New York in Ukraine's Donbas: the town of migrants

Author : Oleh Shama

Source : 112 Ukraine

The New Yorkers had been living in Donetsk region until 1951. Real New Yorkers. Their village was named after the largest US city..
15:25, 29 June 2016

Read the original text at NV.UA

Industry: Foundry of Jacob Niebuhr plant, beginning of the 1900s

The cold war has abandoned this unique name; the town was renamed to Novgorod. At the time of the change of signboards, almost none of its founders’ ancestors - German-Mennonite, had been living in Ukrainian New York. The Soviets destroyed the churches and most of the buildings, which created the European essence of the village. With the beginning of the Soviet-German war, Stalin ordered to deport all the local ethnic Germans to labor camps or to the Urals.

ENGINE OF PROGRESS: harvesting machine of the early twentieth century, produced by the factory Jacob Niebuhr. The owner of the company was involved in the development of technology

Convenient Germans

German settlements in Ukraine began to appear in the late XVIII century, after the decree of Empress Catherine II. She invited Europeans to move to the sparsely populated land in the lower reaches of Dnipro and the Black Sea coast. The largest number of migrants came from Germany - many Mennonite Protestants came to the Russian Empire. Their largest colony appeared on the Cossack island of Khortytsya.

In 1877-1878, Mennonites from Khortytsya purchased over 35 thousand ha of black soil areas on the banks of the river Kryvyi Torets. This deal costed 929 thousand rub. (in gold). Just to compare, at that time a cow costed 2.5 rubles. Then, after the sale and purchase of new land 244 German families had moved in there.

In general, Mennonites were rather favorable demographic infusion for the Russian Empire. The Mennonite families often had up to 20 children, since, in their opinion, numerous offspring was evidence of a divine favor. Moreover, these immigrants were meticulously law-abiding. When the Thyssen brothers decided to open a school for girls for their own money, they had been waiting for a special permission from Petersburg for a whole year.

Mennonites also timely and fully paid taxes and demonstrated their pacifism. Reluctance to take up arms when their historical homeland called to active duty, provoked a mass migration of Menno supporters.

Engine room of the Niebuhr factory. The company employed more than 2 thousand residents of New York and the surrounding villages

Donetsk historian and ethnographer Alexander Dynges, a descendant of the first inhabitants of New York, said that the idea of the town’s name belong to two people - Jacob Unger, who built the first steam mill in the town, and Jacob Niebuhr, a pioneer of agricultural engineering. Unger visited the United States in 1880 and, fascinated by the American metropolis, he gave a name to their town New York. Niebuhr approved this name officially. Niebuhr was married to an American, who was 19 years younger than he was. In 1891, he gave her a charter that the German colony number 4 was named after the overseas city of New York. 

In the first decades, Mennonites built 412 state-owned houses. They were intended for the invited experts - engineers, teachers, doctors. For example, Olivier brothers’ pharmacy was famous within the whole neighborhood. It was a real laboratory, which employed not only pharmacists, but also doctors who visited the patients in the remote villages. During the revolution of 1905, self-defense units were formed in New York in order to defend Olivier pharmacy.

Niebuhr was an iconic figure for New York. In 1889, he created the agricultural machinery plant. The equipment came from Europe and the United States. It employed 2 thousand people. In 1910, the plant gave 3.5 million rubles annual net profit.

BORN IN NEW YORK: Children from the village Novgorodske, which became New York, in 1951 by decree of the Verkhovna Rada, early 1950s. Many of the old residents still call it New York

Defense facilities

With the outbreak of World War I, New York became the object of attention of the imperial house. At that time, Russia used naphthalene for the production of explosives. It was derived from coal tar, which in turn was extracted from coal coking. By the beginning of the war, the empire produced 1 thousand tons of naphthalene.

In 1915, German entrepreneurs from New York have won the state competition for the construction of the plant, which would provide army with the explosives. Mennonites have shown unprecedented patriotism in relation to Russia, despite the fact that it was the main enemy of their historical homeland - Germany.

Socialists realities: the employees of Novgorodsky car park. The poster behind them encourages the struggle for the implementation of decisions of the XX Congress of the CPSU of 1956

Red rink

The October Revolution of 1917 and the Brest-Litovsk Treaty was like a rink for New York. The town belonged to different warring armies. When the village was taken by the Red Army, the soldiers began to cut down the park for firewood. They shot the creator of the park Evald Enns, and his body was thrown into the pond, and the villagers were afraid to bury him.

A terrible fate had Henry Hamm, owner of the largest shop of the town. Bolsheviks demanded to destroy all the books of theological content. When he refused to obey the order, he was shot dead.

After the signing of the Peace of Brest, Russia undertook to pay 5 billion rubles of indemnity to Germany. Bolshevik government had no money, and the Kaiser's troops, which have reached the Donets Basin, did not disdain to disassemble the industry. Historian Alexander Dynges claims that all the equipment from the naphthalene plant in New York was removed; only a few smelters were left. At the moment of creation of the plant, there were 2 thousand employees, but in 1923 there were three employees and a caretaker.

However, the residents of New York faced a real disaster only in 1930. In the Donetsk region (then - Stalin) only over 1937-1938, nearly 300 thousand people were sentenced to death and sent to the camps. 22.4 thousand people were repressed for their German national identity.

In 1941-1942, almost all ethnic Germans (in the early twentieth century, 2 million Germans lived in the Russian Empire) were sent to the Gulag camps. Often soldiers of German nationality were withdrew from the front and sent into exile. Donetsk historians say that after the war, only 30 Germans left in New York. Naphthalene plant was partially evacuated to Uzbekistan. Since 2008, the company belongs to the business empire of Rinat Akhmetov, 95% of its production is exported.

Related: Meet the legend: Ukrainian aircraft designer Igor Sikorsky

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