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Ceremonial Dedication of a Memorial Site in Zebrikove/Hoffnungstal

Holzwarth-Kocher, Angelika. "Ceremonial Dedication of a Memorial Site in Zebrikove/Hoffnungstal." Volk auf dem Weg, December 2012, 38-39.

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


A certain feeling of nervousness was evident. Still and video cameras had been packed in the early morning, as had been the dual-language song brochures for the ceremony. Following a brief breakfast, by 8:45 AM our bus left the house near St. Paul’s Church in Odessa. Our wish was to arrive in Zebrikove/Hoffnungstal by 11 o’clock.

More than forty persons had boarded the large tour bus. All of us had traveled from Germany to Odessa for the dedication of the memorial site. Some of the participants were planning to stay an extra day in Hoffnungstal, others were planning to spend the next few days in Hoffnungstal, Kleinliebental/Mariental and at the Chutor Schmidt. During our second day in Odessa, two of our group had been invited to stay in Neu-Berlin and were to travel directly to Zebrikove/Hoffnungstal with their hosts.

Certainly, a feeling of nervousness, but also some curiosity, could not be denied, for we were not only eagerly looking forward to the upcoming ceremonial dedication of the site commemorating the residents of former German villages of the greater Hoffnungstal parish, but during conversations

many of our travel group had also discovered family ties, common friends, and new contacts. In addition, the majority of our group represented the former founding families of Hoffnungstal.

Our nearly complete project team for the establishment of the memorial site seemed deep in thought. It was a bit incredulous for us that we were actually on the way there. After so many conversations during recent years, the initial work at the site alongside a team of Oleksandr Manko in October (see also a report in the 12/2011 issue of Volk auf dem Weg ), and further preparations in April, our idea, our plan had taken on reality.

We had planned to dedicate the site for its intended purpose together with Mayor Volodymyr Barnasevych, and, as ecclesiastical representatives, the Pastor of the German Ev.-Lutheran Church of St. Paul in Odessa and the Abbot of the Orthodox Svyato-Uspenski Friary in Odessa.

During the past year, our friendly relationship with the church community of St. Paul’s in Odessa had led to initial conversations with Pastor Andreas Hamburg concerning the ceremony to be held in September, and specific plans had come together during our April stay in Odessa and Zebrikove. We were very pleased about his promised participation. This was important to us, given the historical background of Karl Vogel, the last pastor of St. Paul’s in Odessa [before the church was destroyed – Tr.] having come there from Hoffnungstal in 1937. Now, in 2012, in the former cemetery of Hoffnungstal/Zebrikove, we would be standing alongside the current pastor of the restored St. Paul’s Church. So many traces of the past, so many encounters, great joy, and much gratitude.

We had met Archimandrid IOW (Abbot Hiob), currently of the Svyato-Uspenski Friary of Odessa, in 2004 on the occasion of the 200-year anniversary celebration of Zebrikove. At the time he was “merely”  Father Vasiliy of the local Orthodox church he had built together with the village residents, and in subsequent years we had developed and maintained friendly contacts with him.

The September sun was shining brightly against the blue sky, and none of us were worried about any rain coming up. On a divided highway we drove 400 kilometers [ca. 240 miles] toward Kiev before entering a rather adventurous ride on a country road that finally led us into the valley where so many of our ancestors had found a new home during the 19th Century.

We stopped next to the newly erected village sign, which carried the name Zebrikove as well as Hoffnungstal (!), and we took many pictures. For many years there had not been such a sign. This indicated to us that we were indeed close to our destination, and our photos would show those at home who had not been able to travel with us, that we were indeed there. We were eager to press onward, ready for new encounters, with anticipation for the ceremony at the memorial site, and with expectations of perhaps being able to discover one or another home of parents or other relatives.

Some of us who were actually born in Hoffnungstal had now returned. A few years earlier we did not dare to hope for this kind of encounter. Some of our group had come to this place because their parents or grandparents had told them about it. Others were curious about the site they had come to for its dedication even though their own homeland villages or chutors lay in other directions. However, at the memorial site, everyone could linger with one’s own personal memories.

Three of our project teams had been here the day before, had brought flowers for the celebration, and in the solitude of a day without crowds had been able to shed tears of joy over the completion of the site.

Mayor Volodymyr Barnasevych, whom some of our group knew from the most recent Hoffnungstal parish gathering, welcomed us in front of the village hall. Because the dedication was to be part of an annual village festival, there were some colorful smaller carousels at the village plaza, various booths offered a lot of different things to admire, and in one corner one could buy shashlik. Folks were ambling about and enjoying the pleasant weather.

