Memories of Waldemar Seidel
Seidel, Waldemar. "Memories of Waldemar Seidel." Cochrane, Alberta, December 2010.
While browsing Google Earth (Odessa), I found the street and apartment where I was born (1933) and lived until March 1944. Here I also found pictures of the newly rebuilt St. Paul’s Lutheran Church. My parent’s and I lived across the street from the church 1933 - 1944 and from the window of our apartment I admired the Church.
While reading the GRHC Heritage Collection web pages, I found a personal invitation to share information, photos, stories, records and documents relating to the St. Paul’s Community.
I will begin with an introduction of my Mother’s family side:
My mother’s grandparents immigrated from Germany (Schwaben) to the Ukraine in the early 1800’s. The village name was Alexanderfeld (a village between Odessa and Nikolajew), and nearly everyone who lived there were farmers and German speaking.
My great grandparents name was Heinrich and Caroline Haupt. My great grandparents farmed (fruit, corn, wheat, etc.), great grandfather was a paramedic in the village. They had one son Heinrich and three daughters, Karoline, Martha and Amalie. Karoline and Martha married two brothers Karl and Reinhold Zimmerman,Amalie was married to Heinrich Beeh. Their son Heinrich was taken away from his family and sent to Siberia during the Stalin regime (never heard from him). The farm was confiscated and went in the Kolchos Pool. The Haupt family died and some moved.
My mother Emma was born in 1912, her mother Martha Zimmerman died when my mother was three years old. Great grandmother raised my mother in Alexanderfeld, but when the time came to start school, my great grandmother sent my mother to Odessa to her oldest daughter Caroline Zimmerman and family. My mother was adopted into the family who had a daughter, Anna and a son Volodia.
My mother lived in the apartment with her step family, she attended the Deutsche Realschule (St. Paul’s across the street). My mother’s step parents had hired a part-time teacher’s aid (the Lady Maria Mutchell who came from Bessarabia (Torutina), who taught piano and helped with the school work.
In late 1920 my mother’s stepmother died. In 1930 her stepfather was detained by the police and then sent to Siberia (he never came back).
The stepsister/stepbrother and my mother were informed from the GPU (Police) to vacate the apartment and relocate to Kazachstan. At this time my mother was engaged to my father who was an officer in the Red Army. They married immediately and my father took over the apartment. (My mother told me that it was her wish to get married in a church, my father agreed and without letting anyone know, they went toAlexanderfeld, there was no Pastor anymore but a (Kyster, Kirchendiener) married them. The stepsister/stepbrother relocated to Kazachstan. (Our old address in Odessa was:
Novoselskaya 57 Wohnung 2.)
My father’s family:
My father’s grandfather Adolf Seidel immigrated fromAustria to Bessarabia in 1800. He was a blacksmith and had twelve sons and one daughter.
My father’s father, Valerie Seidel was born 1873 - 1931 in Bessarabia, he married Elizabeth, they had six children (Olga, Angelina, Anna, Anatoli (my father 1906-1941), Elena and Anton. Elizabeth inherited a flour mill and my grandfather and Elizabeth ran the flour mill. I only knew Olga (doctor) and Anton (lawyer/sailor), both lived in Odessa.
My father’s parents died in 1920-1921, the four girls and two boys were raised and educated in an orphanage. My father and his sisters/brothers could not speak German. I learnt the German and Russian language at home. When my mother’s relatives came, German was spoken.When my father was home and his relative came and I played with the other children in the apartment, Russian was spoken (1933-1938).
I was born and lived in the apartment with my parents untilMarch 1944.My father was often called back to the army, when he was home he worked part time in a factory. I remember in the summer when the weather was warm, my mother and many other apartment mothers would cross the street in the afternoon and come to the steps of the Lutheran Church with their children. In front of the church we would ride our tricycles.
The church doors were always closed, we all wondered what was kept in the church.
I often heard from the old people living in the apartment that the Church Bell will be removed, but after removing the church bell from the Russian Sabor Church and dropping the bell no attempts were made to remove the St. Paul’s Church bell. Some old Russian people said the Lord punished the Stalin Regime for removing and dismantling the Sabor Church and dropping the bell.
One evening I overhead my parents talking that the cross will be removed from the St. Paul’s Church tower. During the night the cross was removed, when I woke up the next morning and looked through the window the cross was on the ground and workers were cleaning up.
