Ukraine's Germans Find Little Reality in Promises

VARYUSHYNO, Ukraine -- Ethnic German families from Central Asia who moved to southern Ukraine in 1992 seeking a better life are disillusioned, frustrated and ready to leave.


Four years waiting in vain for the good land, steady work and decent housing they were promised when they came have eroded their hopes and their spirits.


Six German families left this village last year for a new life in Germany. More plan to leave soon, seeing Germany as their only hope for a better deal.


"We were promised we would drink wine in our private homes within a year. Time passed, but we still live in trailers with rats, humidity and dirt," said Vladimir Engel, a leader of Varyushyno's Wiedergeburt (Rebirth) German society.


"The mood is very low here. Our problems will only be solved with our departure for Germany. All of our hopes for Ukraine have died."


The ethnic Germans, part of a community that has lived in the countries of the former Soviet Union for generations, arrived in Ukraine in 1992 at the invitation of Leonid Kravchuk, Ukraine's first post-Soviet president.


But four years later, they still live in temporary metal trailers and say they have neither hope nor illusions. They say German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, who was due in Kiev on Monday for a three-day visit, can do little to change things.


The Bonn government already has given money to help the resettled Germans, but the Varyushyno Germans said this humanitarian aid had been stopped after several scandals within the Ukrainian-German Fund, responsible for the financing.


Many of the former Soviet Union's ethnic Germans lived in an autonomous region on the Volga River until Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941.


Soviet dictator Josef Stalin responded by branding the ethnic Germans fascists and spies and deporting them from the Volga region, and from other settlements in Russia and in southern Ukraine, to Central Asia.


The slow journey back began in 1992, but only 4,000 Germans returned to Ukraine, including Varyushyno's 78 residents.


"We already lost a sense of life. In 1931, the communists grabbed everything and said we were kulaks [landowning peasants]. After the war started, we were deported to Asia. Then we were sent to work in gold mines in the Ural mountains," said David Velsh, 72. "Why should we have any hopes because Kohl is coming to visit? He is such an important man and has some more significant tasks -- why should he be bothered with us?"


Varyushyno's Germans say it is not easy to get Ukrainian citizenship or land. "We have not been paid wages for a year. We have no water or electricity. During the winter, it is absolutely horrible when the heavy winds blow through our homes," said Elza Velsh.