Letters from Ukraine and Moldova
By Kenneth A. Vogele to his father, Cleo L. Vogele
Odessa, Ukraine, 21 May 2002
First impressions: Flying in from Vienna we could see large verdant
fields, more angulated than in South Dakota, but similar. More bare
ground than at home, possibly a quarter of it all. Don’t yet
know if this was fallow or recently planted. Hope to find out as
we will be with a prosperous farmer, Pavel Pratchuk, later. (Comment:
It turns out that these fields were not fallow but rather were row
crops like corn or sunflowers that were not far enough along for
me to appreciate that the fields had been planted.)
Weather is very similar to ours at this time of year – cool
nights, mild days at about 70 degrees F. We were told that it becomes
very hot and everything dries up in July. Rainfall here averages
a meager 14-18 inches.
Came in from the airport through the old part of Odessa where our
hotel Chernoye More (Black Sea) is. Our plane was a Boeing 737,
which was operated by Ukraine Air for Austrian airlines. It banked
sharply at low altitude, and then waffled back and forth before
a fairly rough landing on the roughest international runway we have
ever landed on. Cracks in the cement were filled with tar like in
bad roads in our country. The grass alongside the runway was overgrown
with weeds such that the jets tied down 2-3 blocks from the terminal
looked like they were out in the country. The terminal was Spartan
outside and in, really communistic in appearance! (Ukraine gained
its independence from the Soviet Union only 10 years ago, remember.)
I don’t recall a stick of furniture in the entrance area.
The floor and walls were covered in stone tile but the wooden writing
counters on the wall and passport booths of wood were cheesy. No
trouble there or with the customs lady moments later – just
a few simple questions like how much money were we bringing in and
did we have any food with us? The terminal was quite a bit smaller
than Rapid City’s, stodgy, bare and with no bustle. This despite
the fact that Odessa’s population is over a million.
Old Odessa was built in the 1800s. The city is rather new, being
founded only in 1794. It is run down, but charming, the architecture
simple but stately. And clean! Everywhere we see people sweeping
the streets with handled brooms or little whisk brooms with bristles
of thin twigs. We ate at an outdoor restaurant yesterday and while
we were there, a lady whisked away some paper from the curb and
our waitress picked up scraps of paper among the tables. (Comment:
This restaurant was the Zara Pizara which just started up two months
ago. Cathy ordered Amaretto chicken here, and it was one of the
best meals she has ever eaten anywhere.)
The currency here is the grivna (greev’-na), equivalent to
the ruble but with a new name after the break up of the Soviet Union.
Grivna is apparently the name of an old silver alloy coin used widely
in this region during the middle ages. 5.2 grivna to a dollar, 100
kopecks to the grivna. The language spoken here in Odessa is Russian
because Odessa was a Russian town from the outset. We learned yesterday
that it is difficult to know where you are here because most signs
and names of restaurants and stores are written in the Cyrillic
alphabet. Today I had what must have been our concierge write the
Cyrillic equivalent under our English alphabet. Hopefully this will
help us out. Fortunately, many people know some English and they
seem friendly so we got by fairly well yesterday.
Odessa, Ukraine, 26 May 2002
I have just finished a whirlwind tour to at least 12 former German
colonies. Dad, you would feel very much at home here – gently
rolling hills, crops very similar to those in South Dakota. Nice
stands of wheat, some rye. Even though it is dry, corn will be “knee
high by the 4th of July.” Also sunflowers and soybeans. No
alfalfa here unless the flower here is mauve rather than blue. (Comment:
The mauve flowered plant was indeed alfalfa. Garnet Permans tells
me that alfalfa originated in the Ukrainian region.) Some differences
also. The hills are more gently rounded and less peaked than around
Lowry where you grew up. And no rocks! I think the difference is
that the Lowry hills are glacial moraines and I doubt these are.
More trees here than back home in South Dakota (despite the German
colonists’ complaints that trees didn’t grow well.)
Trees are not tall, but in some places, they actually form forests
as they cover the tops of hills. Believe it or not, fields are in
general larger than at home, the result of collectivization. The
process of decollectivization is slow. Since 1991 when the Soviet
Union fell apart, only about 30% of land has been privatized. I
have yet to learn the mechanism by which this is done. Not a single
windmill! There must be gas or electrical pumps, but we didn’t
see any. Rather, a well with 20-foot long lever arm was in use.
The Germans called these Viehburnner (cattle well).
I wonder if the reason your dad Christian stayed in Oregon only
7 months is because the environments was so different. Steppe and
prairie are kin, Oregon not.
Gluekstal is now in Moldova. We spent 6 ½ hours getting
through the border from Ukraine and back. Maybe this is because
the part of Moldova between the Ukrainian border and the Dniester
River has declared itself independent and calls itself the Trans-Dniester
Republic. The Trans-Dniester area is a major Russian military area
and the people are primarily Russian, not Moldovan, and they speak
Russian, not Romanian – like tongue of Moldovans.
