The First Approved Visit to Beresina
By Edward Nill and Reinhold Schneider, May, 1991
May 11 we, Edward Nill and wife, nee Schlaugh, and Reinhold Schneider
and wife, took off from the Stuttgart airport. Mrs. Kelm was very
helpful in our preparation for the trip, for which we would like to
express our thanks to her.
We arrived at Odessa after a good flight with wonderful sunshiny
weather. From the very beginning we felt at home. Mr. Kelm was waiting
for us at the airport and escorted us to the hotel. The four of
us were introduced by Mr. Kelm to the district magistrate of Tarutino,
who gave us permission to visit the village of Beresina. Thanks
to the well- planned preparations by Mr. Kelm's Russian friends,
we traveled by bus to Friedenstal. There we were personally welcomed
by the chairman of the district council, who took us in his car
to the inn, which lies on top of the hill between Beresina and Tarutino.
From there we had a beautiful view of Beresina and the whole wide
valley. During the trip he noticed how excited and anxious we were
about coming to the place that had once been our home. Without stopping
at the inn, he immediately drove on directly to Beresina. As we
drove down the hill and saw the wide valley below, we remembered
our childhood days and our joy was overwhelming. As it was late
in the evening, we continued to the railroad station and then to
the home of the Schlauch family [of the] Reinhold Schneider family.
After, we drove on to our quarters at the inn where we had the next
[few hours] to ourselves. To our surprise we were treated to a family-style
meal at the inn in our honor and arranged by the chairman of the
district. Present also were the friends of Mr. Kelm, the chief of
police and his wife, the manager and engineer of the nearby factory.
We had the feeling that the dinner was meant to make amends to the
people of Beresina, who up to this time were officially denied visitations
by outsiders. So we were the first four visitors who were permitted
to visit Beresina.
The next day the mayor of Beresina came for us with his car, taking
us to the courthouse where we were assigned an interpreter and guide.
We were permitted to go about freely and take pictures with the
exception of the area of the military.
First we stopped at the church where we were permitted to visit
the school, the chancellery and the church and take pictures. After
this we went with our guide to the railroad station where we noticed
a new school to the left on what was once the properties of Emmanuel
and Friedrich Herman. To the right we saw a large playground. From
there we went to the family home of my wife's parents, the Edward
Schlaughs. At first, the new occupants were somewhat suspicious,
thinking that we would reclaim the house. My wife had a picture
of the house where she as a child sat on steps. We showed this to
the people and thereupon they let us into the garden and yard. My
wife happily sat on the same steps. I took a picture of this; so
we now have the same picture of the house as of fifty years ago.
For this we gave them some gifts, which were joyfully appreciated.
A few tears were shed on both sides. Together we went to the railroad
station. The building is still in good condition; the surrounding
grounds, however, left much to be desired. However, Schlenker's
house still stands across the street. We then, following the railroad
station street, went to the homes of Otto Lenka, Otto Burkhardt,
Edward Schneider and Johann Nill. Many of the other homes were razed
and replaced with a grain terminal and a warehouse. However, the
homes of Stolz, Necker, and Mehlhaf are still in good condition.
After this we went to the so-called "Sugar town," to the
home of Reinhold Schneider, which is to some extent in fair condition.
Unfortunately, no one was at home, so we were not able to enter
the yard. The homes of Johannes Speidel, Christian and August Schulz
were torn down. All other homes in the area are still in good condition.
From here we traveled by train to Borodino. At the intersection
at Johann Roeder and Otto Woessner we went to the home of Christian
Woessner, and farther on to Jakob Biederstedt. All homes here were
in good condition. On the same street, the home of my parents, Hans
Friedrich Nill, was kept in good condition. The people were very
friendly to us and allowed us to take pictures in the yard and garden.
At our departure they gave us a beautiful bouquet of lilacs. Here
also tears were shed by all. At noon we were guests of the mayor,
who introduced us in a true Bessarabian manner. After dinner we
went to the home of Gottfried Schneider (schoolmaster). Because
of the military installations we were not permitted to go any farther.
From here we went in the direction of Oberdorf. The homes on the
left up to Jakob Reichert, Friedrich Esslinger, M. Schwarz, M. Balder
and Johann and M. Goehner are in good condition. To the right the
homes were all torn down and new ones built, up to the home of Johann
Schneider, which still stands.
After this beautiful and sunny day in Beresina the mayor took us
through the beautiful "Koguelniktal,” where by the big
tree we always participated in the Easter egg hunt and dance. From
here we returned to the inn on top of the hill.
Again we had the opportunity to enjoy the beautiful view of Beresina
As a farewell, the management and engineer of the factory gave
us an enjoyable evening together. Unfortunately, Mr. Kelm could
not be with us at this time because he had to return to Odessa earlier.
The four of us, and I believe in the name of all Beresiner, we
again would want to say a hearty thank-you to Mr. Kelm. We hope
that from now on, because of his efforts and perseverance, we can
look forward to many future visits.