Suzanovo Martyrs

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The village of Suzanovo in Orenburg region of Russia was founded 1911 by Johann Peters as an farmstead outside of the larger Mennonite settlement in that area. In first years, it was populated by himself and his children. Later, other Mennonites joined this Mennonite island amid Russian and Bashkir villages. In 1918, at the end of World War I and just before the Civil War began, Johann Peters, Jr., the son of the village founder, together with his family and some other people, went to a mission to Ostyak people in Northern Siberia. In 1925, this mission project became widely known and in the next years turned into the largest Mennonite mission project in USSR when many other people joined the team. When the Communist antireligious campaign reached Northern Siberia, the Peters fled back to Suzanovo. The people there avoided de-kulakization by voluntarily founding a kolkhoz before the government forced them to do that. The small village, consisting of twelve houses, avoided big shocks until 1937. Up to this time, they even were able to hold small church services there.

On February 2nd, 1937, the 26 year old school teacher Abram Teichrieb went to a teacher’s conference to the central village of the region. During lunch in the communal dining hall, he was arrested. His wife Lisa was informed about this later by fellow villagers. On the next day, the secret police came to the village and arrested the 27 year old Nikolai Wiebe, worker of the kolkhoz. He was accused in poisoning pigs in the kolkhoz (the kolkhoz started its own livestock sector in 1947 only). Ten days later, on February 13, the secret police again visited the village and arrested the 54 year old mill worker Paul Peters, the 52-year-old Ostyak missionary Johann Peters, the 48-year-old Daniel Peters, the 40-year-old Johann Kehler, member of the Ostyak missionary team, and the 39-year-old evangelist, Johann Wieler, who in former days attended a theological school in Leningrad. On the same day were arrested the 35-year-old Heinrich Peters, also an Ostyak missionary, and the 27-year-old Johann Peters, son of Paul Peters and choir director. After one month of anxiety and fear in the small village, the secret police again made a visit and arrested the 42-year-old Nikolai Wiebe. Two weeks later, when the sowing season was successfully completed, the police arrested the 43-year-old chairman of the kolkhoz Heinrich Neufeld. Neufeld had had a premonition of evil--officials repeatedly blamed him for tolerating sectarians in the kolkhoz, and just a day before a local authority praised the kolkhoz for all its achievements. On the same day, the 50-year-old Peter Ens was arrested. He managed to send a short message from the prison that gave the relatives some assurance. At least, on May 1, the 28-year-old David Pätkau, son of David Pätkau, Sr., was arrested. All in all, in a short time, thirteen persons from one small village were arrested.

The relatives of the arrested maintained hope for their release until the 1950s when they were informed by officials of the death of all arrested. Only at the end of 1980s were relatives informed about the exact date of their execution that took place shortly after their arrests.

Source: David Dik, Vinogradnik v prekrasnom meste: Suzanovo (1911-2011) [Vineyard in a Beautiful Place: Suzanovo (1911-2011)] (Nümbrecht, 2011).

Submitted by Johannes Dyck

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