There is currently a truce between Moldova and the Trans-Dniester
Republic. Moldova allows autonomy but claims the territory. The
Trans-Dniester claims independence but doesn’t push the issue.
Nobody recognizes the Trans-Dniester Republic except possibly Russia.
Glueckstal is in the 20-kilometer wide Trans-Dniester area as are
Neudorf and Bergdorf. These villages are all lined up along one
valley with about 6 kilometers between each of them.
The land around Glueckstal is a little less rolling than at Neudorf
and Bergdorf, but the raising of cattle seems to be the primary
livelihood in all these villages. Maybe more grain production around
Glueckstal. Seemingly, more fruit orchards near Neudorf and Bergdorf.
During the days before Glasnot and the break up of the USSR, one
of these villages, I believe Glueckstal, had something like 55 cows
on the collective and three more were privately owned.
Now there are something like 20 on the collective and 300 personally
owned. This seems like a victory for capitalism, but it may be a
victory for necessity. When communists were in control, most everyone
had a job and got a regular paycheck. Now people have to fend for
themselves because payments for wages and pensions are irregular
at best. I sense that many of the common people would rather have
the old system back. Certainly, there is ambivalence.
Glueckstal was built on gentle hills. Large, well-kept gardens
are everywhere. Yard (Hof) lots are large, I would guess a little
larger than 100 x 200 feet. The population of Glueckstal today is
about 1,270. At its peak in the late 1800s, about the time your
dad Christian, left population peaked at about 3,000.
Many of the remaining homes in Glueckstal are what we call “old
German houses” and would have been built even before Christian
was born in 1872. He would surely recognize them today, though no
roofs that I saw were thatched as were probably most in his time.
Today most roofs are covered with large sheets of corrugated material
consisting in part of asbestos. The corrugations are about twice
as far apart as on our usual corrugated steel. Many homes are missing
form the middle of town, the result apparently of bombing during
German houses have walls about one and a half feet thick, which
is why they still, stand. They tend to be oriented to the long axis
of the lot, but not always. There are usually two windows facing
the street. The corners along the roofline and sometimes along the
base of the house are often white today. Sometimes the plaster is
raised in these areas and sometimes not. Between the white areas
is often painted blue, which varies, possibly because of fading
or maybe by design, from fairly light to quite dark navy blue. Entrance
is through the middle of one wall on the side. There may or may
not be a porch.
There can be a design on the upper part of the front facing the
street (*). Old German style roofs were simple, single peaked affairs
about now at least are in the four-sided Ukrainian style. Almost
all yards are fenced and these fences are often decorated. The common
design is a picket fence with diamonds on it. The pickets are about
2 inches wide and usually white with the diamonds in blue. However,
at least as many fences are modern metal fences with various designs
and brightly painted. White trim on the houses often has a design
on it, sometimes indented into the plaster if the white areas along
the edges are raised. Occasionally one sees tops of downspouts near
the roof that are bulbous with charming punched out metalwork.
Here is the rough sketch of a house I was able to go through in
Neudorf. This house was brought by some people from Tajikistan in
the last year or so for $200 American currency equivalent. This
house was probably 45 x 18 feet or so. If there are additional rooms
in the old style German houses, there are no halls so the rooms
are not very private. Running water in a home is unusual. Water
comes from a well and is hauled in as when you were a kid. (Comment:
These are open “wishing wells” and water is cranked
up by bucket.) No showers. No indoor plumbing. Outhouse, yes. No
raised seat in outhouses, usually. Rather, simply a hole in the
floor. The outhouse Cathy and I used in Novosmarka was leaning slightly
and its door wouldn’t close completely. It had a bucket in
the hold in the floor that someone had to empty. It didn’t
matter that the door didn’t close because the hole was in
the center of the floor and when we squatted, our knees pushed the
door open. In our honor, the outhouse was freshly wallpapered inside!
(Comment: Novosamarak is the home of Pavel Pratchuk and his parents.
The house that we were staying in was actually owned by Pavel’s
father. The old German name for this town is Sofiental.)
I hope you are as fascinated by this stuff as I am! More later.
Odessa, Ukraine, 29 May 2002
I have not been able to locate any Vogele or Schumacher homes yet
for certain with the exception of one site in Glueckstal now superceded
by a communist era apartment complex.
In Glueckstal, I saw the Evangelical Lutheran Church building,
since Bolshevik times a community center (“Palace of Culture”).
All steeples were removed by the communists. The old church in Bergdorf
is also a community center and so was the one in Neudorf, but the
latter has been converted back into a church, now Russian or Ukrainian
Orthodox. It has a new steeple, but not as impressive as the earlier
German one. Unfortunately, no one could be found to open it for
us. All three of these churches were similar.
All had massive round pillars supporting the porch over the side
entrance. Walls were very thick as you might imagine. Windows were
fairly large, admitting good light. The churches at Glueckstal and
Bergdorf (and I assume Neudorf) had fairly large balconies. Kids
apparently sat through services in balconies, adults down below,
females on one side and males on the other. All churches had rounded
apses (alter end) but these were converted to stages with flat back
walls by the communists. In part, these buildings were used for
movie houses (and some still are).
