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By: Lydia (Maron) Wiest as told to Janet Witt her Granddaughter

From: the Michael Maron and Karolina (Croissant) Family History by Joyce Martin and Joan Sam (Muhlbier) - Published 1984.

Lydia Maron was born  1 July 1900 (Twin to Gustav) in Friedrichsfeld, Russia       - 13 th child of Michael Maron and Karolina Croissant.  She married William Wiest 15 July,  1920.

I remember Russia as being the nicest country on earth. The people were so happy there. They had so much freedom. Everyone was friendly and helped out for weddings and things like that. The soil was the best there and everything looked like a garden. I remember the low mountains on one side of our village were covered with grapes.

Our village near Friedrichsfeld was mainly made of farms. All the buildings were along the road with the farm property out behind. Dad had lots of land. Besides the land near the house he had some land at the edge of the village. Thieves were really bad there. Each farm had a deep ditch around the buildings and the garden with a high iron gate at the road which was locked to keep the thieves out.

There was a village well where everyone got their drinking water. It had troughs a short distance away for the cattle to drink. You had to ride your horse around a big drum to pull up the water. Usually a young kid did that. There were two buckets on ropes on the drum, one bucket would be down in the well to pick up water while the other bucket was out. Each bucket would hold three or four pails of water. These would be filled while the cattle were drinking and carried home to store the water for cooking and drinking. Each house also had a brick well about eight feet deep to catch rain water which was dipped out for washing. Every spring it was emptied and scrubbed.

One day the village well went dry so they had to dig a new one. They dug by hand for days, it was so deep. Finally they moved the drum over and filled the buckets with dirt as they dug. They all took turns digging - two men down in the well digging, then two more down with one riding the horse around the drum.

Our house in Russia was built of a sort of brick which was made of clay and finely chopped straw. Only the roof was wood and Mother and Dad had a wooden floor in their room. They had just moved out from the city and didn't have everything finished yet so most of the floors were still dirt. In our main house we had three bedrooms and a sitting room. Each room had a furnace built in. Once a day the hired men and girls would carry in straw to burn. They only burned the straw for two or three hours each day and then the furnace stayed hot so the house was always warm. The furnace in Mother and Dad's room had a really pretty tree with birds painted on the side that didn't get hot. Their room was very nice.

On our wooden bed frames we had canvas sacks filled with leaves from the corn. In the fall they took in loads and loads of corn. Everyone had to work cleaning it. We took the three or four leaves closest to the cob and put them in our bag. The rest of the husk went out for the stock. When we had our canvas bags filled with the soft leaves we sewed up the opening and that was our bottom mattress plus a feather filled mattress on top of that. For a cover we had a feather comforter. It was a very comfortable bed. Each morning we would fluff up our mattress and each year get it refilled.

Our kitchen was not in the big house. It was in a building with one room off it where the hired girls slept. In the kitchen was a long table where the hired help ate and at the end of it was a small table for us kids. Mother and Dad often had their meals carried over to the house where they sat on the veranda and ate like they were "special". Now it seems like a crazy idea. Our food was cooked on a straw fire in a brick oven. There was a grill on one half of it and big steel pots that fit into the other half to cook the porridge and things like that. The tea and coffee were made in a samovar which was heated by little charcoal briquette. The somovar had its own high stand so it could sit safely on the table.

Mother always had maids - two in the winter and three or four in the summer. They did the cooking, cleaning, washing, whatever Mother told them to do. Mother did all the baking especially the breads and buns. My maternal grandfathers family had had a bakery in France so she learned from her father how to do it. Mother was also a very good seamstress, she always made clothes for the maids. The hired girls were treated as if they were part of the family. Mother told them " I promised your parents that I would care for you and treat you just as if you were my own".

The girls, who were 18 or 19 years old, had to ask to go out and they had to be in on time. I remember one girl was late and Mother gave her a spanking. If your family had property it was a disgrace to let your children go out to work.

Most of the Russians didn't have an education - just the French and the Germans had an education. The school was just across the road from our house. In the morning we went to German school, in the afternoon to Russian school. I was good in Russian. The Russian teacher wasn't married and he came over to our house every night to see my sisters. He'd sit by me and show me how to do things so I got to be quite good. I especially liked to do arithmetic on the abacus.

