Russian Repatriates from Hawai‘i, 1917

A reader, John Wilmer, sent a link to a website full of long lost far outliers that immediately sucked me in. Here are a few excerpts from the introduction and translated applications for repatriation from Hawai‘i to Russia in 1917.

At the beginning of the 20th century Hawaii sugar plantation owners began to recruit laborers of European background. Former Secretary of the Territory of Hawaii and Director of the Bureau of Immigration, Alatau L.C. Atkinson, and a somewhat questionable Russian entrepreneur A. V. Perelestrous, traveled to Harbin, Manchuria to recruit Russian workers, primarily from the area around Vladivostok. Perhaps as many as 2,000 Russians and Ukrainians came to Hawaii.

The idea for repatriating Russians living aboard began right after the February Revolution in Petrograd. Vil’gel’m Vasil’evich Trautshold, a career diplomat who had served as a Vice Consul in Hakodate (1906-12), as a Consul in Dairen and General Consul in Harbin (1914-17), was sent to Hawaii from September 1917 to March of 1918. The costs of repatriation to Russia were borne by the new government….

Podrez Sergei Konstantinovich. Born Oct. 6, 1878. He was a peasant from the village of Dubki IUzhno-Ussuriisk uezda Primor’ye oblast. In Harbin he was a tailor’s shop and worked as an agent for the Singer Co. In 1910 he came with his family to Hawaii. Before repatriation from Honolulu he was a construction worker on the local prison. He left Hawaii alone in 1918 after he divorced his wife Elena Ermolaevna, 33 yrs. old (she was a mid-wife). They had four daughters ages two to sixteen, and had refused to leave with him. The court in Honolulu told the husband to pay $6 wk in alimony.

Kolesnichenko Demid (Dmitrii) Borisovich. Born Aug. 16, 1883 in the village of Kotliarka Kiev guberniia. In Nikol’sk-Ussuriisk he was the owner of a workshop were he considered that he “received more money for his work.” (than Hawaii) He was a reserve junior non-commissioned officer in 1905. He came to Hawaii through Harbin on the ship Korea in 1910. His wife Pelageiia Nikiforovna, b. 1889 and three children from the ages of 4 to 8. Two of these were born in Honolulu. He mostly worked on sugar plantations on Oahu, but his last work was as repairman for horse-carriages ($4.75 day). He wanted to return to his parents in Nikol’sk-Ussuriisk. Trautshold noted: “drinks.”

Riazantsev Fedor Petrovich. Born in 1865. He was a peasant in the village of Orlovka Tifilissk guberniia. Dukhobor Minister (Svobodnik). In 1899 he finished three years of exile to Tifiliisk for publicly destroying weapons (a religious principle). After that he emigrated with his parents to Canada and lived in British Columbia. In Feb. 1917 he came to Honolulu with his family. His wife (“spiritual sister”–Dukhobors don’t get married) Pelageia, b. 1872, and their two sons aged 12 and 23 yrs. old returned to San Francisco because it was difficult to find work in Hawaii. In Honolulu Fedor was a temporary worker for building the water-works ($2 day). He said to Trautshold: “I know about freedom [i.e., the revolution] in Russia, and the Dukhobors want to ask the government to give us land to settle where we can live without animals.” Dec. 16, 1917 he returned to Russia.

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