Christian would easily recognize the church today and also possibly
the old school next door. It is an L-shaped building, still used
today but not as a school. It is two stories. Across the street
from the church is the old parsonage, now a bar. After the dedication
of the monument to the Germans from Russia in the new school ground,
we ate in a long room in the old parsonage, probably 75 feet in
length, which I would guess was a reception hall in its earlier
Next to the church is a soccer field and next to that the new
school for all eleven grades in Glueckstal. Both the soccer field
and the school sit on the former German cemetery. Only one gravestone
remains, and it is on display at the school, which was built in
1987. It is for a lady born 1799, died 1860. All other stones were
broken up and used in construction of bridges and buildings. At
Neudorf we saw some intact gravestone bases in the wall of a long
communal barn from a communist collective.
At Glueckstal at 6:30 a.m., I watched as people drove their milk
cows down the streets to the community milking lot. It was an old
house lot measuring about 100 x 200 feet. I watched for about 30
minutes, but saw no one actually milking yet. I suspect they were
waiting for the milk collection vehicle before starting to milk.
I had only suspected that such a collection vehicle existed until
we came upon a couple of herds of cows just outside of Hoffnungstal.
There were possibly 75 cows in each, and both herds about a quarter
of a mile from a wooded area where in the shade was a “German
wagon” with horses grazing nearby. This type of wagon has
a trapezoidal box and may be four wheeled or two wheeled. Wheels
are nearly all rubber though today I saw two of these wagons with
iron wheels. One was at the home of Steinbach (yes! Steinbach) in
Freiburg near Hoffnungstal. There I saw an iron-rimmed wheel submerged
in a small tank of water, apparently to make the wood swell and
keep everything tight.
(Comment: This was at Adik and Katherine Steinbach’s house.)
Dad, do you remember anything like that? The milk wagon held two
plastic barrels, one large, the other smaller. Women would walk
the ¼ mile carrying their buckets of milk, would pour them
into a measuring bucket, and then the milk wagon man would pour
the milk through cheesecloth in to a barrel and would record the
My map from 1941-44 of Glueckstal shows the homes of at least four
Vogeles and a number of Schumachers and at least one Shafer and
one Shilling. I may have found the home of an A. Vogele, but I’m
not sure. I found one Schumacher site for sure as noted at the beginning
of this letter.
After the iron curtain came down in 1991, KGB files were opened
and someone or some group of people created the “martyrology”
list. This list includes the person’s name, son of... or daughter
of.... (only fathers name listed) and the decision of the court
such as “executed”, “set free”, “imprisoned
for 10 years”. AT the Odessa State Archives, I had the archivist,
Lilia Belousova, look up Vogele, but only Vogels were listed. There
were a large number or Schumachers, probably ten. In both cases,
I’m not sure if these are related to us. For the Vogel list,
I will have to complete the descendent Vogele family tree in order
to see if any are related to us. Schumachers, similarly.
Odessa, Ukraine, 30 May 2002
First, I want to talk about the showers here at Hotel Chernoye
More (Black Sea). Poor patent. The base is a square about 28 inches
on a side. The door is a quadrafold Rube Goldberg deal which when
closed it actually slightly larger than the base so it always leaks.
Fortunately, they supply us with special clothe mats to soak up
the water that leaks out. Each bathroom has a drain in the floor
to prevent a flood.
The day before yesterday was a great day. My guide Natasha and
I drove with our driver Sasha (Alexander) back to Hoffnungstal,
en route passing through Neu-Glueckstal. I had studied the map of
Hoffnungstal from about 1930 and had noted only one house that appeared
to be related to us- that of Adam Steinbach whom I had not recollected.
Remember, Dad, that when you and I were in Bismarck in March of
2001, the librarian Rachel showed up the book Hoffnungstal und Seine
Swaben which included a genealogy of our Steinbach family including,
I believe, your grandmother Katherine Steinbach. (Comment: I have
reviewed this genealogy and tentatively believe that Katherine Steinbach
and Adam Steinbach were first cousins.)
This was actually my second visit to Hoffnungstal. Cathy and I
had been here earlier with a larger group rather briefly. First,
we went to city hall, which is an old German building and found
someone who could open the old church for us. This church was in
a different style architecturally from the other Lutheran churches
I had seen, more angular, square pillars. The folks of early Hoffnungstal
were not quite Lutherans; rather, they were pietists or millenialists,
people who believed the world was going to end about 1837.
One of the reasons for their coming to Russia was to be closer
to Mt. Ararat or the Holy Land when this occurred. The steeple had
been removed and all references to religion were covered over inside
by a somewhat gaudy plaster design on pillars, wall, ceiling. There
were rows of chairs on the main floor (theater style) and a screen
in front. A sign at the entrance announced movies one a weekly and
disco dancing, but we were told there hadn’t been any disco
there for a couple of years because the sounds system had been stolen.
