the translated Welsh Version.
A. Gwen Jones
5.5- 5.2O p.m.
When I hear
on the radio the names Kief, Charkov, Krivoi-rog and especially Stalino, the
steel city, and the news of the Russian success there, my mind would go back to
over fifty years, and living images would appear in front of my eyes. When I heard that Stalino had been retaken by the Russians, I would think
of the Stalino I knew so well, for I had been living there as a young girl for
three years, but the place had another name then, that is Hughesovka, the town
was named as a form of honour its founder, a Welshman from Merthyr (Tydfil)
named John Hughes. John Hughes was an engineer who caught the attention of the
Tzar Alexander, the second and the Russian Government, through his technical
skill when he was a superintendent at Millwall Docks, London. The Russian Government was keen to expand its railways and to develop its
steel and coal works in their own country. I remember hearing often how Mr. Hughes was invited to establish works in
Russia; truly I remember well the silver plaque the Tzar gave him as a present.
Mr Hughes accepted the invitation and he went around the country, he
chose a place on the lonely- planes of the Steppes, where only a shepherd and
his dog could be seen. But this
place was rich in coal and iron, and not far from Taganrog and Mariupol docks on
the Azov Sea. The iron mine at Krivoi-Rog was not far away and they also became
the property of the New Russian Company, The Novorossiskoe-Rog, founded in 1869.
I remember us visit Krivoi-Rog in 1892.
I arrived in Hughesovka in 1889 the population had increased from zero to fifty
thousand, with the mine and steel works full of work. Stalino is now one of the main railway centres of the Donetz Valley, but
in 1869 the only railway to the south was Taganrog and Mariupol. The nearest station to the line to the north through Charkov
was Charsisky. We were a group of
many countries and languages- (Russian, Polish,?Ellmyn, Belgium, Jewish, Tartars
and Georgians from Tiflis in the Caucasus – Stalin’s home.) and in their
midst a small company of English and Welsh, John Hughes brought the experienced
workers with him from the Dowlais, Merthyr and the Rhymney. At that time there were about seventy Welsh there, but I
heard there was more there at one time. I
remember some of them, - Mr. Watkins who married Miss Curtis from Rhymney, Mr
Holland who had been a chemist in the works at Dowlais, the James family and
others. But the man I remember best
was John John from Dowlais. A
Welshman of the best kind, a man you could thoroughly trust. I would enjoy talking to him in Welsh.
At that time the workers were only paid once a month and the
money from the wages would come (pencil addition “on the train”)
under guard from Taganrog. John
Hughes died in June 1889, a few months before I arrived in Hughesovka as a
teacher to Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Hughes two young girls. Arthur Hughes was the second of John Hughes’ four young sons; and his
wife was Miss Augusta James from Lanover, Sir Fynwy. Interesting to many Welshmen is the fact that it was the bard
IsIwyn who married them. By the
way, indirectly through another great preacher, the Rev. Dr. Saunders, Swansea,
I received the chance to go to Russia.
remember the slow long journey through Europe with the family, staying a few
days in Berlin, Warsaw (where I lost my way and found myself in the [pencilled in “Jewish”
Kieff and Charkov-living pictures of Kieff ,this Holy and ancient town would
appear in front of my eyes; crossing the wide Dnieper river, and admire the
great tide of churches with their golden turrets and domes shining in the blue
sky. There I saw a crowd of
pilgrims that had walked along the road from far Siberia. Then Charkov, with its wonderful university and its world
famous fairs. At last reaching the
station at Charsisky completely exhausted. There were vehicles to greet us and take us to
Hughesovka. I will never forget the feeling of overwhelming loneliness
that filled me whilst travelling over the drab, tree-less, never ending Steppes;
it wasn’t any wonder that the longing (hiraeth) for Wales almost totally
the interest in the unfamiliar life around me and the natural eagerness to see
everything new helped me feel at home in Hughesovka. I was living in a large house, in the centre of a large garden surrounded
by a high wall for safety, and there would be a night watchman to look after the
place overnight, but you couldn’t always depend on them.
Life there was not uninteresting and not without
variety. Letters and paper from
home would take eleven days to arrive and often they were censored. Some books were not permitted to enter the country.
Visitors of all countries and languages would come, engineers and
students from Moscow and Petersburg (now Leningrad) and even from far Siberia.
One time the Province Governor of Ekaterinislav, Dnepropetrovsk as it is
now, called, to stay with us. He
arrived at the house with great ceremony having been escorted by a company of
Cossacks on horseback. Some of the
visitors had stories which were interesting and exciting to a young girl like
myself. This was the time the
revolutionists were called Nihilists. I
was told that I knew a few of them and I remember well being warned for
innocently talking carelessly, as I was unaware of who would be amongst the
visitors to the house. The police were watching and were looking into everything
in great detail; and we had to be careful. They were very strict in looking at
our passports. I have kept my old
passport which had been signed by Lord Salisbury - the Prime Minister of the
time. We were able to enjoy
ourselves in many ways. You knew
that the Russians were excellent musicians and singers. Once every week I would hear music of a very high standard
and often I would have the honour of hearing the Polish Lady, Madame Yancharski
playing the piano. She had been a
student of the Rubenstein and Paderewski and was one of her friends.
never forgot the excellent singing at the Greek Church in Hughesovka. The recent news that Stalin had recognised the patriarch of the Church in
Russia brought reminders of many of the services I attended, especially the
service on the eve of Easter. At
this service, with its ceremony and the musical excellence of the choir,
especially the deep voices of the bass, made a great impression on me. The scene inside the Church would fill one with a spirit of worship.
