The 1990s brought a development of international significance which continues to this day. It began in 1984 Mr Iorwerth Rees, one of the Archives’ stalwart early volunteers, noted a baptism entry in a Tondu parish register for Alice Jane (aged 10) and Sarah Ann (aged 8) daughters of George Floyd, engine fitter. His address was recorded as Husoffka, Russia. Visiting now at Tondu.
This was the beginning of a continuing commitment to trace and promote the Welsh connection to this industrial city, now Donetsk in eastern Ukraine. John Hughes, an inventor and entrepreneur originally from Merthyr Tydfil, was invited by the Russian government to develop iron production in the Donbas.
He acquired land and in 1869 established a company called the New Russia Company, Novorossuskoe Obshchestvo, to mine coal and iron ore, and produce rails, bridge sections, ships, armaments, and whatever else was needed. He recruited workers from the iron towns of south Wales and, with his sons, built an industrial settlement on the empty steppe.
The business was successful, after some early difficulties, and remained in the hands of the family until the 1917 Revolution. Although workers were attracted from all over the Russian Empire there was always a core of British employees, including many from Wales.
Photographs and family papers have been deposited by the descendants of John Hughes and his British workers to the Hughesovka Research Archive at Glamorgan Archives. Copies of related material held elsewhere is included, hence the title, among which are some items from the Donetsk Regional Archive, and Russian State Archive in St Petersburg collected on research trips in the 1990s when academic exchange began to be encouraged in the immediate post-communist era. I travelled to Donetsk twice. The first visit in 1990, funded by the British Council, was in the company of descendants of John Hughes and some of his British workers. It was a memorable trip, not least as we arrived, as our predecessors would have, at the main railway station in Donetsk only to walk into the arms of Professor Gwyn Alf Williams and his crew who were filming 2 programmes on the Hughesovka story. I returned with a smaller group in 1992 as a beneficiary of the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust, travelling part of the way with the last twinning tour from Cardiff to Luhansk, also in Ukraine, around 128 km to the east.
I was carrying an exhibition, developed with the Welsh Industrial and Maritime Museum, which had toured south Wales and was now being presented to the Museum in Donetsk. The boards were bigger than me but expertly packed by our conservator and arrived undamaged after a journey by coach, plane, taxi and train. When my group left for home I stayed on in St Petersburg to research Hughes’ correspondence at the State Archives and Museum, lodging with a local family, and supplementing my basic Russian with rusty O level French. The records were in English.
An illustrated booklet on the story of the Welsh in Ukraine is still available and the catalogue of the collection can be accessed on our website. Over the years there have been a number of collaborations to exploit and promote the collection. Currently we are assisting the Museum of Donetsk with digital copies of some of the photographic images to replace part of their collection which was badly damaged by shell fire during the current military conflict in the region.
Susan Edwards, Glamorgan Archivist