On Sunday, August 19, 1900, in the village of Marienberg (next to the Volga River), where my great-grandfather Antonio Rausch was born, the new parish church was consecrated.
Even though Antonio had already emigrated to Argentina by that time, the place where that temple was built is significant to me since the chapel of that village was located there, which was dismantled to build the new church. For sure, he was baptized there, and he must have gone to Mass every Sunday with his family.
It is also significant because the construction of this new church was the subject of much debate among the villagers which lasted 20 years preceding the consecration.
The Bishop of Saratov, who presided over the ceremony, referred to these discussions with this phrase: "When the Lord wants to build a church, the devil builds a sacristy next to it". I can imagine my great-great-grandfather Christoph Rausch, one of the founders of Marienberg, taking part in the first discussions, although I cannot imagine what the different positions must have been.
Did they argue about the design of the church? Or about the cost of materials? May be the discussion was about whether the old chapel should be torn down or not, or about the possibility of enlarging it. I'll never know. What I do know is that Christoph, his wife Ana María Herlein and their children (Antonio among them, less than 3 years old) came to Argentina at the end of the 1870s.
The story of what happened to that temple is sad, and makes one think that the allusion to the "devil's sacristy" made by the bishop could be taken as a prophecy of what would happen to the Volga Germans and their temples. The Soviet government ordered that the parish church be closed on September 7, 1934, and shortly afterwards the tower was removed. Now the village does not exist. All that remains are the ruins of the church and some metal crosses in the cemetery.
I hope someday I'll be able to go to Marienberg, and to pray in silence in those ruins. I want to go and capture in my camera those bricks and what's left of the religious images, peeling on the walls. I want to go there to breathe history. I want to walk in procession to the cemetery. I want to go... and while I wait to be able to travel, I write.
(Francisco Albarenque Rausch)
I think the Wolga Germans (e.g. Bishop Schneider's family) were moved farther east by Stalin because he thought they would side with the German army. So they ended up in Kazakhstan and Kirgisistan. Now, virtually all of them have moved to Germany.