The Church was overflowing, everyone was standing with candles in their
hands, there aren’t any seats in a Greek Church. At midnight, the Church’s clock would strike, and the priests would
arrive in their beautiful robes and singing “Christ has arisen”. All of the
congregation would be kneeling. They
would cross themselves and answer, “It’s true He has arisen!”; then the
choir would sing a special hymn for Easter; all the bells would ring and all the
Church would be shinning in beautiful light. There would be united rejoicing, where everybody would greet each other
with three kisses and they would shout merrily “Christ’s arisen.” It was hard not to admire the strictness in which they kept the fast of
Lent, but as soon as the Easter festival was over they would devote themselves
to feasting to excess and the hospitals would be full.
of my prime pleasures was hunting - of foxes and hares, there were as many as
you could ever wish for, only us girls were not permitted to join in the hunt
for wolves due to the danger involved. The
Officers of the Cossacks would often come out with us and they were such
wonderful horsemen. The hunting
dogs had come from the Court Estate, Merthyr Tydfil, and since I had been a
pupil in the Court school, Merthyr, under the three Mrs Edwards’, I felt I had
an interest in the dogs.
will I forget skating on the works lake, and a sledge journeys over the
glittering snow, with the troika bells, the three horses ringing melodiously in
the clear air. There was a small
taste of adventure in sledding over the Steppes, as we would sometimes be
followed by a number of dogs, half-wolves, and it would be up to Ivan, our
driver, to use his whip to keep them back.
When I was living in Russia there were only two
classes of people. I was in a
position to see the great differences between the two. The standard of living around the Mujiks - the common people, was very
low and they weren’t unfamiliar with hunger /famine in some regions. They lived in poor small houses of wood, of only one floor.
They had no conveniences to provide comfort and health, only a large
stove which almost filled the room. Often
they would sleep on it at night. Of
course the workers houses in Hughesovka were far better. In every house you would see an “Icon”, that is, a sacred picture and
there is not one house without its Samovar, a vessel for making tea. I used to like the Mujikas, they were kind, unaffected, truly religious
in a simple and innocent way. They
would face misfortune without grumbling -“Nitchevo” they’d say shrugging
their shoulders. They are patient and wise, full of common sense and humour.
But like all Russians they were very superstitious.
evenings when the weather was fine, they would meet each other outside the
village, they would then rock on swings and sing and clap hands, and almost
always eating sunflower seeds. They were very fond of dancing and enjoyed the
social life with each other. I must
say that everyone was fond of the local drink “Kvass” and if they could get
it the even stronger drink “vodka”.
special holidays it was a pleasure to look at the girls in their beautiful
dresses, the embroidery on them would be skilful and pretty, their hair would be
beautifully platted with ribbons and beads of all colours around their necks.
I especially remember one time we were crossing over the
planes of the Steppes in a sledge we heard some sorrowful singing in the
distance breaking the silence - it was the people from the village about their
fathers’ exploits. I could never
forget the spell/charm for a long time and my mind would fly back to Wales with
their minor/plaintive tones and again longing would rise in my breast. At the time, this class were unable to read or write.
One of the many things that struck me the first time in the towns was the
“signs “on all the shops; they were pictures and not words, for example, on
the butchers shops you would see a picture of a cow or a sheep, and likewise on
all the shops. - The reason of course they were unable to read. A great change has come over the country for one thing.
On Sunday morning there would be a market, and one could see
the square surrounding the church, from six o’clock in the morning, full of
the country people with their produce. The
prices for things were very cheap, goose or turkey for a shilling and a chicken
for sixpence. We’d pay for them
in Kopecks and Roubles of course.
contrast the other class were exceptionally cultured. They would live in their large houses on their estates with a great
number of workers and maids. They
could speak many languages and their reading immense. I was surprised more than once that they knew so much about the prime
English writers of the time. The
Russian author they mentioned the most was Pushkin, I heard only a little from
them about Tolstoy. French was
their second language and I heard almost more French than Russian. Russian was a hard language to learn.
As I’ve mentioned, they were very fond of music and dancing
and they were very fond of playing cards. They were careless and ________?
people, but yet extremely kind and a great deal of charm related to them.
does not allow me to mention the many other interesting customs of the country;
or the extreme weather - the overpowering/ oppressive heat of the summer, the
severe cold and the deep snows of their winters. I heard a young man from Rhymney lost his life in a sudden perilous
snowstorm. The fiery heat of summer
would bring with it many diseases like dysentery. I nearly died from this disease but for the care of an American doctor
who was one of the doctors at the works hospital.
In 1892 cholera came to the town and we, the
family had to flee the place because of the riots which was caused by peoples
fear and ignorance. The riots were
important enough to be chronicled by the London papers. But even having to leave Russia like this, in haste, I felt extremely sad
in singing farewell to many friends there. I had a wonderful kindness from many especially Mr. and Mrs. Arthur
Hughes; and I had come to love the country and its people, and in these later
days in rejoicing the Russians exceptional success.
here for the translated Welsh Version