Peace to you, dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Recently our Bishop Vsevolod visited Yurga. Let us tell you again about this town and our congregation [previous Newsletters about Yurga: Newsletters # 136 and # 169].
The Lutherans live in Yurga because of our tragic history of deportation of the Volga Germans from their settlements by Josef Stalin. In the Soviet Union, millions of people and full nations were sent into GULAGs [see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gulag] or exiled into Siberia just because of the desire of the cruel dictator.
The first Lutherans came into Russia immediately after the Reformation, and at the end of the 18th century because of an invitation by Catherine the Great (the Russian Queen) many Germans came into Russia for residence. They created their towns and farms, and schools, and churches, and lived there for over a century and a half.
Seventy-five years ago, August 28, 1941, Josef Stalin made the “final solution” on ethnic Germans. “After the house search, tell everyone who is scheduled to be deported that, according to the government’s decision, they are being sent to other regions of the USSR. Transport the entire family in one car until the train station, but at the station, heads of families [read: men] must be loaded into a separate train car prepared especially for them …. Their families are deported for special settlements in the far away regions of the Union. [Family members] must not know about the forthcoming separation from the head of the family” [see more: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volga_Germans].
Every August 28, we celebrate Day of remembrance of victims of political repressions.
Volga Germans were sent into Siberia and North Kazakhstan. A lot of people died during the transportation in the railroad freight cars. Many people were frozen to death.
People who survived (adults with children) were put into concentration camps where they were forced to work in the beastly conditions. Thousands of them died because of hard work, because of hunger and absence of medicines.
In the camp in Yurga, if somebody was sick or injured nobody gave him (or her) any medicines, but the soldiers put him (or her) into a collective grave. This is a grave where several thousands (!) of Volga Germans were buried, located in the edge of Yurga. Now it is a memorial cemetery.
Nobody knows the full number of victims of Stalin’s regime. Recently the Russian government decides to keep NKVD [see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NKVD] archives closed till 2045. Just imagine what atrocities NKVD committed if our government still fears that the people will know about it!
At the beginning of the 60s in Yurga, the Germans were released from the camp. Some of them were trying to go back to the Volga. It was very difficult, almost impossible, because they did not have internal passports and to travel without a passport even within the Soviet Union was illegal. Still, some reached their former settlements on the Volga, and saw that for a long time other people had been living in their homes. The same was with their farms. And all the churches were destroyed.
So those who were liberated from the concentration camps continued to live in Yurga and were moved into the so-called “German village” (wooden barracks without running water and toilets; the toilet was only one — big dirty building in the center of the village). But for those who were in a concentration camp, it was happiness to live not inside the barbed wire, even in such conditions.
For many years, Lutherans gathered in a wooden house on the outskirts of Yurga, and then in 2007 (thanks to the help of our Brothers and Sisters from the Bethany Lutheran Church, Naperville, IL) an apartment for the congregation was purchased in the “German village.”
When the local authorities decided to demolish the “German village”, we were offered another apartment, and the parish moved there. There we have a chapel, and people come to hear the Word and to receive the sacraments. The room needs to be repaired, but the parishioners can’t do it because of the poverty.
But the most important thing is that we are free. You cannot imagine what it means — to be free — for those who grew up in the Soviet Union.
Now there is a resident minister in Yurga — Rev. Ruslan Zinnurov [about him in the Newsletter # 245]. Ruslan graduated from the university in Novosibirsk, then he graduated from our Lutheran Theological Seminary. On May 2016, he was ordained as deacon, and serves in the parish in Yurga. As the Church does not have funds to pay salary to him, he works as a teacher in a secondary school.
Deacon Ruslan’s wife Natalia is from the family of Volga Germans. Ruslan and Natalia are blessed with a son, Arthur.
Please pray for Deacon Ruslan and his family and for the parishioners in Yurga.
“Faith and hope”
Please see attached photos.