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Visiting the former German villages in Southern Ukraine

By Marv Weiss, September 2008


Robert Schneider and I pose with the Kuzubs – Nikolai, Maria, Lilia – of Krasna, Ukraine.  Krasna, up to 1940, was a German Catholic colony in Bessarabia.  Many Fox Valley families trace their roots to Krasna.

David and Valerie present German Family Pedigree Charts to Antonina Leontjevna at the Karlsruhe German Museum in Stepovoe, Ukraine.

Ludmilla Safranovna is a senior Archivist at the State Archives of Ukraine in Nikolaev.  Ludmilla has found valuable family information for me at both the Simferopol and the Kherson Archives.  Photo by Karolina Fromm.

David Kilwien, Inna Stryukova, Valerie Ingram with Nina Ivanovna at the German museum in Katherinental, northeast of Landau.  Photo courtesy of Karolina Fromm.

The former Catholic Church in Elsass, of the Kutschurgan region.  Elsass is today Scherbanka.  The village celebrated its German origins at a 200-year Jublilee Festival on Saturday, September 20, 2008.

In the former German village of Mannheim, here I am standing beside the house of Ludwig Schwab and Elisabeth Weiss, sister to my grandfather.  They were living here at the time of the German Evacuation of 1944.  Mannheim today is called Kamjanka. 

Mannheim -- The root cellar in the yard of Sebastian Gross and Katharina Schwab, the parents of Maria Müller.  (link)  This yard is right beside the Schwab-Weiss yard pictured above.

View of Mannheim from the highway to Odessa, only 50 km away.  Even though the former Catholic Church, dedicated to the Nativity of Mary in 1896, stands in ruins, it still dominates the skyline. 

A memorial cross erected on the east bank of the Dnjester River near the town of Majaki.  Thirteen Selzers were caught here by Russian partisans on Good Friday, 09 April, 1944 and executed.  Approximately 450 German people were not able to cross the river to the temporary safety of Bessarabia, visible to the west in this photo.  Soon after, they were all exiled to the eastern and northern reaches of Russia. 

Selz or Limanske – this is the house where three Weiss widows and their children were living up until the German evacuation of 1944.  It is the fourth house from the end at the southern tip of Selz, on the road to Kandel.  My grandfather was born in this yard.  I do not know if it is still the same house or not.

Selz – this, I believe, is the former Michael Fetsch property, on an upper side-street, behind the church and east of the cemetery. My grandmother was born on this property, and so were Eugen and Ida Vetsch who live in Leverkusen, Germany.  Ida cannot be sure if it is still the same house or not.

The cemetery at Hoffnungstal, Bessarabia overlooking the valley where more than 2000 Germans once lived.  Nothing is left of the village.  We all took a moment to remember Dale Wahl, prominent GRHS researcher and team-leader who died of cancer 13 June, 2008.

Crimea – Wanda Hopkins and I at the entrance to the former German village of Zurichtal or Zolote Pole.  It was probably the most affluent of all the German villages in Crimea.  My Great Grandfather, Anton Schafer, 1847, was born in the village of Asanbaj, very close by.  His mother was Katherina Buchmann, a daughter of perhaps the most influential family in Zurichtal.  Photo by the Aspenleiters.

Leaving Zurichtal, this is the view to the south of a fertile agricultural valley slowing giving rise to the Crimean mountains, just visible behind the tree.  Photo by Carolyn Schott

Mel and Clara Beckler, Gayla and Rich Aspenleiter and I in front of our hotel in Sudak, with the fourteenth century Genoese Fortress in the background.  Photo by Rich and Gayla.

Our tour group in the reading room of the State Archives in Simferopol, the capital city of Crimea.  My mother was born about 25 km to the east.  Photo by Karolina Fromm.

Crossing the Burul’cha River – east of Simferopol.  This small river begins in the Crimean mountains to the south (left of photo) and runs through Rosental, Crimea (about 2-3 km south) and on through Anakoj-Eli to the north (right of photo), where my mother was born, about 10 km from this point.

Translator, tour guide, good friend – Inna Stryukova of Nikolaev – and I enjoy the view over the Black Sea on the Yalta coast.  Framed between us, perched on a cliff, is a small castle known as the Swallows Nest. 

Yalta coast -- Friends Valerie Ingram, David Kilwien and Karolina Fromm, descendants of Germans who lived in the Beresan district northwest of Nikolaev.  Photo by Carolyn Schott.

Enjoying Chubareki and beer high above the Black Sea near Yalta.  My Grandfather Schafer could never have imagined this picture.  I have to eat Chubareki at least once when I visit Crimea, but I know the ones my mother made had more meat in them!  Photo by Carolyn Scott.

Friends Gayla Gray and Carolyn Schott along the Crimean coastline, co-editors of GRHS Heritage Review.

Friend Konstantin Ponomarenko, a Soviet war hero, defender of Stalingrad, and his book about his service in the Russian Army during WWII, which I helped him to publish. 

A beautiful Autumn afternoon in Bessarabia.  Photo supplied by Carolyn Schott.

Telling our tour group about Konstantin, who was born in Anakoj-Eli, two years before my mother was born in the same village.  This was my third visit with Konstantin.  His son-in-law Anatoli is sitting in the background.  We met in Simferopol.  Photo by Karolina Fromm.

David Kilwien, Robert Schneider and I pose with the Kramarenko family of Ochakow.  Jenia (between David and myself) acted as a translator for me for two days on this trip.  Her uncle Vovo, on my left, was my driver.  Vovo’s son, Vladik (GAP shirt), was in Boston in early 2008 for surgery to correct severe burn damage sustained in a fire when he was about five years old.  Photo by Karolina Fromm.

September 2008 Robert Schneider Tour Group – 34 villages in 17 days.

Touring through the Liebental colonies, here we are about to enter Franzfeld or Nadlimanske, as it is called today.  The name means “upper liman”.  A liman is an estuary or backwater.  The Selz Trek stopped here on its first night on the road, March 25-26, 1944.  The village of Selz was the last of the villages in Odessa district to be evacuated.

A crumbling statue of Lenin in Josefstal.  While statues of Lenin are still found in Ukraine, there are absolutely none of Joseph Stalin.

Weintrauben, or grape vines in the Ukrainian village of Vinogradne.  This is the former German Lutheran village in the Beresan region which was formerly known as Worms.  The grapes were as delicious as they look.

Members of our tour group who trace roots to the German village of Landau, the most prominent village of the Beresan region.  The village is now called Schirokolanivka. 

Rich and Gayla Aspenleiter in front of the house in which Rich’s father was born in Speier, Beresan region.  Speier is today called Pischani Brod. 

This is the old collective farm less than a kilometer east of the tiny village of Neu Selz, where Anna Thomas was living with her family prior to the German evacuation of Odessa district in March 1944.  Anna is the daughter of Friedrich Thomas and Brigetta Weiss, my grandfather’s half-sister.  Anna lives in Usingen, Germany since 1992.

 

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