In a Facebook post yesterday I mentioned that it was fifty years since my great-grandmother died. I got several comments on this post, including: “why not give us more info about her life as there's always interesting facts coming from individual Russians history?”
For people who read Swedish, I provided a link to my memoir that gives an account for interesting facts from my family history. But this book is unlikely to be translated into English, so for my English-language friends I can tell the story again.
It is, however, impossible to tell any family history out of context so I need to start a long time ago, as long as the family chronicle goes, which is 1788 when a forefather, Paul Tietz, twenty years old and poor as a church mouse, came to Russia from Germany. At that time, Catherine the Great of Russia invited skilful Germans to come and contribute to Russia's well-being, which they doubtless did. But my ancestor was not part of that diaspora, who are better known as Volga-Germans. He belonged to a religious sect who were wandering to Palestine by way of Russia, but often got stuck somewhere in the steppes of Northern Caucasus where they could rent or buy land from local dukes and start wine production. Actually, I have already told part of this story.
Within two generations, the Tietz family got rich beyond imagination on wine and grain. My great-grandfather Jonathan Tietz was the youngest son of a miller, but he didn't have to rely on a trickster cat to make his fortune. His older brothers did try to cheat on him, but he was clever enough to resist. He wasn't particularly interested in the family business but preferred to use his share of income to support young artists and musicians. He was a good musician himself and even sang for a while in an opera house in Moscow.
At that time it was usual for a young man to marry whoever their parents chose for them. Jonathan's father told him to travel to a particular little town where one of his business partners lived. He had two daughters. Jonathan was to choose one of them as his bride. Before he left, his mother told him: “When you have chosen, give her a box of chocolates, but tie it very hard with a ribbon and watch closely. If she cuts the ribbon with scissors, don't marry her, but if she ties up the ribbon no matter how hard the knot, she will be a good housewife”. Jonathan chose the older sister, Maria, and she untied the knot carefully and put the ribbon away in her sewing box. This does sound like a fairy tale, but no one in our family has ever cut a knot with scissors.
They were married and lived in the mill before Jonathan build a house of his own in the town of Pyatigorsk in Northern Caucasus. They had six children, but only three survived infancy. The oldest was my grandmother Elizabeth, or Elly.
To be continued.