The German teacher boarded at our house. He was so strict and nasty that one day the older boys decided to play a trick on him. They caught a mouse, put a string around its neck and put it into the teacher's pocket. When my brother saw it he stood up and told the teacher. The teacher didn't believe him but when my brother insisted he looked and saw the mouse. The teacher thought my brother had put it there. He was so angry he took the strap and hit and hit my brother until I couldn't stand it any more. I stood up and told the teacher off, then ran out and home. When my brother came home Mother washed him and put ointment on him and put him to bed. Then when the teacher came home she told him off too. She threatened to kick him out of the house but Dad said to forgive and forget this time. He said that if his children are wrongly punished again he'd take the strap to the teacher. After that the teacher was nice.

Dad used to go to the big city to do business and shopping. He had such a good memory. Mother would just tell him what was needed and and he'd bring back everything she asked him to bring. He spoke Russian the best of everyone in our village and often had to go in with the other men to help them with their business.

In the fall Dad would take the grain into the city. He had so much  grain that he hired men with camels to pull some of the wagons. We went out into the yard to look at the camels. The men said "Go stand over there. If you get to close then the camels may get scared and spray green stuff out of their mouths onto you". After awhile the camels laid down and the men called us over and helped us climb up on the camels backs, then they said something to the camels in their language and the camels got up and carried us around. After a while they asked if we'd had enough and when we said yes they spoke to the camels again. The camels stopped and the men hit them behind the knee with a stick to make them go down so we could get off.

Granddad had a big brick house near ours. He was a millionaire and had everything fancy. Sometimes when he was away I had to go over and sleep with Grandma. The house was so big I'd get lost and have to holler for Grandma. Granddad was nasty. He had so much money and didn't give his hired help good food. Granddad had lots of fruit trees. We used to ask if we could have some and he'd say, "There's some on the ground, take those". When he was gone my brother would climb the tree and shake some out. Granddad came home once and caught him and he was really angry.

At Easter we would make nests out of the tall grasses for the Easter Rabbit to leave us candies. We always wanted to make the biggest one so we'd get the most but Mother and Dad were always careful to see that each got the same number of candies.

The Russian ladies would take their decorated Easter eggs to the cemetery and roll them on the grass on the graves and pray. They told us to leave the eggs there as they believed the dead would come up and take them. I never took any. I was kind of scared that maybe something did go into them. Other kids did take the eggs and the Russians thought that the dead had taken them. Dad said "don't tell then, - let them believe" We had a good time in Russia.

My oldest brother, Jacob, found out that war was coming to Russia. After his leave from the army was over he decided he didn't want to go and fight so he took his wife and child and joined my sister, Katherine and her husband and his family who were coming to Canada. Three years after they came over Mother and Dad decided we all should all come. Only my sister Christina stayed in Russia as she was married and had a family.

We left Russia just before Christmas in 1911. We travelled by train for a couple of days to a port in Germany. Dad wanted to go on the largest boat but we missed it by just a few hours. We had to wait in Germany for a few days for the next boat - the second largest one in the Meissler line. We travelled first class so we'd get the smoothest ride possible but after three days all of us were seasick. Only my younger brother, Ronnie wasn't sick. He ran all over the boat and even went into the kitchen. The chefs liked him and gave him things to bring to the rest of us to eat, it was sure a good thing because we didn't want to go out-to eat. We had three rooms on the ship, each with its own bath. My sister, Ann and I shared one room with our parents; my two older sisters shared a room and my two brothers shared a room. There were many people on the ship from many different countries. After six days at sea we landed in New York. We had to stay in a hotel for a few days until Dad found someone who could speak German and help us. The fellow he found had a big smile and a loud laugh. He was chewing gum and we thought that was the strangest thing to do. Mother asked him, "do you have to chew like that? It reminds me of the cows back home". He told us it was gum and shared his gum with us all. Later we went to the station, saw a concession stand and asked Dad, to give us some money. We bought gum and chocolate bars and had to let them just take what they needed to pay for it from the strange American money. Dad was so surprised at how much money was left he thought they must have given us the candy.

From that station we travelled across to Canada and soon learned about the money, the language, and a quite different way of life. Dad bought land, built a house and bought cattle, horses and farm machinery the same as in Russia. He was unable to get most of his money out of Russia so we all had to work very hard.

There were many times when I wished I were back in Russia, but I'm glad we're away from the communists.