Tuesdays With Moisi ~ 2

Our Pop’s story in his own words and translated into English continued…

In October of 1929 the Communist authorities issued edicts forcing the collectivization of all farms in Russia.  We were to surrender all our earthly possessions to the authorities. There was to be no individual ownership of anything.  We realized that we could not live under such conditions so our network of villages chose not to cooperate. Nine men, my father being one of them, were chosen to travel beyond Russia’s borders into Iran to scout out the best possibilities for future residence.  This was done in accordance with the previous agreement worked out with the Russian government. In order to induce our people to come back from Turkey years before, the government agreed to allow us, as a group, to leave at anytime whenever we so desired. An additional purpose for the trip of the nine men was to officially petition the Shah of Iran for special refugee status for us Russians.  But almost immediately after the departure of the nine, the authorities descended upon our village one night and the next day and arrested all the men. This amounted to nearly 300 men. They were each tried and given sentences of three to fifteen years at hard labor in Siberia. Nearly ninety percent of these men died there – never seeing their families again.

My mother, upon my father’s departure, was left alone with all the children, many of whom were very young.  In addition we were under constant harassment from the authorities because they knew that my father had escaped.  Life became increasingly difficult for us under these circumstances and so my mother decided that we should leave.  We gathered up what we could of our possessions and left our village. We traveled to Rostov to the train station. We arrived there too late in the day.  The trains had already departed and so we slept on the streets that night. We left Rostov for Baku the next day. We arrived in Baku, boarded a ship, and crossed the Caspian Sea to Krasnovodsk in Turkmenistan.  From there we took the train to Ashkhabad which was near the Iranian border. There we would stay until conditions were conducive for an escape. In the mean time we invested in a horse and wagon and built a small delivery business, my older brother John being the chauffeur.  We hauled all sorts of products – watermelons, cantaloupes, bread, perogies, candy. I always rode along with my brother and got to sample many of the wares. I still remember the great tastes of some of those products to this day!

The photo at the top of this post is of a group of Russian Molokans going to church in Los Angeles. They kept the  same dress from the time they escaped from Russia so this group would look a lot like the men of the villages that were rounded up and sent to Siberia.

Tuesdays With Moisi ~1

This is our Pop’s story as dictated verbally by him a few years ago. I’ll be sharing excerpts every Tuesday.

Our Pop is the boy on the right standing next to our paternal grandmother babushka Martha. Our Aunt Anna who is the one remaining family member alive is on the left side next to our paternal grandfather Timofey.

When I add to our Pop’s story in my Tuesday with Moisi posts I’ll italicize my inserts to the original story. Pop’s original story will not be italicized.

In his own words as translated into English from Russian:

My name is Moisi Timofeyavich Bagdanov.  The name Moisi is the anglicized version of Moses.  In the Russian language it is pronounced as Moses. I list my birth date as May 25th, 1923.  I’m sure of the year but I’m not sure of the actual day of my birth because I was born at home and no records were kept in those days.  All that I know was that I was born sometime in May, according to my mother. We lived in a village called Saleem in southern Russia about 200 miles south of present day Rostov.  Our village was in a network of about 30 other villages mainly inhabited by Russian Molokans. And that is who we were.

I was born into a large family – twelve children altogether – and we never seemed to have enough of life’s necessities.  My earliest memories involve my cousin Michael and me. We were inseparable playmates. One day we went into the fields where watermelons and cantaloupes were growing.  We had a knife between us and so decided to check out how the fruit was ripening. I very much remember the verbal tongue lashing I received as a result of our informal field testing!  Another time I remember being chased from my grandfather’s bee hives because of the mischief we were causing there. In the spring of 1928, at the ripe old age of four, I was placed on my first plow horse and thus began my career in farming.

In the spring of 1929 I remember the agricultural advances that were made when our village and two others invested in a tractor, threshing machine, and a combine for the wheat harvest.  By today’s standards they would be very primitive, but at that time they were a godsend. The whole village participated in the harvest with singing and gratitude because of these labor saving devices.  I also remember a very small dairy near our village which produced cheese, cottage cheese, and butter. We kept these products from spoiling by packing our underground cellars with snow in the winter. We poured water over the snow turning it to ice.  That small cellar served as our refrigerator for the entire year.

(Seven of the 12 siblings remaining together in the USA in 1982. Jim, Vasilli, Pop Moisi, Anna, Mikhael (Mike) who was visiting the U.S.A. for the first time, Alex, and John.) The next photo has the spouses added. Aunt Anna’s husband was deceased already. Uncle Jim was divorced.

Mikhael did not imigrate to the USA like the rest of these siblings in the photo. After escaping to Persia with the family and living there for several years he heard things were better in Russia so he returned. He was immediately arrested and sent to Siberia. Miraculously he survived his time there. He applied to visit the U.S.A. many times and was finally granted permission in the early 80’s when these photos were taken. The U.S. family had not seen Mikhael for 40 years and this visit was such a happy reunion for everyone. When my parents took their trips to Russia and then returned as missionaries to Russia in the 90’s they were able to have many good visits with Mikhael and his family.

Uncle Mike center top row next to Pop(Moisi) and sister Anna with babushka Martha (Moisi’s mother) sitting in front of them. All my brothers and sisters. Six of us were already married in 1982. Leonard and Lana, the twins were not married yet. Several grandchildren and great grandchildren not born yet.

Steve, Len, Greg, Ellen, Leonard, Uncle Mike (Mikhael), Moisi, Aunt Anna, Lana, Mom, Nick, Vera

Kelly, Kathy holding Melissa, Tim, Nina (Tim’s first wife who died in the early 90’s from complications of Cystic Fibrosis), Babushka Martha, Aunt Maria(Uncle Mike’s wife), Baby Stephen, Sandee, Fred

John, David, Michelle, Josh, Daniel, Debbee, Danielle, and Michael

Moisi’s kids, my brothers and sisters and me are in bold print.

Some details and history about Molokans from an earlier post of mine can be found here.