Russian Geography

From Our Father's Harvest by Chaim Freedman

The exact location of the Jewish Agricultural colonies in the Yekaterinoslav Government was a particular problem prior to the publication of the Our Fatherís Harvest since they could not be identified on any map available at the time, A map was drafted based on the recollections of William Komesaroff of Melbourne as to the relative alignment of the colonies and the time required to travel by wagon between them This map was confirmed with minor adjustments by Rokhel Luban. The map was verified upon the discovery of Jewish Agriculturists on the Russian Steppes (Israel 1965) which contained a map of all the colonies during the Soviet period, although no source was quoted.

In 1983 a detailed large scale map was discovered in the library of the University of Texas by Michoel Ronn whose family came from the region. This map was printed in 1955 in the USA by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, and was based on various Soviet maps as well as aerial intelligence photography. Most of the colonies were readily identifiable and there was a fairly close correlation with the map I Our Fatherís Harvest.

The basic adjustment required was to move the northern block of colonies (the Novozlatopol group) about ten miles southwest. The large village of Gulyai Polye was thus to be located due west of Novozlatopol and directly north of Pologi, which was about tem iles further west than shown. Kolonya Mesiritch (Mezhirich) was located Southeast of Gulyai Polye, due west of Krasnoselka. Nechaevka and Sladkovodnaya were to be interchanged.

Of the original seventeen colonies the following appeared under their original names (with minor spelling variations): Novozlatopol, Veselaya, Krasnoselka (misspelled Krasnoelka) Mezhirich, Zelenopolye, Nadezhnaya, Sladkovodnoye, Priyutnoye, Roskhoshnoye, Gorkiy (Gorkaya) Zatishye, Ravnopol and Khlebodarovka. Missing were Trudoliubovka (Engels), Nechaevka (Peness), Grafskoy and Bogodarovka. A study of place names located in the sites known to have been occupied by these colonies enabled two of them to be identified despite a change of name. Bogodarovka was renamed Novodarovka, an obvious Soviet desire to remove mention of the "Bog" = "G-d" and replace it with "Novo" = "New". Grafskoy, derived from the title of nobility "Graf" had been transformed to "Proletariskiy, obviously more suitable to Soviet ideology.

Grafskoy, or Proletarskiy, was clearly identified since it was known to be situated close to Marenfeld (renamed Marinopol, a transition from German to Russian). Indeed the T-shaped roads of Grafskoy could be clearly seen and correctly aligned in relation to the neighboring colonies. Trudoliubovka and Nechaevka were missing. This was in keeping with the fact that they had been destroyed during the civil war, which followed the Revolution, and had not been reconstructed when the region was incorporated under the Soviets as a Jewish Autonomous Region. Careful comparison with the map printed in Jewish Agriculturists on the Russian Steppes reveals many of the same roads shown on the U.S. map. Tracing these enables the location of Trudoliubovka and Nechaevka, now nameless. Further confirmation is provided by the map of Trudoliubovka drawn by Rokhel Luban in her memoirs. Shwe chows the roads to Peness (Nechaevka) and Peness. Grafskoy could be reached from Trudoliubovka by two routess, via Peness or via Marenfeld, as stated also by William Komesaroff. These routes enable the placement of the missing two colonies in correct alignment with Proletarskiy (Grafskoy) and Marinopol (Marenfeld).

Of course, over the thirty-five years, which had elapsed since the colonies were abandoned by the Kamesaroff family, many new settlements had sprung up between those known to the family. Thus, Tsentr-Oktabtya appears between Proletarskiy (Grafskoy) and Kobilnoye (Kobilnye). Another change was that of the town of Tsarakonstantinovka which had become Kuybyshevo. It was identifiable by the railway station adjacent whose name remained "Stantsya Tsarakonstantinovka".

Another problem of identification was that of the alternate forms by which the colonies were referred to by the Jews, as distinct from the official Russian titles. Various references to the colonies which appeared in the Hebrew newspaper "Hamelitz" used both forms and so confirmed the correct correlation. In addition , a long standing problem was why the village of Kobilnye bore the same name as a colony known to the family. It had been thought that this name was interchangeable with Sladkovodnaya, yet the U.S. map showed them to be separate, though adjacent villages. The problem was solved in a book "Dov Rabanav Vesofrav" (B. Eizenstadt) which presents biographies of various rabbis. Rabbi Yitzkhak-Tsvi Margolin appears as the rabbi of Sladkovodnaya called "Kobilinye". In other words, the original hypotheses was correct. In that the colony Sladkobvodmaya was established adjacent to the village of Kobilnye and therefore was referred to by the Jews of Konoya Kobilnye.



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