Home on the border

Anton Polyakov

2016 - 2017


Home on the Border is a project about the post-Soviet border areas with the multi-ethnic population and multicultural communities. The geography of our project includes Republic of Moldova, Transdniestria – unrecognized republic separated from Moldova, and surrounding areas. These areas are characterized by complex national and ethnic composition and require careful exploration, because the process of post-Soviet transformation is still not complete here. This process continues and requires fixation and research.

About 200 years ago the territory that is Transdniestria now (unrecognized state formally under the jurisdiction of Moldova, but not controlled by it in fact) was a part of the Russian Empire. The Russian government invited foreign colonists to develop these uninhabited border areas. One of the steppe valleys, adjoined to the Dniester River from the East, was given to the German immigrants. The first colony was called Glückstal that means ‘the valley of happiness’ in German. During the next 10 years 14 German colonies appeared in the Valley and the whole area became Glückstal Colonist District.

Glüсkstal is the first part of the project Home on the Border which focuses on the Bessarabia Germans living on the territory of Transdniestria.


Anton Polyakov - photographer

Anna Galatonova - videographer

Maxim Polyakov - journalist

Website of the project:


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  • en.homeontheborder.com

  • Vladimir Weiss is resident of Kolosovo village (earlier Neudorf). Weiss likes calling himself in the German way – Willie, as his parents used to call him. The Weiss’s ancestors were Austrian Germans.

  • The plan of Glückstal Valley with Glückstal, Neudorf and Bergdorf colonies

  • Vladimir Weiss does not blame the Soviet regime for the hardships of his fate: "This all is because of war, the war is to blame. It was the time we lived in”. In Kolosovo Weiss worked as a tractor driver at the state owned farm during 38 years. He was awarded an Order of Labour Glory.

  • Before the colonists the wild lands of the Valley had almost never been ploughed. They were used only as pastures, so the ground was trampled and hard as a rock, though it was the black earth. However, the Germans did not give up – year after year they broke new ground and even came up with a plough of their own design.

  • Lutheran church in the Glückstal colony (until 1930)

  • Lutheran church in the Glückstal colony. In Glückstal the church was converted into The House of Culture and the bell tower was demolished. In the same period, many German families were deported to Siberia, and the colony was renamed in Glinoe village. The old church building is still the rural House of Culture. In Kolosovo the church also became The House of Culture, and in Karmanovo the former Lutheran church is an Orthodox church now.

  • Frieda Minderlen (Shneidt) is resident of Kolosovo village (earlier Neudorf). She was born in 1934 in the German village of Kassel (Odessa region, Ukraine). During the Second World War the whole Minderlen family was deported to a special settlement in Ural.

  • In Ural Frieda’s mother died: “Mother was brought dead from hospital and until the morning there was no place to put her body. So I, as the eldest, slept with her in bed”. She and her sisters were taken for parenting by the aunt whom Frieda called the second mom.

  • Frieda Minderlen’s family, like Vladimir Weiss’s family, can be attributed to the last generation of Germans who settled in the Valley. They were the Soviet Germans, who returned from exile and special settlements in Ural, Siberia, Northern Kazakhstan and other regions of the USSR.

  • German song written on a notebook sheet

  • Frieda’s husband –Vladimir Shneidt (on the right). He and his friend shepherded the flock of sheep from the collective-farm.

  • In the first years of reclamation of the Valley, the colonists lived in temporary housing – dugouts and half-dugouts. Then the Germans took the example of the locals and built houses out of compressed earth or clay dried in the sun.

  • Coming to the Valley German colonists brought some tools. Later they established their own production of agricultural equipment and construction materials. Besides the necessities the Germans brought household items, jewelry and other small items that remind them of their distant homeland.

  • Michael Meier is resident of Karmanovo village (earlier Neudorf). The Meier family is considered the last remaining native German family. They are descendants of the colonists who settled in Glückstal Valley in the beginning of XIX century.

  • German citizens leaving Glückstal colony together with retreating Wehrmacht units, 1944. In 1944, when Soviet troops began to liberate the territory, many Germans went to the West together with retreating Wehrmacht units. Some left voluntarily, some were forced by fascists to leave their native colonies.

  • Michael Meier with his wife Maria, 1970-ies

  • In 1960s–'80s Soviet Germans on equal with Soviet people of other nationalities worked in the state and collective farms, joined the Communist party and received state awards and bonuses.

  • The old German cemetery in the village of Kolosovo (Bergdorf)

  • A resident of Karmanovo village (earlier Neudorf). Born in 1939 in the German village of Rote-Fahne (Dnipropetrovsk region, Ukraine). During the Second World War Lydia Zernickel with her mother and sisters was deported to Northern Kazakhstan.

  • In Kazakhstan Lydia Zernickel worked on a pig farm. Then, after studying in a railway school, she worked as a railway pointer on the railroad, then as an assistant on the station. In Kazakhstan she married Adolf Helm. Adolf’s family was from Neudorf. In the 1960-ies Adolf and Lydia decided to return to the historical homeland of the Helm family.

  • There were 12 children in Adolf Helm’s family. The Helm family was expelled from Neudorf before the Second World War. In the 1960-ies the whole family gathered near their ancestral house in Karmanovo. In that time it was a place of glass reception. The house is now demolished.