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 Annie Gwen Jones

Impressions of Life on the Steppes of Russia 

   1889 to 1892

  By Mrs Edgar Jones

Neé Annie Gwen Jones 

    Recollections written about 1990

Transcribed from her notes by Siriol Colley


John Hughes

In the autumn of 1889 my grandmother, Mrs Edgar Jones (neé Annie Gwen Jones) travelled to Russia with the family of Arthur Hughes.  Her role was that of a tutor to his two daughters.  Arthur Hughes was the second son of John Hughes, who, in 1869, at the behest of the Czar Alexander II, established the New Russian Company to develop coal mining and the production of iron and rails for the expanding railroad system in Russia.  It was said that when John Hughes surveyed the barren ground of the Steppes there was only a shepherd and his dog present in the area.  A town grew and  it became known as Hughesoffka; after the death of Stalin was called  the city of Donetz.

In 1892, because of the cholera riots, Nain, my grandmother with the family fled from the town of Hughesoffka.  The account of her experiences during her three years in the Steppes of Ukraine was found in a damp cellar and in a very poor state, written in an old exercise book dated 1848. I consider myself most fortunate to have made the discovery and to have been able to transcribe it.




Annie Gwen Jones

Many years ago I left Wales burning with a strong desire to see green fields and pastures new and especially to see Russia, that land of oppression and misery that country one hears so much about, but really about which one knows so little.  The fields were decidedly new, but the fields by no stretch of the imagination could be called green, for no barer, no more the dreary spot on earth exists than those Steppes but more of them anon.  The much expected excitement of new scenes I had not long to wait for after 6 days of travelling over the continent with a short stay at Berlin we entered Polish Russia and stopped at Warsaw, the Capital.  Here I had my first experience. 

I had gone for a walk in the afternoon to get my first idea of the city, the novelty of the countryside, the strangeness of the inhabitants, the beauty of the buildings and of the park, the wide fine peculiarly paved streets lead me to prolong my walk somewhat beyond what was prudent.  I kept, as I had imagined, a sharp lookout at the way I went thinking of returning along the same route.  I retraced my steps, but after trudging for what appeared to me to be an age, I did not seem to be getting any nearer to the Hotel we were staying at.  I did not know Polish; I had not a single coin in my pocket except English money that was of no use to me.  I met Jews on all hands and Polish Jews of all Jews are the most unprepossessing in appearance.  I stopped one said “Hotel Europeski”.  He shrugged his shoulders and shook his head.  I asked several including a gendarme but with no good result.  I went to a troika driver and said “Hotel Europeski” and he shook his head.  Night was drawing on and I was getting desperate.  It was getting dark and I knew moreover that my friends at the “Hotel Europeski” who had tried to dissuade me from going out on my own and were too tired to accompany me were feeling anxious about me.  The outlook was gloomy when suddenly in front of me I heard two gentlemen speaking English.  I rushed up and begged them to show me the way to the Hotel.  In the long run I gained knowledge from my escape, for on the way back these gentlemen pointed to me a house, an unpretentious one, where the great Napoleon stayed on his way to Russia in 1812. 

It was an uncanny feeling being stranded in a strange city, but it taught me not to wander forth again alone in an unknown country with out efficient escort.  I stayed at Warsaw on three occasions after that and got to know the place fairly well.

Continued on page two