Andrej Yakovlavitch Namnek, farmer businessman from Riga, Latvia, traveled by rail to the Great Rus for the purpose of negotiating the best price for his latest milled stand of birtch and reindeer pelts that his workers had amassed over spring.
Top left: Archpriest Ivan Namnek [martyred by Communists for not divulging the confession of the local mayor]. Top centre: One of many documents attesting to work in Siberia. Top right: Map of Andrej’s & Marie”s journey. Bottom left: cover of my novel on their life. Bottom right: Andrej Yakovlavitch Namnek.
He loved St. Petersberg for its culture and modernity, although he was not so enamoured of the palatial excesses of the ruling classes, nor was he a Russophile since his own country was occupied by Russians – not to mention the Germans. What he did love though was the Bohemian harpist and soprano he had met backstage of the Cyrilian Palace Hall following her performance with the Prague Ensemble. Naturally enough, she was the reason he delayed his return to Riga.
Of the Orthodox Faith, Andrej was not so immersed in it to let any religious difference stand in the way of courting this Catholic girl, Marie Subrtova, from the village of Hradec Kralove in Bohemia,the daughter of Vaclav Subrt and Anna Hampl, stable managers and basket weavers. Nevertheless, he was proud of his second cousin, Ivan Ivanovitch Namnek who had just become an Archpriest in the local diocese, [and was later martyred by the Communists].
Turmoil was becoming common in those final years of the 19th. century; what with that young Lenin addressing rallies about St. Petersberg having just left the Jesuit seminary. He and Trotsky, revolutionaries both, and bound to cause trouble. Of course my grandparents could not have foretold the Bolshevik Revolution just twenty years away, but still there were skirmishes – usually put down with Cossack swords.
It was at one such melee that Andrej became caught up and found it necessary to shoot one of Czar Alexander’s constabulary for which he was sentenced to Labour Camp in Siberia. Fortunately there was no death penalty in Russia. Andrej found himself assigned to working on the telegraph which was being constructed concurrently along with the Great Siberian Railway, engineered by that great engineer Witte but which in practice was beset by short supplies, faulty equipment and hellish living conditions. For 10 years Andrej worked with fellow prisoners but was often free to mix with the indigenous peoples, descendants of the American Indians, the Shamans and other exotic aborigines.
The Sino-Russo war was the catalyst for his freedom as his enlistment in the militia gained some freedom under an indenture of service. While he had survived the bears, wolves and weather that had taken many of his friends, he found himself in Mukden on the day that the Japanese invaded through Manchuria and routed the Russians. Andrej survived that attack too and so came to marry the beauty who had waited for him to be released from servitude. Their firstborn was named Albert after the Archbishop Crusader who had bought civilization to Latvia, 900 years earlier.
Marie and Andrej would have five children whom they would name with the letter A, Albert, Andrew, Antonio, Amelia and Adolph [my father]. They determined to settle in a land of peace – Australia, but their travels there took some time for the giving of births and for Marie to play to audiences. Adolph, the last born was born in Singapore. [Amelia died as an infant, and Andrew returned to Bohemia and was never seen again].
The family of five arrived in Melbourne in 1912 and it wasn’t long before the neighbours in North Melbourne would gather outside Marie’s window at night to listen to her rehearsing for her upcoming performance in Surabaya, Indonesia, along with the troupe she was part of in Singapore.
At that time, Islamic terrorists were active in Indonesia, driven largely by a Muslim Cell operating out of the Dental Faculty of the Aceh Medical College. They were determined to bring Sharia and Islam to dominance, following the invasion of Muslims from Middle East and the Sub Continent some 800 years earlier. [Today Aceh Province is under Sharia rule and Indonesia is the most populous Muslim country in the world].
Marie Namnek, my grandmother, was killed by an Islamic bomb attack in early 1913 in Surabaya.
Andrej Namnik [spelled now with an “i” since handwritten records were easily mis-recorded], was no sooner a widower than Child Welfare came a’knocking and whisked his 3 young boys away to Daylesford to be fostered. Adolph was fostered at age 4 by the Vanzetti family who still run the local bakery. By 18 he had won the B&F in the Ballarat Football League.
Andrej worked for the Robertson Timber Co., mainly from Warburton and throughout Gippsland. Just 2 years after his arrival at age 58, he enlisted in the A.I.F. for the 1st World War – but was rejected on medical grounds. He passed away while Adolph and Antonio were serving in PNG, at the Little Sisters Of The Poor in Northcote.
[The Novel: The Bear and The Diva is available on smashwords,com].