The mayors of the villages Torosovo/Hoffnungstal and Tchapayeva/Neu-Berlin as well as representatives from their respective schools had replied positively to personal invitations. For some time now we have been in contact with some of the residents of these two villages. It was a true gift that many encounters were going to take place on this day of the dedication!

With some of the invitees we had already traveled together a common path toward the establishment of the memorial site. By now we had more than eight years of relationship and friendship, and now we were going to dedicate this site together.

For the festive celebration, Mayor Volodymyr Barnasevych and we were joined by his predecessor in office, Tatyana Matros, Professor Mykola Zacts and his wife Valentina, Vasiliy Ustinov, school mistress Svetlana Manko, art teacher Tatyana Statnik, journalists (among them Vasiliy Kolpakov), representatives of the communities of Torosovo and Tchapayeva, and numerous residents of the former villages of the Hoffnungstal parish, in whose memory this memorial site had been erected.

Following welcoming comments by Mayor Barnasevych, Pastor Andreas Hamburg led us liturgically through the festive hour – in Russian and in German – and in hymns such as “Groβer Gott, wir loben dich [Holy God, we praise Thy Name]” and “Befehl Du Deine Wege [Order Thy Ways]” as the light breeze from the steppes gently wafted the sound of our singing into the air. Prayers, psalms, the Our Father – all were recited in both Russian and German.

Brief talks by Pastor Hamburg on the topic of Heimat [homeland], by Angelika Holzwarth-Kocher on the parish gathering, and Archimandrid IOW with a blessing rounded out the celebration. The final dedication of the site to its true purpose by Pastor Hamburg and Archimandrid IOW was followed by open visitation of the site, including the memorial stone and the remaining grave stones and historical fragments. Many a thought was directed into the past, or concentrated on family and acquaintances and past events. Two of the visitors were able to locate a grave stone each of a specific ancestor. Not only our flowers, but also those from local residents decorated the memorial stone.

Then came the time for Volodymyr Barnasevych to issue an official invitation for a common lunch in the cafeteria of the Lyceum. There we were hosted by a team of young people, and the table was laden with many fine choices.

The Archimandrid opened the luncheon with a prayer, and after Mayor Barnasevych and Pastor Hamburg offered some toasts, we relaxed and enjoyed ourselves. Tatyana I. Matros provided a brief talk. She has known some of us since 2004, and some of the traveling group since her own visit to Germany in 2005. Also, she had been a constant collaborator during the establishment of the memorial site.

Our travel group was then greeted with the traditional bread and salt and a welcoming song to attend a cultural program in the Cathedral Kulturi, the former German church. To Oleksandr Manko, without whose practical and energetic support the memorial site would never have come to be dedicated, we presented a certificate. And for the kindergarten and the school our group had brought along a small gift.

Subsequently we fanned out for an informal search of ancestral traces, streets, and former homes. A tour of the former German school was offered by its principal, Svetlana P. Manko and by the art and drawing teacher Tatyana Statnik.

Rosa Davidovna, who was to celebrate her 91st birthday soon after our visit, was delighted to see “her Hoffnungstaler people.” Together with her daughter Olga she was able to answer many questions about specific streets, houses, and family members of former Hoffnungstal families, and in addition she told about several happenings in the former Hoffnungstal.

Toward evening, with our minds and hearts filled with impressions of a very moving day, we started on the trip back to Odessa. Richard Mattheis and Harry Hägelen, our two travel companions with ancestry in Neu-Berlin, returned to that village. They intend to report on their experiences in a subsequent issue of Volk auf dem Weg.

“Hitherto the Lord has helped us,” The Bible passage from Samuel 1, ch, 7 is etched, in German and Russian, on the memorial stone, which stands in the midst of the memorial site to serve in memory of all former German villages and chutors of the Hoffnungstal parish.

We wish to thank all those who helped with donations for the erection of this site. In the future, may many visitors linger at the memorial site!

Right to left: V. Barasevych, Ella Nikitin, A. Holzwarth-Kocher, Pastor Andreas Hamburg and Archimandrid IOW.
The Memorial Stone Inscription “Hitherto the Lord has helped us.”
The Memorial Site for the Former Hoffnungstal Parish.

Angelika Holzwarth-Kocher.
P.S. The next Hoffnungstal Parish Gathering will take place on September 21!

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

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