A Visit to Stahl-am-Karaman in May, 2001

This page was begun on 19 June and revised on 5 July 2001 -- rak.

I was most fortunate in being able to visit Stahl on May 21st this year.  It was like a dream come true.

To get to Stahl from Saratov, you have to cross the Volga.  The "old" bridge (about 20 years old?) is very long and in bad shape.  Here are two views of it.  The first looks from a boat in the Volga towards the Engles side.  The second looks towards the Saratov side.  oldbridge1.JPG (63899 bytes)  oldbridge2.JPG (46520 bytes)  There is a brand new bridge downstream a few kilometers.  Like superhighway bridges almost everywhere it crosses where there are now urban centers but does intersect with the Engles-Marx road.

The road to Stahl takes off west from the main road from Engles to Marx , and lies some 30+ km. from Saratov.  stahlmap2.JPG (87108 bytes)  Saratov on the map is on the left and spelled CAPATOB.  Engles is just east across the river and ends with what looks like bC.  Marx is on the right side of the map and is spelled MAPXC.  The main road is the wide red-orange line that stretches between them.  The road to Stahl is seen about 2/3 of the way from Engles to Marx and is the only smaller red-orange line which is about 4 km. long running slightly north of due west.  Stahl's current Russian name is Zvonarevka and if you look hard you can just see it on the map above that short westerly road: "3BOHaPeBka".

The land is flat and a bit rolling, much like central to western Kansas.  As you proceed up the smaller road towards Stahl, this is your first sight of the village.  stahl1stview.JPG (30064 bytes)  If you enlarge this thumbnail you can just make out some white buildings at the tree line.  The village is fairly large today, at least 2,000 to 3,000 people would be my guess.  And unlike the other previously German villages I saw, it is bustling. Also unlike the others, most of its streets are paved, its former collective farm seems thriving with the speciality of a huge pig farm and pork processing operation (those are the large white farm buildings you see in that first picture), and its population seems to be at least 30% German.

The first visit I made there was to this house occupied by two German sisters in their eighties.  The eldest is shown in this picture, along with me and Tim Weeder's cousin from Germany.  stahllady.JPG (66258 bytes)  I asked the lady if she or her sister remembered any Kraus folk from when they were girls growing up here.  First they agreed that the name in Stahl was sometimes rendered KRAUS and sometimes KRAUSE.  The first one they remembered was David Kraus;  the second was Karl Kraus.  I was just floored.  Those are the names of my two sons and the Stahl Kraus and my Kraus families have been separate now, first in different parts of Russia and then in different countries, for over 230 years.  Yet those two names are exactly the same.  Ultimately they remembered other KRAUS folk: Igor, Sophia, Martin, Justus, Amalia and Olga.  Amalia is Olga's mother-in-law and they now live in Germany.  Tim's cousin promises to put me in touch with them.

I toured Stahl on foot in the company Tim's cousin, a former German Stahler, who now lives in Germany and was visiting for a couple of weeks.  It seemed like every older person we passed in the street greeted her in German.  Some of our KRAUS relatives still lived in the village until two years ago.  This house was shown to me as the last house which a KRAUS had occupied.  stahllastkraus2.JPG (59077 bytes)  Also unlike the other villages I visited, the yards were neat and many of the houses, even if very old, sported at least some fresh paint.

Another difference from the other villages visited was the cemetery.  It was well-kept, had very many German graves and had the German and Russian graves in separate areas.  I one Kraus grave stahlcem2.JPG (149555 bytes)  which does not look like KRAUS to me but then I can't tell what alphabet is being used and both Tim's cousin and my translator seemed certain that it is KRAUS.  We also found one which says David Krause stahlcem3.JPG (211353 bytes)  using Cyrillic letters.  It was raining so we cut the cemetery visit short without doing a complete check.  Later my friend Tim Weeder found yet another Kraus grave, Heinrich son of Heinrich Kraus, using Latin letters! stahlcem4.JPG (62975 bytes)

To go to the main Stahl page, click it.

To go on to reports of visits to other villages, click here.