometime a family genealogy. In German it means family book. Pretty fitting either way. I hope to read this moving book again, give a copy to my mama, and maybe even run into Julija on campus someday. 

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