Peasant Autonomy
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Story 41

A small mountain village in Austria – around 1910

First farm-maid, then woman farmer

for bigger picture click on this photo

(Photo: Lutz Koch)


“What a surprise,” Emmy – a pretty, slender young woman with sleek brown hair – rejoices. Three farm-hands and two farm-girls had just arrived from a nearby farm to help with harvesting. Now, we will perhaps be able to make it, she thinks. Actually, it is almost too good to be true, the big farmers will do anything to get rid of us, but we don't let them defeat us. We will show them what we're worth.

It is now almost a year ago that farmer Hillinger was found dead. He had no children who would inherit the farm, and that meant that the church would get everything. But Hillinger hated the pastor worse than poison, and had written a last will wherein he bequeathed the farm to his seven farm-hands, both male and female.
The big farmers were infuriated when those damned bumpkins didn't want to sell Hillinger’s farm to them, but wanted to play farmer themselves. Since when can a farm-hand or farm-maid be a farmer? How glad they were that the tax collector’s office came up with an enormous supplementary tax: 12,000 shillings, due by mid-November.
That was a heavy setback for the farm-maids and hands. How in God's name could they round up these 12,000 shillings before mid-November? Among themselves they elected Emmy as manager, and she took her role very seriously. Everyone had to hand over all their savings. They decided to sell their five cows. Two of the stronger farm-hands started working in a factory nearby, and everyone contributed whatever he or she could to produce as large a harvest as possible this year.

for bigger picture click on this photo

(Photo: Thisisbossi)


How wonderful that, every now and then, a few labourers from other farms come to help us, Emmy thinks. They do it in secret, because their farmer mustn't find out. He would be furious. But still they come. While she is binding sheaves together with the newly arrived farm girls, Emmy says, “You coming to help us out makes this year the best one I have lived through on the farm.”


The movie The inheritors (1998) made by the Austrian director Stefan Ruzowitzky is a poignant drama about a unique experiment.

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The icy cold water - a small Hutsul village in the Carpathians, Ukraine - around 1910, story 42.
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