Tuesday, November 21, 2006

From Siberia to Cyberia

Before World War I, my grandfather Daniel Pedde's family was exiled from predominantly German settlements in Poland, to remote areas of Siberia, along with thousands of other German families. Most were transported by cattle trains (a six-week trip for my father's family,) then dropped off in the middle of nowhere and left to fend for themselves. My father was a child when the relocation took place, but several of his younger siblings were born in Siberia.

After World War I, many Germans returned to Poland, but some didn't. And that is how I came to find out, last week, that there is a branch of the Pedde family still residing in Russia. There is presently some confusion as to how exactly we are connected, but we will get to the bottom of it as Sergey, my new-found relative and I, email information back and forth.

My grandfather Daniel had a brother named August. We have no information at all about him. Sergey's great-grandfather, named August, had a brother named Daniel who left Siberia to return to Poland. That would seem to be the connection, one might think. However, the names of the parents of these two gents in my records don't match up with Sergey's information. Conundrum: which information is correct? Our records are sparse, because my family was bounced around so much that almost everything of any consequence has been lost over the decades.

We'll get to the bottom of it. In the meantime, I am enjoying my correspondence with Sergey. He is a bright young man of about 31 years of age. He is a journalist and is employed as editor-in-chief at a Russian radio station in Volograd. He is fluent in English and German, so communication is no problem for us. He also speaks a smattering of Hindi, he tells me.

Sergey's interest in our common roots will help me get a better understanding of my father's time in Siberia, a time that had a profound influence on him and his outlook on the world. He was in Russia at the time of the revolution in 1917 and had stories to tell which in turn influenced me. One story he told was of a distraught Russian mother dragging her dead toddler down the street, her hand grasping one heel, his head bouncing along over the cobblestones. Many millions of Russians died as a result of the revolution, first from the fighting, and then from the hunger and misery which followed. The Communist Party purges under Joseph Stalin pretty much wiped out everyone who actually knew what they were doing, and shortages of food and just about everything else we take for granted caused untold misery for two generations or more.

Sergey found me by searching for 'Pedde' on the internet. His family lives in Volograd now, a more southerly part of Russia, and no longer in Siberia. Still, the 'Siberia to Cyberia' post title is apt because that is basically how things happened. Families were torn apart by governments nearly 90 years ago, sent to Siberia, and now find each other via the internet so many years later.

I am tickled by all this. I have always wanted to go to Siberia to retrace my father's family's history there. Maybe in a year or two I will do so now.

We'll see. In the meantime, I am finding this exciting and fun. Stay tuned.


  1. what a fascinating story...and what luck that he's found you. it will be exciting to see how it continues to unfold. thanks for sharing this.

  2. WOW! I leave for a little while, and the whole world gets smaller :)

  3. atavist, this all is mesmerizing. I am enraptured by Russia, always have been, taking many Russian literature courses in college as well as collecting Russian artifacts (like the black painted boxes). Of course, none of the Russia I know includes the ugly part having to do with Stalin, cattle trucks, and Siberia. In my mind, it's all a rather glorified "Dr. Zhivago" which is totally false, I know. Anyway, I look forward to each installment of your unfolding story. How educated Sergey must be!

  4. p.s. That's a great title for the post: Siberia to Cyberia. I love word plays.

  5. This is a great story! I can't wait for more. It's wonderful that you may be able to visit siberia to meet him!

    I don't know much about Russia. I am reading, off and on, Lenin's Tomb, which is a hard read for someone who knows so little about history and geography and politics, but I'm sussing it out. It is almost incomprehensible, but very inspiring and humbling, what people have gone through. I am thankful everyday for the freedoms,health and safety of myself and my family.

    It's further amazing that we are all here because of a lineage of survivors and the blessings, luck, random acts, minor & major decisions, impositions, cultural histories and chance meetings and I would love to have been able to hear of all their individual stories. I suppose that is why I read the books that I do.

    And now, you have will have chapters to add to yours.

    You never mention your wife on your blog and so I always hesitate to ask any questions pertaining to her. But, here is an invitation to tell us a little bit about her, if you (and she) would like.

    What is the other half of your son's family story? Where did you meet and what makes you love and where is her family from and what does she like to do. But, I completely understand if you do not post these stories, no explanation necessary.

    I can't help but be curious. When you write about your family in the general sense, I always picture a beautiful woman, smiling, in the background.

  6. It will be an interesting journey of discovery.

    Bellezza: Sometimes it is better to focus on th good, as you do, than on the ugly, the brutal, the horrific. We need more good and less bad.

    Penny: I don't write much about my wife because she is a very private soul. But, because you asked, my next post (actually something I wrote a couple of years ago) tells the story of how we met.