Mary: “She would say how beautiful Russia looked, and they never thought of moving—they loved it there, but when this trouble arose, then they realized they better get out. …
____: “What other things do you remember Grandma saying about her early life?
Mary: “Well, the story about her being buried in the sand to get rid of her
Sergeyevka, Grandma’s village, was about 50 miles southwest of the Chortitza Colony. It, too, was on the Dnieper River, and the land around her village may well have looked much like it did around Chortitza, with rolling hills and tree-filled ravines. The river where Grandma saw men and women bathing naked was either the Dnieper or the Rogachik, which entered the Dnieper at Sergeyevka. That confluence of rivers likely built up the sand in which Grandma was buried when she had rheumatic fever.
[We] experienced many difficult hours because of illness and death, for we had to bury five children in that time, of whom two were very ill; my [dear] wife was also very ill, she especially suffered in her lungs, but the very good doctor Johann Braun was there who gave her medicine and God added his blessing, so that she could live.” H.H. Zimmermann
“And then her mother was sick. And she was the oldest girl. She had to do a lot of work.” Mary Willems Davis
South Russia may have been beautiful and well loved, but life there was also hard at times. Mary and Rosie both mention that Grandma’s mother was very sick with tuberculosis and that Grandma herself had rheumatic fever when she was a young girl. But those two illnesses were just a fraction of the “difficult hours” the family knew. Grandma’s father, Heinrich, in his 1905 letter to the Zionsbote, states that they had to bury five children in Russia. That is a fearsome toll. Heinrich says that he and Maria had a total of ten children, only five of whom survived. That is a 50% mortality rate.
Below is a list of the names and dates of birth/death that was among the information Aunt Mary gave me. Those with an asterisk beside their name had their name “reused,” given to the next baby of the same sex born after their death as was common among the Mennonites of South Russia. You will also notice that there are only eight names here; only three children who died are included on the list. The other two births were likely infants who died soon after birth.
The Children of Heinrich and Maria Dyck Zimmermann
Marie* born January 6, 1892 --died March 17, 1899
Helena born February 5, 1893
Anna born April 25, 1894
Henry born December 4, 1895
Katherine* born February 22, 1897 —died January 29, 1899
Marie born June 25, 1899
Jacob* born June 25, 1899 —died February 11, 1900
Jacob born May 21, 1901
The family suffered two deaths early in 1899—Katherine on January 29 and Marie on March 17. Two births are listed for June 25, 1899. Evidently, Marie, Grandma’s youngest sister was born a twin. This is the first instance of twins I’ve heard of in my family.