Next, we went to look for Adam Steinbach’s house. We found
the location, but the old house was gone and in its place was a
fairly new building that had initially been a shoe repair shop,
then a hotel, and now a small convenience store. This was the best-stocked
shore I saw in any village. It had bread, meat, canned goods, candy,
alcoholic beverages, pop (including “Coco Cola light”
which is rare in the villages). (Comment: Still, this store consists
of a single room probably no more than 20 X 16 feet.)
We were directed to an older man who supposedly knew everything
about the village, and he happened to be chatting with someone out
on the main drag. I had Natasha ask him if he knew an Adam Steinbach.
No, but there were some “Steibahs” who lived 2-1/2 kilometers
further on in another village, Freiburg. We drove in the direction
given and after questioning a couple of people on the street, we
were in front of a fairly typical old German house. This turned
out to be the home of Adik and Katya (Katherine) Steinbach. Katya
and her daughter-in-law and grandson were in, Adik not.
Katya invited us into her porch and welcomed us with some “sour
milk” which we drank from cups. (Comment: This was probably
simply clabbered milk. It was not a whole lot different than natural
yogurt.) She implied that Adik was the grandson of Adam Steinbach
but the story was confusing and I wasn’t certain about much
of anything. Adik was said to be 68, but it would be better to talk
to his old brother Gresha (Gregory) who at 73 years of age had been
born in 1929.
About this time, Adik arrived. Yes, he was the grandson of Adam
Steinbach, etc. He had been drinking too much so we got in out car
with Katya and drove another kilometer or so to the Hof (yard or
lot) of Gresha and Maria Steinbach. Their son Nicholas was also
home, visiting from Odessa where he works. Last year these families
of Steinbachs had been visited by Steinbachs from Germany and in
December of 2001 and January of 2002, Nicholas had visited those
relatives for two months in Germany. I got the address from him.
This is Gresha’s story (which I might ad was not corroborated
by his sister Anna in Odessa). Adam Steinbach and his wife had a
number of children including Matila who was Gresha’s mother.
Matilda married a Jewish fellow named Semen (Simon?) Goldenzwei.
The family maintained the Steinbach name, rather than using Goldenzwei.
(I saw Anna’s birth certificate and her surname is indeed
Steinbach.) I believe Gresha said his family was living in a Jewish
collective at the beginning of WWII. Gresha’s father disappeared
either just before or just after the start of the war. AT least
18 of 60 families in the commune were killed by the Nazis.
After the Nazis came, there were only five Russian families in
the commune plus the Steinbach family. The Russian families were
kind and didn’t reveal the Steinbach’s past. Gresha
was 12 at the onset of Nazi occupation. He said, “When we
were with Germans, we spoke German; when we were with Russians,
we spoke Russian.” Towards the end of the war, Gresha was
sent to a larger city. (I believe Dnieper-Petrovosk) to work in
a factory. He didn’t like the work so he “escaped”
back to Frieburg where he apparently got false papers listing his
last name and his father’s name. Since his dad was dead and
the family used the Steinbach name, this couldn’t be easily
traced. No one in this family seems to have been sent off to a work
camp after WWII.
Gresha ultimately married Maria, and he worked for a commune as
a cow herder for a little over 25 years and Maria also worked there
but I can’t remember now what she did. Getting information
was difficult as I had to ask a question in English and Natasha
would translate back into English. I tried at the very beginning
to just record the English on my Dictaphone, but I got so confused
that I just let the cassette roll so I have (hopefully) the whole
Well, at Gresha and Marie’s place, I took a large number
of photos both inside and out. This is a rough sketch of their Hof
or lot. Our Rapid City chapter of Germans from Russia Heritage Society
hoses the national convention September 2003 and if my photos come
out well, I may do a large mock up of the yard and house for the
Fifth Letter: In the Sky Between Odessa,
Vienna and Stuttgart
3 June 2002
Bedclothes in the Ukraine are odd. On the mattress is a cloth-covered
pad around which the bottom sheet is wrapped. The top sheet is really
a duvet into which a blanket of heavy wool is tucked. This duvet
and blanket just covers the top of the bed, doesn’t lop over
the mattress. Despite this, we were usually toasty warm even though
we had only single beds.
Gresha and Marie’s communal farm was decollectivized about
a year and a half ago. The decision to do this was made administratively
at a level about the collective. The division of the land was apparently
by lottery. Gresha and Marie each got 4-1/2 hectare. (Comment: A
hectare is a square 100 meters on each side and is equivalent to
2.471 acres.) Therefore, they have about 22 acres between them.
Not much, but it shows why the collectives weren’t efficient.
Too much manpower and too few acres. For Gresha and Marie there
is another problem. Their land is out in the communal land (now
private) somewhere and not contiguous with their yard.
Then, there is no one in their family to work the land. Then,
there is no one in their family to work the land. Then, no machinery.
