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Ukraine – Land of Contrasts

Paying a Visit to Schabo [Ukraine]

Zarffs, Hildegard. "Ukraine – Land of Contrasts." Mitteilungsblatt, December 2010, 16.

Translation from the original German-language text to American English is provided by Alex Herzog, Boulder, CO. 


Bessarabia, the land of our hearts and minds, the land of our forefathers, had become so important to my husband and me that we simply had to go there at some time. That time had finally come in September, 2010. These days we need only a few hours to reach Ukraine by plane. It takes longer to travel to the homeland villages over land by bus or car. For these places we have descriptions up to 1940 -- notes and writings that we read here in Germany, that we analyze and allow to come alive in our fantasies. The reality which confronted us initially was difficult to work through, but it captured us through the experiences of our forefathers. Places that by 1940 had been built up to expect a great future are now mere shadows of themselves. These include Beresina, the place of my own ancestors. Still, the experiences of human beings who lived there for nearly seventy years do provide us with some hope, a feeling of familiarity, and the certainty that we shall travel there again. This land today is part of Ukraine [other parts of former Bessarabia are today part of the new nation of Moldova - Tr.], and with its wide-open spaces and its dormant possibilities, it will have a good future. I gained this confidence by visiting the town of Schabo. [Translator’s note: Schabo is situated on the western shore of the Dniestr River’s liman, or estuary, which flows north to south, in some places is as wide as eleven miles, and much longer in length. At its southern end it flows into the Black Sea. At that end, there is now a thin cause-way-like land strip that connects the eastern and western shores at the southern, Black Sea end and a road for cars and trucks, plus a high draw bridge to permit boat traffic into and out of the liman. The road turns north on the western side and passes directly by the Schabo vineyards. I was able to travel this way in May, 2010, but did not make it to Schabo itself. AH]

On a sunny Saturday two days before the end of our trip, we had been able to see a part of this land that used to be part of Bessarabia, and on this day our plan was to visit Schabo. Tatyana, our interpreter, had prepared us by telling us we would see something we might not see all too frequently in Europe.

During previous days we had repeatedly driven past the well-tended vineyards, but now we turned off in order to get to the town. A straight road led us directly to the modern, large wine cellar complex with its tall glass exterior and a gigantic free-standing staircase. A high fence was hiding the “factory” grounds. The sanitary facilities, made entirely or marble, allowed us to forget everything we had experienced previously. A well-tended wine bar on the opposite side of the street served as an invitation for folks to stay and sing a while, and many of our group did just that. I went off to gather walnuts, which lay ripe and in great quantities under the trees lining the street. When we continued on, the bus stopped after only 300 meters [ca. 1, 000 feet]. We had reached the private hospital known as the “Olga and Edwin Kelm” medical center. Dr. Stepanov was waiting for us at the entrance. Twelve-year-old Irina and her mother were there, too. Irina moved us all with her elfin-like appearance. Supported by her crutches, she was by now able to walk. How wonderful that there is humanitarian assistance from Germany and that people like Selma and Herbert Hablizel have decided to cover the costs of operations and of rehab regimes (see. also an article in Mitteilungsblatt 8/2010, p. 13).

Dr. Stepanov told us about how the clinic for orthopedic operations came about, and of the immense efforts by the Kelm couple [that made this possible]. He warmly thanked Dr. h.c. Edwin Kelm, who, in turn, decided there were too many laudatory words being expressed, so he quickly interrupted all those expressions and, by personal preference, involved himself in conversations with patients from Friedenstal.  Then he asked whether there were any doctors or nurses in our travel group. It turns out that our group included a female doctor from a clinic in Neubrandenburg, and soon enough the two doctors were exchanging experiences which the rest of us were unable to follow due to our lack of professional knowledge. Although I have no medical knowledge whatsoever, I was allowed to enter rooms where patients were being operated, were receiving rehab treatments, and were being housed throughout their stay. Patients had clean beds, received meals and medicines they required – things that, as our interpreter explained, are not necessarily a matter of course in a country where many people suffer infectious bone maladies.

Dr. Stepanov described the difficulties involved with the operations, which his colleagues from Germany thought could never happen in Germany. With some pride he showed us devices he had received from Germany so that he could help more people in a better way.

People from all over Ukraine come to this hospital, and the view of the liman led us to imagine that this, too, might contribute to healing.

Out day in Schabo ended in front of the church ruin. Our national chair, Mr. Isert, talked of his ancestors, who had built up this place of ethnic multiplicity and tolerance.

The days of our trip passed in a flash, and the impressions we gained will remain with us permanently.

Twelve-year-old Irina is making perceptive progress

Our appreciation is extended to Alex Herzog for translation of this article.

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