Connecting Families


The Center for Volga Germans Studies (CVGS) at Concordia University often serves as a bridge between families that migrated to North America and those who remained in Russia during the turbulent decades of the early 20th century. These families endured the violence of the Russian Revolution, severe famines during the 1920’s and 1930’s and deportation to Siberia in 1941. All communications with family and friends living in America were severed. The family histories of those deported were often lost.

Recently, one of our volunteers was contacted by the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia, who in turn had been contacted by Alexey Korostel who lives in Barnaul, Russia. Barnaul is located in Siberia and is the closest city to the village of Gonokhovo where Alexey’s great-grandfather, Peter Maul, was exiled in September 1941. 

Peter was born in the Volga German colony of Norka in 1889. His older brother, Johann Georg (George) Maul was born in 1879. George served honorably in the Russian military and immigrated to the United States in July of 1913 with his wife, Magdalena Kilthau. George and Lena settled in Nebraska along with many other Volga German families. George encouraged Peter to join him in America, but Peter decided to stay in Russia. 

Peter and his family suffered greatly but survived the famines with assistance sent by George through the American Relief Administration. Greater tragedy would strike the family in August of 1941 when Stalin decreed that the entire Volga German population (over 400,000 women, children and men) would be deported to Siberia. 

Despite the fact the Maul family had lived in Russia since 1766, Peter and his family were sent east in cattle cars to an uncertain future. They were forbidden to ever return to their homes on the Volga. Subsequent to the deportation, Peter and his two sons were sent to work in Soviet labor camps which were part of the GULAG system. Both of his sons died in the camps. All communication with George and his family in America was lost. 

Alexey sent us an image of a tattered photograph showing his great-granduncle, George Maul in his military uniform. He wanted to know if there were descendants of George’s family still living in the USA.

Georg Maul (right) in military uniform.

To his surprise, Alexey discovered another image of George in the CVGS collection. The photograph in our collection was contributed by Debra Stricker Hafling who is the granddaughter of George Maul.

Georg Maul photo held by Debra Stricker Hafling.

We electronically connected Alexey and Debra who we’ve confirmed are cousins. Given the significant collection of Russian census lists and church records available to researchers in the CVGS, we were also able to provide Alexey with a detailed report about his Volga German ancestry.