My interpreter, Natasha, told me that the higher officials in at
least some communes expropriated the best machinery from themselves
and now rent it back to those without. This apparently was done
at auction and the machinery sold for little. My understanding was
that Gresha said that he had enough to get by from his yard a lot
with animals and garden and that he didn’t need to fuss with
the land. It seemed to me that he didn’t understand sharecropping,
but all of this might be erroneous.
During our flight from Odessa on Tyrolian Air/Austrian Air, we
were served a meal with metal silverware, the cockpit door was open
and a group of kids from Switzerland were allowed to wander in and
out. Guess they haven’t heard of 9-11!
Odessa is a city of contrasts. Our hotel was on the edge of the
stately old section of the city, about a 1-1/4 mile walk down Richeleuskaya
Street to the opera house, built in the late 1800s and said to be
second only to the one in Vienna. On June 1, we went to the ballet
recital by young people from a ballet school. Outside, classical
statuary graced the main entrance, and inside everything was guided.
Seats were wide and comfortable. Admission=5 grivna=just under $1.
I saw many of the major buildings in old Odessa.
I tried to key in on the oldest ones that Michael Vogele on down
to Christian Vogele and Christof Schumacher would possibly have
seen. I don’t know if Michael ever had to go to Odessa for
anything. Gregoriopol and Glueckstal are about 100 kilometer (60
miles) from Odessa so I doubt he personally hauled grain there to
sell. The Dniester River is only 10 kilometers from Glueckstal so
maybe grain was transported by boat. Mere speculation.
As I understand it, Christof Schumacher as head of household and
Christian Vogele, as single traveler, would have had to go to Odessa
to apply for permission to leave Russia. Today, I spent just over
an hour in the oldest residential section of Odessa taking photos
of what my guide Natasha thought were the oldest buildings. Our
main guide Elvira lives in a house in this district that is over
200 years old and she will send me some photos of it, she says.
Surrounding the old city are newer sections including apartment
complexes built during the Stalinist era (bigger, better constructed,
nicer architecturally and in demand today) and the Khrushchev (1960s)
and Brezhnev (into the 1980s) eras. I will describe a Krushev era
apartment momentarily. On the outside these latter two apartment
complexes are drab, monotonous, uninspired architecturally, and
seem not well kept up.
No on in Ukraine we met had heard of Mt. Rushmore. Many people
in Ukraine and Odessa are extremely poor. Gresha and Marie each
get pensions of about 130 grivnas a month ($25 US). Teachers make
$25-30 per month; college professors make $100 per month. Some profs
apparently sell crafts in the markets because they can make more
on the side there than from their teaching positions. People begging
are fairly common and one sees people digging through dumpsters.
Many older people look rather shabbily dressed. Contrast this with
the young women of Odessa-paradise! I have never seen so many great
bodies in all my life and dressed (or undressed) to the 9's! These
women ooze fashion from their hair down to the tips of their 3-inch
They can walk across cobblestones better than I can walk down a
flat sidewalk. American men come to Ukraine to get wives. Apparently,
this is arranged through agencies. A German guy on our airplane
said there were about 50 guys at this hotel looking for wives/women.
The agency brought in about 300 women and the men had their pick.
I had heard of such a thing from my guide earlier. Cathy says he
was a braggart and a storyteller. These guys must arrange visas
for their women, but the guy Cathy met was despondent because the
lady he was to marry only wanted his Visa card!
For about the first 30 minutes of our flight from Vienna to Stuttgart,
we flew along the Danube River, which I could see meandering through
the Austrian countryside. Scattered here and there were towns and
villages, the houses mostly red roofed (tiled). Separating these
were small green fields and some golden ones, patchwork style, and
tree lined roads or fences and small deep green forests. Many Germans
traveled the Danube by boat from Ulm, Germany, to at least Vienna
where they began to overland trek to Russia. Others made the whole
trip to the Black Sea by water. Michael Vogele might have boated
from Ulm to Vienna and probably went overland most of the way to
On May 31, 2002, Cathy, I, and our guide/interpreter Natasha paid
a visit to Anna Steinbach’s apartment, a Kruschev era complex
built in 1967. She has lived there since it was completed. Her sister
Zina had been invited to meet us also. Anna was born about 1931
and Zina was born in 1944. Anna was round and somewhat ruddy faced
with white hair. Zina, in contrast, was thin. Anna, being the elder,
had most knowledge of the family and of WWII times, but she couldn’t
remember back further that Adam Steinbach and his wife.
Her story about the family during WWII was so different from Gresha’s
that it is hard to believe the stories are from siblings. Anna said
that her father went into the army in 1943 and was killed fighting,
or maybe probably was. There was no mention of her father being
Jewish or of a Jewish collective. She did see Nazi soldiers at times
and the Czeck soldiers were the kindest. I will have to decipher
my cassettes to be able to reconstruct in detail what Anna said.
