Friday, December 29, 2017

Many Lessons from One Diary Entry

I've been translating the diary of my great-great-great uncle Abraham F. Reimer #3945 (1808-1892).  He was a member of the Kleine Gemeinde and lived in Steinbach village, Borosenko colony, South Russia, in the late 1860s and early 1870s.  He kept a diary that is still extant for 1870-1874, and he wrote many interesting observations of daily life.  I ran across an entry for 27 July 1870, that illustrated several such points. 

Here is a snippet of the original text:
Abraham F. Reimer (1808-1892) diary, Steinbach, Borosenko Colony, South Russia, 1870-1874, Mennonite Heritage Centre Archive, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Kleine Gemeinde collection, vol. 5907, item 4, p. 14.
And the translation for the day:

27. Mon. Morning 18 degrees [72° F.], day 24 degrees [86° F.]. I was in Nikopol’ for the fair. I also went to the pharmacy. Have had ripe watermelons and muskmelons for eleven days. Rained in many places, including in Rosenfeld. And cucumbers for more than three weeks.

Reimer was a careful observer of the weather, so he recorded the morning and daytime temperatures everyday, although he used an old European system, the Reaumur temperature scale, which had a freezing point of 0° and a boiling point of 80°.  I have added the Fahrenheit equivalent in brackets so that Americans could make sense of the temperatures (sorry, Canadians and Europeans). 

Next he describes going to the fair or market (Markt in German) in Nikopol', which was the nearest city and about 23 miles (36 kilometers) to the southeast. Reimer enjoyed adventure and having different experiences, so I'm sure the fair was a great experience for him.  The fair would have been much different than our county fairs in rural North America - it was a periodic gathering of merchants, traders, sellers, street performers, and riffraff of all types where goods were sold from far and near.

Reimer was particularly interested in the crops, so he notes that they had had watermelons and muskmelons available for eleven days already and cucumbers for three weeks.  The word he is uses for watermelon is not the standard German word, which is Wassermelone. Instead, he uses the Plautdietsch word, borrowed from Russian, of Arbus, which comes from the Russian word arbuz. This can make it difficult to translate because sometimes I have to look in a Low German dictionary to find words that are not in the dictionary of High German.

He also misspells the German word for muskmelon, which is Melone, and spells it Milone instead. In fact, his spelling throughout the diary is rather suspect.

I also stumbled across a picture in the Wikipedia article about Nikopol' of the Bazaar Square in Nikopol' in the early 1900s.  I can imagine it filled traders, stalls, carts, and thousands of customers jostling and pushing and bargaining to get the best deals.  The market probably looked something like this in 1870 when Abraham Reimer visited it on that warm July day.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for providing the translation of the journal entry. For those of us who are learning to read the script, it would be helpful if you could write down in the original language what the hand-written text said. For me, it is not the translation that presents the problem, but the reading of the handwriting.