This page is dedicated to my Mother,
Susie Helen (Brutke) Williams.

My Mother's history is interesting, and her parent's and grandparent's story is even more unique. 

My Mother, Susie Helen, was born on July 15, 1933, to Adolph and Helen (Gusa) Brutke, in Amity, Oregon.

A brief history of Russia:

Helen (Gusa) Brutke and her parents and grand-parents immigrated to the United States of America on November 10th, 1910. They lived in Russia (now Ukraine), in the Volhynian Highlands. But they were of German and Polish descent, and not Russians or Ukrainian. Their ancestors had migrated to Russia in the 1850's. They were known as  German-Russians.

In 1763, Czarina, Catherine the Great (grand-daughter of Peter the Great), ruler of Russia, issued a Manifesto opening virgin farm lands, or homesteads, to the people of Germany. Many Germans wanted to escape the German Military Service, and they responded readily to the call, and came in great migration waves.

There were three migration waves over a period of time, and it's believed that Helen's ancestors were part of the third wave, which settled in the Rovno Area (Rovno Oblast), one of several border regions between Poland and Russia. Before the partition of Poland, it was known as the Volhynian Province of Poland.

The capitol of the region is Rovno, an important railroad junction, as well as being the centre of an agricultural district near the Volhynian Forests, and also famous for its horses and cattle.

For a time, all was well. After the death of Catherine the Great in 1796, Russia had six rulers before the outbreak of World War I: 

Paul 1 (1796-1801)
Alexander 1 (1801-1825)
Nicholas I (1825-1855)
Alexander II (1855-1881)
Alexander III (1881-1894)
Nicholas II (1894-1917)

These were autocratic rulers who caused much internal strife, especially with the new 1875 military law.

Suddenly, the things guaranteed the German-Russians by Catherine the Great were about to disappear. They no longer had the right to educate their children in German; the right to their own autonomous (independent) village government was gone; as well as the exemption from military service. In 1904, the Russian Revolution began, and foreign relations signaled that war with Germany was imminent.

The year of 1905 was known as the year of the Great Exodus, continuing until World War I. Over 5,000 people left the Ukraine in that year alone!

It was time for Helen and her parents to look elsewhere, if they wished to escape compulsory military service, excessive taxes, and persecution.


 Copyright 2014
LH Houben