We got to Anna’s about 3 p.m. and left about 7 p.m. We ate
a little dessert while there. Anna provide wine, strawberries, sour
cream and a kind of green eggplant that was breaded (YUM!). We brought
a Black Forest cake from the bakery.
Anna had many photos and I took photos of some of them with my
camera including one of Adam Steinbach and his wife and four or
five of their 12 kids. I think Matilda, mother of Anna, is included.
If not, I have another picture of her. Anna’s son Victor had
died at age 31, I believe. He was captain of a large fishing trawler
out of the Kamchatka peninsula in the East. He was killed in an
auto accident. A large number of people attended his funeral. Zina’s
son, I believe Alexander, is an actor in an Odessa drama and musical
theater and is about 28. Ukrainian women are not having many children
these days, and many are going childless. Both Anna and Zina are
widows. Anna worked most of her life in a furniture factory. For
that reason, she has nice furniture that is finely lacquered. There
are double doors into her house. The outer is provided and is shabby.
The inside one and the door into her bedroom are very nice lacquered
doors. Anna lives on the fourth of six floors. No elevator. Steps
are of plain concrete with paint slop spots. They seem to be slanted
slightly downward. Natasha thought this was from wear, but I think
constructed that was (inexact). The tiles on the landings were not
quite put in flat so have a crude appearance. Balconies seem to
be somewhat ramshackle, but Anna’s was solid. That is where
I took her pictures.
She had parquet wood flooring in the living room and bedroom but
not tightly approximated so there are little gaps between boards.
On the wall behind the couch was a Persian style carpet, fairly
new. This wasn’t an actual Persian rug. Putting a Persian
rug or a copy (I didn’t ever see a real Persian while in Ukraine)
on the wall behind the couch is common practice in the Ukraine.
This is a rough rendering of Anna’s apartment. I would guess
that it is no more than 600 square feet in size.
Stuttgart, Germany, 5 June 2002
Awakening in the Ukrainian villages would remind you of home with
cooing doves and crowing of roosters, but then there is another
sound, that of the coo coo bird. There is a Russia/Ukrainian folk
belief that the number of times the coo coo coos is the number of
years you have yet to live. Fortunately, coo coos coo coo many times
Huffnunstal means “Hope Valley” and 8 kilometer (5
mile or so) to the south and east is NeuGlueckstal, birthplace of
your mother Fredericka Schumacher. Neu-Glueckstal is a fairly small
village and the only public building that I could find there that
may have been extent in Fredericka’s time was the school.
- Only the back party may have existed then. The director or principal
thought this part was built in 1900 (about) and Fredericka left
for America in 1884. The rooms in the old section had slightly irregular
(wavy) junctions of walls with the ceilings and there were noticeably
rounded on the ends almost as if the rooms had been created by the
rising of the squarish loaf of bread. The rooms built 50 years ago
had much separated by 3-1/2 foot partitions on the boy’s side
and I surmise similar for girls.
Probably there blocks back from the school was the old German
cemetery, which was there in Fredericka’s time. It is not
completely overgrown by lilacs. A few gravestones and some headstone
bases were lying out on the grass near the lilacs. I could not read
a name on any of these. In fact, only on one did it appear that
there had ever been a name, but I couldn’t see all the sides
of all markers. I walked into the tangle of lilacs for 20-30 feet
and found a couple of pillars about 5-1/2 feet tall. These were
constructed of stones mortared together and plastered over. They
appeared to mark the perimeter of a plot or possible even the cemetery
itself. They were still standing. I didn’t see many stones
through the brambles, but it is possible that the overgrowth has
prevented complete desecration of this cemetery.
Most German cemeteries in the Ukraine have been destroyed. In
Neudorf, we saw about four headstones in the wall of a communal
barn. Apparently, most stone from Glueckstal were broken up and
used in the construction of bridges and other structures. The old
German cemetery at Kassel is under a patch of bushes just outside
the fence of the current Ukrainian cemetery there. We saw the Kassel
cemetery first hand. There were a surprising number of crosses there
despite years of official atheism. There are no old iron crosses
of the type used by the German pioneers in Dakota (like your brother
Johann’s) but there were many made out of pipe with end decorations
made of three rings of 1-1/2 inch pipe welded on a cross created
The map of Neu-Glueckstal from 1930 doesn’t list any Schumachers
or other relatives of Fredericka of Christian, but it does show
home sites of three Perman families. I spent considerable time trying
to find these. There is definately nothing left of two of them and
probably nothing at the third either though it was very hard to
correlate the remains of Neu-Glueckstal with the old map so I wouldn’t
completely give up on the latter.
In the Ukraine, I ha an experience which very much contrasts the
mentality there with that in the USA. We were visiting the train
station at Kotovsk because it was probably one of the places where
some Germans got on the train to begin their journeys to America.
The old name for this place was Birsula. I had taken photos of the
front and side of the station and had gone through onto the platform
adjacent to the tracks where the (stinky) toilet was. On returning,
I stepped out over the first set of rails to take a picture of the
backside of the station when a police officer called me.