In 1941 Germany declared war on Russia. The German Airforce started dropping bombs on the city. The Russian Air Defense was not established properly, often the bombs were dropped and the German planes gone before air sirens went on. We often spent time in the apartment basement, the bombing continued and we decided not to go to the basement because if a bomb would hit the building there was no equipment to remove the rubble and dig out the people from the basement. I remember some of my parent’s friends (Russian and German) coming to us and staying in our apartment. Everyone believed that the German Air Force would not drop bombs close to the German Church. It was true, no bombs fell around the church.
As the German/Rumanian Army front came closer to Odessa, they started using heavy artillery shells, shooting into the city. St. Paul’s Church got hit by a shell and some small damage was done. It was a very difficult time, a person did not know where the shells would fall, many civilians got killed or injured. I myself had a close call. On a quiet day, my mother and I went to visit my father’s sister who was a doctor working in the hospital. My mother left me sitting on a bench beside a young woman in the hospital solarium, suddenly a shell hit the glass wall and scrap metal flew underneath my shoes along the floor, it hit the young womans ankle. What saved my ankle was I was too short and my feet were a foot off the ground. All I received was a small cut in the face from the flying glass.
Our drinking water was starting to get salty and many other problems started in the city.
My father had gone to the front and he perished.
After many months, we finally noticed that the German/Rumanian army would invade Odessa. One afternoon everything came to a standstill, first the Rumanian army (horse and wagon) came in front of St. Paul’s Church, shortly after German army trucks rolled in and the Rumanian army moved. In 2 conservatorium buildings across from the church the German army established their headquarters. After a couple of hours, German soldiers opened the front door of the church, two soldiers climbed the stairs and started to ring the church bells.
The German army issued Odessa Germans, food coupons, we received some bread, milk, bacon, etc., the Russian population received nothing.
Many trucks were parked in front of the army headquarters and the Church parking lot. The winter was very cold (-40 c) and the army had difficulty starting their vehicles. Most of the trucks were kept running all night. The German soldiers were not equipped, their clothing and shoes were of no use in the winter. 1942
I started first grade German school (in Russia children started school at 8 years of age). The German school was opened by the German army to the Odessa German population. The German army brought in German Pastors from Siebenbuergen. St. Paul;’s Church was reopened, the Pastoren were sent in the German hamlets, one Pastor was assigned to St. Paul’s Church.
When I was born no church existed, my mother’s wish was that I get baptized. I was 8 years old and baptized by theSiebenbuergen Pastor. Because we had a four room apartment the German army requested that we let the Pastors stay in our apartment when they had their meetings in Odessa, also the army rented some room to stay overnight.
When I was not at school, I hung around the trucks, many drivers who did not know the city asked me to help navigate through the city streets. Sometimes they shared their dark chocolate ration with me.
The German army requested all Odessa Germans relocate to Germany. My mother and I left my Father’s relatives in Odessa.We travelled on German Army trucks to Owidiopel, Akerman, Bersina, Galaz then by train to Kalish (Warthegau). As the Russian front came closer we moved to Vienna, due to heavier bombardment from American/British we moved to Znaim (Czechozlvakia).When the war ended, we came back to Vienna. After living in Vienna for 1.5 years we immigrated to Stuttgart (Germany). After completing school, I apprenticed in the Motor Mechanic Trade.
My mother and I immigrated to Saskatchewan/Alberta, Canada, courtesy ofMr. &Mrs. GottliebWoelfle of Golden Prairie, Saskatchewan. Mrs. Hanna Woelfle was my mother’s teacher at St. Paul’s School in Odessa. Mrs. Hanna Woelfle married Gottlieb Woelfle in Golden Prairie, Saskatchewan, Canada in 1952.
I lived in Burstall, Saskatchewan from 1955 to 1970. I worked as a mechanic in a garage and as a Millwright in a gas plant. In 1970 my wife, children and I moved to Cochrane, Alberta. In 1998 I retired from working at a gas plant.
In 1994 my wife and I visited Odessa (after 50 years), we visited my father’s relatives who still live in Odessa. I showed my wife the apartment where I lived. We also looked at the burnt-out St. Paul’s Church. I never expected that the church would someday be rebuilt.
Some day I hope to visit Odessa again and attend a church service at St. Paul’s.
Old Map of Odessa and Besserabia.
German Army bus with three German Soldiers and Waldemar Seidel in the courtyard of our apartment.
St. Paul's Lutheran Church 1941 - 1944 (in service.)
Copy of Waldemar Seidel's Baptism Certificate.
Four Pastoren from Siebenbuergen and Waldemar Seidel in the courtyard of our apartment.