Russian Trip ~ May 2001 by Ed Hoak
In May of 2001, Ed Hoak made a trip to Russia to visit Saratov and the ancestral villages of his grandparents in the lower Volga Region. This was a second trip for Ed. The first was in 1997 with wife, Charlotte, also as part of a John Klein arranged tour. Ed's main interest was the birth villages of his grandparents, Holstein and Stephan and other villages within the Galka and Stephan parishes. The group all met at Kennedy Airport in New York City for a Finnair flight to Helsinki.
A paved road turns off the main road to the east just north of Dreispitz toward the village of Galka on the Volga. Galka is about ten kilometers off of the main road. About half way the road turns to all dirt, actually more sand than dirt in some places. Luckily it was dry on this day as the road is impassible on rainy days. The road descends the last three kilometers or so as it approaches the Volga. Galka is a small village on a bluff overlooking the Volga River. It is an absolutely beautiful setting with the Volga being about five to ten kilometers wide at this point. It is so wide that it looks more like the edge of the ocean.
The map of this area refers to this part of the Volga as Volgograd Reservoir. It can be speculated that this is part of the Volga where a dam was put in and that part of original Galka is now under water. Further research will be needed to confirm that.
Galka is a headquarters for a collective farm, but it is not doing well. There are older wood houses and stucco houses. The wood houses are similar to those in the other nearby villages. They consist of either wood beams about five inches by seven inches, similar to a log house, or boards about one inch by six inches. The houses are about twenty feet by forty feet, usually as a rectangle but often with a room addition attached or a summer kitchen detached. The wooden houses are almost always left unpainted except for the window shutters that are painted in various shades of blue. Occasionally the shutters and trim above the windows would be elaborate and have raised designs painted in white trim. The stucco houses appear to be newer and may be made of an adobe type of material. They are most often painted white. The newest houses are made of light colored brick. Also there are new, very large, brick, two and three-story houses that were built with help from the German Bank for resettlement from Kazakhstan. They look more like executive houses. It could not be determined why they had been built so large.
There is a group of buildings that look like an old North American motel. They are of fairly recent vintage, built of light colored brick and metal siding with a flat roof. A sign on one in Russian and German says, "German Hotel". The buildings currently are being used as normal residential housing.There appears to be hot water pipes, which are about two inches in diameter, running through the village for central heating. This was unlike other villages. The major cities have a central heating plant, but this is not often found in the villages. All of the village streets were unpaved.
Lena and Karl Maier are the only Germans now living in the village. She was born in Dobrinka with a maiden name, Shirer, and he was born in Kraft. Lena and Karl have a total of eight children. A son went to Germany and daughters, one who pointed the way to the Maier's house, still live in Galka. The Maiers lived in one of the old German houses. They had a summer kitchen that had a small cook stove. Lena was making her own sour cream that was incubating it at the time. They had a large garden and fruit trees. Their back yard and garden was fenced. Lena was picking off potato bugs when we first found her. Dick Kraus told her he helped do that as a boy in Kansas and offered to help, but she declined.They said there used to be German families by the name of Shiller, Shick and Miller living in Galka but they all went to Germany.
Karl and Lena both worked on a farm and mill in the Urals during the deportation period. This is not in Siberia, but there was not much difference. There were about 800 people working on the farm. Lena and Karl met and got married while they were in the labor camp. They said their time there was difficult as they did not know the Russian language. They are the only German people who appeared bitter when discussing the experience. The Maiers came to Galka in 1971.
Evangelical Lutheran Congregation of Saratov - Report on January 2009
Christmas Service in Galka
200 km away from Sartov, today in the region of Volgograd, lays the small village of Galka.
Of all the infrastructure only a post, a shop and the basic school have survived. The biggest part of the population in the working age looks for work outside of the village, because only there is the chance of an alternative way to earn money not only with working on the fields, of the farmers in summer and fishing under the ice in winter.
In the first class only about 8 children are learning. Some of them visited the children summer camp “Hope”, which is organized by the deanery Saratov in summer 2008 the first time. In summer 2008 when the children returned from the summer camp, they started to visit Sunday School, which takes place one time every week and is organized by Elena Shumakowa.
On the 7th of January we celebrated Christmas with approximately 40 people in Galka (the Orthodox Church celebrates Christmas on the 7th of January). Before this service we gave invitations to the inhabitants of the village. The children from the Sunday School prepared the Christmas program. They learned poems and songs by heart and presented them.
From Saratov provost Alexander Scheiermann with his son Andreas are the colunteer Tom Schreiber arrived. Alexander Scheiermann told the sermon about sheperds, who in spite of then low social position got special honour when they were one of the first, who worshiped the son of God. Accompanied by Andreas’ flue play, we sang all together the song “Silent Night”. The inhabitants of the village are in need of prayer, Jesus Christ may also come in their hearts.