I stepped onto the platform and the only word I could understand
was “passport” which I produced. I said “Amerikansky”
and “tourist”. A second officer came up and then a couple
Ukrainian citizens. I think I might have been hauled off to the
police station if at that moment Helma Eberle from our tour grouped
hadn’t returned from the toilet. She is a German who was born
in Mariental, one of the German colonies. She was six at the time
the Nazis were pushed back in 1944, and she went by wagon train
back to Germany only to be sent back to Russia with her family somewhere
in the Ural Mountains.
She was too young to work in the mines and had just reached the
working age of 18 when the Supreme Soviet under Kruschev pardoned
all Germans. She married her husband Oskar not long after and they
moved to Tajikistan where she worked as a crane operator while Oskar
was a diver for the local commissar. Anyway, Helma speaks Russian
and German, but not much English. She hurried up and began speaking
in Russian and after about 5 minutes, the officer let me go. Helma
and Oskar emigrated to Germany in 1972. She was able to find her
childhood home in Mariental while on this tour.
We flew from Odessa to Vienna in Fokker 70s made in Germany. A
member of our group was reminded of this story: An American WWII
Ace was describing an air battle on the Johnny Carson Show. On Fokker
was coming from this direction and another Fokker from that, but
he finally got on the tail of one of those Fokkers and shot it down.
Johnny asked the Germans were only flying Fokkers. The Ace said,
“No. Those Fokkers were only flying Messerschmidts!”
In the Air Oven Atlantic Ocean, 7 June 2002
This letter will likely be a Hodge podge of thoughts. Forgive me
if I repeat myself.
Houses in the villages in the Ukraine and Moldova were frequently
fancifully decorated. They had a board nailed upright at the front
end of the peak of the roof. About half the time, this was cut out
in a unique way. I doubt that any two of these were alike. There
were many simpler ones, as well. My guide Natasha thought that these
were a Ukrainian tradition but our main guide Elvira felt this was
a German innovation. The boards facing the roof were sometimes scalloped
not notched or serrated or some combination.
Often there were designs in the triangle underneath the roof on
the front of the house facing the street. Common was some variant
of a rising sun. Jan and Tom Stangle who were with us on the first
portion of our trip had postulated that these might have a religious
significance. I didn’t agree because the motif is seen very
often on fences and is ever seen very commonly in one form or another
in the metal grates over windows to prevent break-ins. However,
I saw a couple on tombstones at Neu-Glueckstal and on the stone
at the school in Glueckstal, which supports the Stangle’s
Almost every yard in the villages were fronted by a fence. Fences
and gates are now a days often of metal. Sometimes these were of
sheet iron punched out with repetitive designs and sometimes wrought.
Metal gate doors often had designs created by welding bent rods
on to the sheet metal or the upright bars. These might be geometric;
especially diamonds, the sunrise design, flower, and I saw at least
one with deer and one with dolphins. All of these metal fences were
painted in bright colors, usually with blue or green background
color. More common are picket fences as I noted earlier.
Less common are fences of plastered stone. Some of these are probably
old German fences, but I couldn’t be certain. Katya Steinbach
said that a fence I though was old was actually recently made. She
said sometime like, “Some people like that style of fence.”
Here is a drawing of the type of fence Katya was referring to. The
pillars are about 1-1/2 feet square. They might have wood or iron
fence material between. They were usually white with some other
color for trim. Sometimes these fences between the pillars were
stone covered with plaster. These seemed more likely to be old to
Plowing, planting and harvesting are done mechanically as is most
of cutting of hay. However, large groups of people were in the fields
even on Sunday hoeing row crops. Fairly large fields were raked
by hand using rakes 3-4 feet wide, sometimes with wooden tines.
Handles on most tools and the tongues of wagons were clearly hand
made from branches of trees. We saw many people cutting with hand
scythes. I saw numerous people forking hay into wagons by hand,
or into sidecar motorcycles. I didn’t see a single hay bale
in the Ukraine. Men could be seen carrying 1-3 large bags of hay.
I saw few newer pieces of farm machinery. Tractors were relatively
small compared to the large models used in our country today. Combines
I saw were small and somewhat faded and rusty on the outside. More
than half of all cows were still the old German red cow, bred in
the colonies in about the mid 1800s. It is apparently both good
as a milk cow and beef cow. The cattle industry is extremely important
for villages, especially milking. A good milk cow costs $380-400
US dollars. Most people own 1-5 cows, usually 1-2.
I saw a fair number of goats, but few sheep. I think hogs are raised,
but I saw very few. Animals were obviously allowed in town and are
must be taken when walking to avoid cow pies. Chicks are everywhere
and geese with 10-15 goslings were common. The ganders could be
nasty when their space was invaded, as expected. Not many ducks
or turkeys. Sometimes foul are herded with a little whip. I think
I saw a lady herding her geese with a stick about four feet long.
