I have this sepia colored photograph on my bedroom dresser. It was taken in Moscow during World War I. The beautiful brown-eyed young woman in it with her fashionable dress and hair piled high is my husband’s maternal grandmother Gertrude. She was married to Heinrich Enns who sits to her immediate right in his military uniform.
Heinrich’s family owned a large estate in Kowalicha, Ukraine and while the men of the family were away serving in the Russian army’s medical corps Gertrude was left alone to run the family’s massive land holdings and deal with her irascible mother-in-law who objected to her son’s marriage to Gertrude because Gertrude’s family wasn’t rich enough. Gertrude came from a small village where her family had a modest farm. Her wealthy husband had met her while on a visit to the village with a friend. I believe the man to the far right is Gertrude’s brother-in-law who ran the family’s land holdings in other parts of Ukraine.
Gertrude had four little boys and with her husband far away working on the trains transporting the wounded from the battlefront to Moscow, Gertrude was single parenting and making all the decisions about the education and upbringing of her children.
There were labor shortages as estate servants left their jobs to join the army. Weather had damaged some crops, and roving bandits had been seen on the estates’ far flung properties. Gertrude decided she needed to go to Moscow and meet with Heinrich and his brothers to get some advice about what to do. That’s when the photo of Gertrude at a family business meeting was taken.
I never met my husband’s grandmother Gertrude but whenever I begin to feel overwhelmed by my responsibilities I look at Gertrude’s photo and think about how a girl from a small village farm ran a huge business all on her own while the men in her family were away at war and times were incredibly tough. Getrude inspires me!