In memory of Peter Letkeman
Peter Letkeman(n), born in Ukraine, March 13, 1931, youngest son of Jakob and Maria Lekemann, who survived communism, and remembers. There was another famine throughout Russia in 1932 to 1933. “All farmers were to surrender the harvest to the economic plan, sparing none of the grain for their hunger.” Indeed, information gathered since the late 1980s has begun to identify the famine of 1932-33 in Ukraine as the Ukrainian Famine-Genocide. During this period, the people experience a constant yearning for food, and a dry season has left the crops dying of thirst.The purge that began in 1937, when the family moved to the Rosengart,collective, (Novoslobodka), lasted to 1939. Even young children knew what it meant when the sound of a motor broke the darkness. There were no cars in the village; it was always a black car from the city. It came at night to catch people sleeping in their beds – but Jakob always heard it, the way a dog hears the high pitches a human cannot. In their beds, the children shivered until after the distant car engine died away; then they could slip back down the narrow black well of sleep. But sometimes trucks arrived in the villages in broad people everywhere were arrested, the human resources to implement another “Five Year Plan.” During that time, even in the model collective, four men disappeared, three in 1938, and one in 1939? One more man also disappeared in 1940.There was an endless amount of work to do at home after their labour on the collective. And much of the household productivity was taken as quota. In Rosengart, each household had a quota of milk from their cow to deliver to the collective, and half of their produce or meat from their own butchering, along with the milk. Even if the cow was dry, there was a quota to fill. The inhabitants devised a system. When the family cow was dry, Maria obtained milk from the neighbour, and when their cow didn’t produce milk, they came to her. They worked together in this way so each neighbour could fill their quota. Everyone was also levied a little of what was left over from the quota for their own use, and if there was enough to spare, Maria took something to market to buy other staples or supplies. Excerpted by permission from The Steppes are the Colour of Sepia: A Mennonite Memoir by Connie T. Braun, Ronsdale, 2008.