Last Update 31 Oct  2002

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Borodino / Besssarabia, S. Russia From "A" to "Zzzz" continued.....


as told to me [Flossie Libra] by Regine, nee Hess, Hein, Oct. 1982


Regine's parents, Samuel Hess and Katherine Ehni,  were considered well-to-do by Borodino standards.  Her fathers land holdings were larger than most.  Besides what he received from his father he had bought his brother Johannes share. The brother had disappeared while herding sheep and was never found.  He also had added land from a Filler who had borrowed money from him.  Samuel Hess was able to give each of his children 15 desatins  (1 dessatine + 2 1/1 acres). He had nine children, Regine, the 7th.

She recalled her mother did not mend their clothes but gave them away when worn.  She did not want her children wearing patched clothes, a practice quite different from the necessity of many others. At certain times the Hess family traveled to the larger market of Tarutino to sell and to buy.

Emil Regner, now of Didsbury Alberta, " [Canada], "described the Hess home as  "a big white house on the corner".  It is shown on the last map of Borodino noted as lot 331.  The Regner home was down the adjoining side street.  Both were on the south side of the village, so designated from the church in the center.

Description of Village:

The village, very long and narrow,  and divided by the Lutheran Church was strung along both sides of the main north-south road. Lots joined each other in stead file, seldom leaving an opening for a bisecting side street.  They were long and narrow with the house facing the street.  The barn and out buildings continued to the lot's rear.  In the  west street bisecting here and going east around each side of the church. It continued northeast then an angle to the rest of the village but parallel to the 'Friedhof' (cemetery).  Newer lots and homes developed along this street as time progressed, the street becoming the road to New Borodino.

A wood was planted southeast of this village extension. Regine recalled it contained an Akazien or Robnien tree which she believed to be a locust.  Her memories were of how beautiful and sweet it smelled in May.  She also said an Aunt of Emile Regners, married to a Schock, had a mill on the street angling north of the main town.  He also made oil  from flax and sunflower seeds.  (This family emigrated to Brazil).


The school was next to the cemetery just off the center of the village on the east side. During Regine's time there were both primary and secondary schools which she attended  At this time under Romanian, the Romanian language and some subjects in it were taught for part of each day. The remainder were taught in their native German.  (This differed from the village of Jakobstal where some of my cousins attended school. There all taught in the Romanian language which they did not understand and therefore learned little. Also any slight infraction of rules was punished by kneeling on reeds in a corner).  Regine did not recall such descpline. (It also differed from my Mother's time when all the students, over a hundred, were in one room with a Russian teacher who did not speak German, Bessarabia then being under Russia).


Holidays were also happily recalled. Easter was a joyous celebration especially for the older boys and girls.  The younger ones of course went door to door collection colored eggs in their baskets.  (If people ran out, raw eggs were substituted.)

But the older children organized a more couplet celebration. It was decided which group would be responsible for the food, which would participate in a traditional egg game, who would make the flag and assemble the eggs, etc. . When the time came they marched out of the village to the open fields playing music and singing. One walked in front carrying the Easter flag on a pole, four boys --egg throwers....  Behind them came four girls to hold aprons, these followed by four girls to remove the eggs from the aprons. The eggs were carried in baskets.  The rest of the boys and girls and the interested villagers followed but these would have to work at the party later.

The pole with flag was set in the ground after being spliced to a longer pole thus standing quite high. The eggs were then laid out in four lines in each of four directions from the pole, 21 eggs to a line. The first twenty eggs were raw, the 21st was cooked and colored.

Each of the four egg throwers had his own row and his own 'apron girl' and 'egg removing girl'. The girls, I think, were by the pole facing the row. At the starting gun the boys started with the nearest egg, throwing it into the girls apron which the girl next to her removed quickly to maker room for the next egg, the boy would run in with, close enough to toss. Remember these were raw eggs. QUickly the boys worked down their lines coming back to toss each time, except for the last egg, the colored one, which was thrown over the flagpole. The first one to do this won the game.

After this the boys and girls went back to the village to an old house of Sieglocks who let them sue it for a party. The 'food' girls brought such things to eat as fried eggs, doughnuts, cinnamon buns, etc. . Boys brought wine and some of their musical instruments to play for the dancing.  There was much merriment, Regine said,  "You would be surprised at some things that went on.",  flirting, kissing , were hinted at.  But as the evening wore on and the boys got too drunk the girls went home and let them drink.  Thus was a teenagers celebration in Borodino....

My mother did not mention Easter celebrations except for church. Also her memories of  Xmas customs differed from those of Regine. The difference in the intervening years accentuated by change from Russian rule to Romanian rule could account for it.

Church on Christmas Eve would have been the same, but Regine recalled something my mother did not mention -- the verses said by the children and the manger scene enacted with costumed characters. After this it was home for a good meal. Also, a woman in white accompanied by St. Nicholas with a bell went house to house to give children candied and nuts. (My mother spoke of an old woman in black with a switch and accompanied by a Cossack soldier since the sweets given out were from the Czar.  The switch was used on the hands of the children getting more than their share when the candies and nuts were tossed on the floor).  Regine said only where there were many children was it tossed on the floor, otherwise, the candy was handed out by the 'white lady'.  She, too, could switch, however, when needed.