Some pigeons are raised including by Gresha and Marie Steinbach,
and at least on other household I saw. I have photos of a pigeon
sitting on a guy’s outstretched arm.
Wild animals were few other than for birds. I saw one toad and
one fox. In Novosamarka, the croaking of frogs in the evening was
boisterous and wonderful, coming from the pond in the common pasture.
Frogs were accompanied by the lesser choir of crickets. There is
some bee keeping as in the days of the earlier colonist, but the
only hives we saw were in Pavel Pratchuk’s father’s
yard in Novosamarka. These hives were like a rectangular box laying
flat to the ground rather than upright as in the U.S. I saw no deer.
There were a surprising number of churches both old and new. The
Odessa State Archives is in an old Jewish synagogue. Lilia, the
archivist, said that the Ukrainian President has said that all former
churches would have to be turned back to their religious groups
in the next few years or so the archives will have to be moved.
Apparently, the new home will be better as the current building
is not heated. Obviously, old Lutheran churches in the villages
can’t be turned back to the Lutherans because there are no
Lutheran there anymore.
The Russian/Ukrainian Orthodox churches that are being built are
in general, smaller than the former churches of old. We saw two
old Lutheran churches that are now being sued by Russian/Ukrainian
Orthodox congregations, one in Neudorf between Bergdof and Gluckstal
and one I believe at Rohrbach in the Beresan group of colonies.
We happened upon that church during its service. There was hay all
over the old wood floor except where several runner type rugs lay.
The singing was great to listen to there. They don’t seem
to discourage taking photos in the Orthodox churches, even during
services. Except for a few benches towards the back of the Orthodox
churches for the frail, there are no seats and the people stand
during the service.
The onion domes tend to be odd in number. The Orthodox cross has
three cross bars. The short upper one said “Golgotha”
where Jesus was nailed to the cross. Below that, the long bar represents
the part of the cross where Christ’s hands were nailed. His
feet were nailed to the angled bar at the bottom. It was tied to
the upright, not fixed, so it was angled.
We left Odessa for Stuttgart on 3 June. Stuttgart is almost like
another world when compared to the Ukraine. It was bombed very heavily
in WWII but has been rebuilt. Some old buildings have been reconstructed.
The facades appear old, but the construction techniques on the insides
of these building are modern. Thus, there is a mix of old and new
architecture. We stayed in the Hotel Royal in the center of town.
It had all the amenities which was quite a change. Hotel Royal had
been built after the war. In Stuttgart, I went to the Heimat Museum
der Bessarabiendeutchen (Home Museum of the Bessarabian Germans).
Bessarabia is the piece of land between Dniester and Pruth rivers.
It was heavily colonized by Germans. Early in the war, Hitler and
Stalin divided up the part of the world so these people were taken
back to Germany where they suffered like all Germans later in the
war, but they didn’t have to return to Russia afterwards so
were not in the USSR work camps. Since Glueckstal is only 10 kilometers
East of Bessarabia, there are almost certainly Vogeles who were
in the Bessarabian colonies, probably mostly women who were married
to men from Bessarabia.
The genealogy list on the computer at the museum had many Vogeles
listed, but since I didn’t have a copy of my family tree with
me, I couldn’t be sure they were in my family. Bessarabia
is an old name, which apparently derives from a group of people
who lived there long ago, the Bessen, and their king Bessarab. Many
things at this museum interested me, but especially two things.
One was a couple of “Hutchele” (for little horses) which
are foot bones of a horse that were painted and used by kids as
toys. These fascinated me because our good Lakota friend Emma Amiotte
(Born 1911) also played with these as a kid and in later life, made
little beaded leather Indian dolls to ride them.
Cathy even sold some of these in her trading post. Her logo for
her first business (Travios, Inc) was an artist’s rendering
of one of Emma’s bone horses with rider and travois. The second
thing that really interested me was the “Placht” or
baby carrying blanket. These were tightly hand woven, very colorful
wool blankets. Apparently, the baby was carried in front and not
on the back. These blankets are similar to a couple we bought in
Guatemala where women carried kids front and back. An old lady modeled
a Placht and I took photos.
Cathy and I went to the Linden Museum in hopes of seeing their
great American Indian collection, but a change in display is in
process so the material was unavailable except for a small room
of stuff. On a city tour of Stuttgart, we actually spent half the
time 15 kilometers away at the Ludwigsburg Palace. This is a Versailles
type palace and was the home of the Wuerttemberg Duke or King (after
Napoleon crowned him King) from the early 1700s until the late 1800s.
Our tour was fantastic because our guide was learned and humorous
and the number of rooms we saw was much greater than at Versailles
previously. It was apparently in part the expense of maintaining
trappings like this place that resulted in high taxes that drove
my Swabians (Wuettembergers) to emigrate to South Russia. In Michael
Vogele’s case, it probably wasn’t religious persecution
that caused him to leave, because he was Lutheran as were most other
We arrived safe and sound last night! It is hard to beat our own
bed (even with jet lag), and our own shower can’t be topped!