born on June 27, 1898 in Ufa (Ural Mountains)
died on February 11, 1991 in Ettenhausen-Aadorf (Thurgau), Switzerland
125th birthday on June 27, 2023
“All around me I turned my gaze, and my soul was filled with the suffering of people.”
Alexander Radishchev’s comment from the 18th century is an appropriate choice by Alja Rachmanowa as the epigraph for her book Ehen im rotem Sturm (Love in the Red Storm); it indeed epitomizes her own state. Her religious convictions give her the courage and will to survive in the most desperate situations while she maintains the strength to comfort and help others throughout. She remains unwavering in her belief in the good in people; blind hatred and cruelty are alien and incomprehensible to her.
In Studenten, Liebe, Tscheka und Tod (Students, Love, Cheka and Death), Rachmanowa describes how the orderly world of her sheltered, upper-middle-class childhood and youth is violently shattered by the Russian revolution. House searches, arrests, arbitrary executions, hunger, poverty, and constant fear become the order of the day. With her parents and two younger sisters, Rachmanowa flees from the Bolshevists to Siberia, where they live in abject conditions in a remote settlement. Despite all the threats, she manages to successfully complete her studies in literature and psychology.
In 1921 she marries Arnulf von Hoyer, a former Austrian prisoner of war who stayed in Russia out of love for her; soon after, their son is born. Always fearful of purges, they both work at the university until 1925, when they are expelled without reason and arrive penniless in Vienna. Her degree from Russia is not recognized; she works hard in her dairy shop in order to feed the family and enable her husband to obtain a doctorate.
Now our child is dead because this had to be in a world where hate is stronger than love… With our son millions of flourishing, hopeful human lives have been destroyed, with us millions of mothers and fathers are crying… Is there any consolation for them? - Perhaps! But only if the sacrifices they have made are taken up by mankind in the sense in which this book is written: there must be no hatred, there must be only love!
(Alja Rachmanowa, Preface to Einer von vielen (One of Many. The Life of Jurka)
In Milchfrau in Ottakring (Milk Woman in Ottakring) she also describes the initial prejudices she faces as a foreigner and how she eventually succeeds. She greatly misses her home and her scientific work. This first period in Austria is marked by poverty even after her husband accepts a job as a teacher in Salzburg in 1927. Their financial situation does not improve until her diary-like notes are published. Her understanding love and the shining example of her unyielding inner strength, along with the expressive language and authenticity, constitute the magic and success of her books.
Rachmanowa never recovered from the death of her beloved son Jurka in the spring of 1945, and she created a moving memorial to him in Einer von vielen. Fearing the Russians, she fled to Switzerland with her husband, where she lived in seclusion and wrote numerous biographies of Russian poets and musicians until turning almost blind after a stroke.
(Text from 1997)
(Translated with DeepL.com; edited by Ramona Fararo, 2023)
For additional information (pictures, bibliography) please consult the German version.
Author: Adriane von Hoop
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