On the day after Xmas all the school children came to the school for gifts, candies and pencils, etc., bought by the church as seen to be the trustees.

News years brought more celebration. Smaller children went door to door reciting the following:

"I am a little King

Give me not too little

Let me not stand too long

I have to go to another house."

They were given candied, cookies, nuts, etc. .

The older boys also went house to house reciting a much longer verse which I did not translate. It wished long life to the household, among other things. They also carried guns which they enjoyed shooting off in the air.

Illnesses and Broken Bones:

All was not celebration. There was often illness and suffering. No doctor in Borodino meant putting a patient, who could stand the trip, into a wagon to take them to the nearest doctor in another village.  If the patient was too ill, the doctor was brought, but only the most comfortable conveyance would be used, or he would not come.  This often meant borrowing or hiring a 'buggy' type of vehicle.

An example regarded Regine's brother Benjamin whose leg was broken in an accident. He was riding his horse beside a wagon full of young people coming home from having a good time in another village. The weather  was wet and the road very muddy.  The young people pelted the horse riders in the group with mud balls.  However, it spooked Benmamine's horse which threw him abut his foot was entangled with the .....

The nearest doctor  (not such a good one) was brought to set the leg.  Still Benjamin continued in pain, getting quite ill. His parents then put him in their most comfortable wagon, taking him to the large town of Sarata to a better Doctor. On removal of the bandages the bone came through the skin. It was black, so a section was removed before resplintering. Thus his leg was shorted and stiff. He was to become a taylor instead of a farmer, but lucky to be alive.

(My mother often spoke of her mother being the village doctor, being called to set bones and lance wounds. However, she was gone from the village by this time having remarried and moved to Kloestitz.)

Stories of Supernatural and Witchcraft:

Most had to reply on their own resources, or the more skilled in their villages. Perhaps it also kept them closer to the 'old' ways and the stories of supernatural handed down through generations.  Some were apparently benign, others told of sorcery and witchcraft.

A 'benign' example could have been my mother's Uncle Andresas Hess, her mother's oldest brother.  He was said to know how to put on a 'spell' to make the victim immobile until it was removed.  Regine told the story of his sharing the method with his hired man with interesting results.

One day the laborer working in the cornfield was sudenly accosted by two robbers.  Cornfields being a good place to hide. The hired man quickly cast the spell rooting them to the sport while he raced to the village with the team and wagon to tell Andreas, his boss, what happened.  Andreas told him "you learned how to put on the spell but not how to take it off so they are still in the cornfield."  But now that the horses and wagon were safe he removed the spell from a distance.

Witchcraft on the other hand, seemed mostly attributed to very old women. One story recalled by Regine happened while she lived there, not in a former time, and told by others.  It concerned a girl named Eula Weiss, as the victim.

The  Weiss family lived 2 houses from the church, a married sister (Stickel) of Eula lived farther on past the church. To get to her sisters she had to walk in front of the witches house, an old woman named Krone  [Regine's brother-in-law's father step-mother).  The victim was all right during the day but at night lay moaning as though she would die. Over the years she slowed so she could hardly walk.  They suspected the 'witch".

In desperation her parents took her to a 'special' woman in another village. The woman looked in a mirror seeing the neighbor woman across the street who was the witch saying she was responsible.  The woman told them to hurry to get the girl home without the witch crossing the road in front of them to get on their side of the street. If they could she would be all right.

This they attempted to do but just as they were almost home the witch suddenly crossed the road in front of them. She had been invisible but she passed so close she brushed the horses in front, then they  [the horses] saw the witch.  The horses were frightened.

Several years after coming to Canada Regine heard of Eula Weiss's death as she had steadily gotten worse.

Regine vouched for this witch story since her brother-in-law, Daniel Khrone, worked for his father  (step-son of the witch) as a hired hand.  He observed the witch leave the smaller house on the lot where she lived and go into the chicken house in the evening, to be out of sight when her spirit took off.  The chickens made a dreadful racket.

Jakob Hess, both my mother's and Regine's grandfather, was also said to have had an experience with a neighbor witch. "He owned a large cattle herd but something was always happening to his best cattle." He consulted a wise friend who lived some distance away. The friend advised him to come for him next time something happened.

Next time one of his good cows went down sick he hurried to get the man who have him these instructions, "Go home, close the shutters and lock them, then build a hot fire in the stove --as hot as you can make. When it is, come to me where I am with the cow."

This was done when Jakob came to tell him the fire was ready, he cut open the cow and took the insides into the house and locked the door. Just as they were about to throw it into the fire there was a pounding all around the room  - against the door - the windows, and a voice cried not to throw the insides into the fire, that she'd never do it again. It was the voice of his next door neighbor. Jakob Hess didn't know what to do.  His friend said it was his decision. So since she promised not to hurt again he let her go instead of burning her,"  [the cow's entrails].  ""She kept her word-- but since a witch is ruled by the Devil she had to do it to others then".


This is all I have at present. Perhaps if I am lucky enough to be with Regine Hein again she will recall other stories about life in Borodino. It is something to look forward to.

Flossie Libra - 1983

See Flossie Libra's Family Genealogy

See Regine, hee Hess, Hein's Family Genealogy





Hein Genealogy

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Hubert Sym