You Can't Banish Your "Heimat" From Your Mind

Man Kann die Heimat Nicht aus dem Menschen Vertreiben

Paulsen, Nina. "You Can't Banish Your "Heimat" From Your Mind." Volk auf dem Weg, March 2008, 40-41.

This translation from the original German-language text to American English is provided by Alex Herzog, Boulder, Colorado

Preserving the History of the old “Heimat” -- a Job for Generations of the Mack Family

The two titles
“Erinnerungen an die deutschen Kolonien des Grossliebentaler Rayons bei Odessa”
370 pages, with numerous photos, priced at 23 Euros
"Zwischen Moldau und Ukraine. Erinnerungen an die deutschen Kolonien im Gleuckstaler Gebiet," 160 pages, with numerous photos, priced at 18 Euros
May be ordered from: Eduard Mack, tel, 011-49-751-15861; Elvira and Ernst Schock, tel. 011-49-751-24172, or Walter Schock, tel. 011-49-07131-167929.

"You can banish the person from his “Heimat,” but you can't banish his “Heimat“ from him." Eduard Mack of Ravensburg uses these words to introduce his book Erinnerungen an die deutschen Kolonien des Grossliebentaler Rayons bei Odessa.

The former teacher from Freudental, with the support of his family, has re-published this book as well as a second one, Zwischen Moldau und Ukraine. Erinnerungen an die deutschen Kolonien im Gleuckstaler Gebiet. Both publications offer an insightful look into life in the German colonies in the Grossliebental and Gleuckstal areas, beginning with the founding and settlement times, to life aspects such as church, school, work, customs and more, to repression, persecution and banishment during and after World War II, and into the situation of the former German colonies fifty years after the War.

Their fateful past has left many members of the elder generations in an anxious and restless state of mind. And so, being part of them, Eduard Mack has, with these two books, written straight from his soul, about the trauma of losing one's home.

After fifty years I revisited my old home and took with me a clump of soil from my home village. This soil is fertile with the joys and hopes, sorrows and sweat, with denunciation, abasement and parting. That small clump of soil I held in my hand, the pain and the grief, but also the pride of my countrymen inspired me to write this book," one reads in the introduction to the Grossliebental publication.

Eduard Mack was born in 1918 in Alexanderhilf, and his wife Ottilie in 1917 in Kleinliebental. These two Black Sea Germans became acquainted while teaching at the school in Freudental in the Grossliebental area, and they married in 1939.

Their young happiness did not last long. "Ten years of our marriage need to be disregarded," says Eduard Mack, for that is how long they were soon separated. War, escape to Germany and subsequent banishment tore the family asunder.

Ottilie and Eduard Mack with daughters Elvira (right) and Nelli

Following escape into the ”Warthegau“ (1844), Eduard Mack was drafted in to the German ”Wehrmacht“, and in 1945 he became a prisoner of war and was sentenced to ten years' imprisonment in the banishment camp at Ivdel-Lag in the northern Urals. Meanwhile, Ottilie, little Elvira and mother-in-law were dragged off from Potsdam to the Tajikistan cotton plantations. Only through a happenstance and with some help from her countrymen, after three years of uncertainty, did Ottilie finally learn that her husband was alive, and after ten years, despite many impediments, they were finally reunited.

As always, the couple kept in contact with many friends, relatives, neighbors, former students and colleagues scattered all over the world. And the result is a rich picture of the German colonies in South Russia, including a plethora of photos, not only from the memories of Eduard Mack, but also from numerous contemporary witnesses who made available documents, photos and remembrances. Of course, in the background of this remarkable project there are years of deliberate research efforts and the support of the entire family.

The Macks have been living in Germany since 1990. Most of the family resides in the Ravensburg area, and they tend to stick together closely, in good times and bad ones. From the times in the camps, Eduard Mack carried the basic tenet of always remaining human. In Germany he at last found the opportunity to realize a long-time dream, that is, to write about the history of the German-Russians in the Grossliebental colonies. In time this project gradually became a task for the entire family. Daughters Elvira and Nelli did a lot of editing and correcting of content, and grandson Walter Schock took over the processing of photos and the formatting of the book.

"Not rarely do we get calls from young people who wish to know more about the history of their grandparents who are already dead, and about whom the parents told little or nothing at all," reports daughter Nelli, who works for a bank and is a dedicated musician.

Because there were constant inquiries by countrymen, and even from native citizens who had seen references to the book, the family decided to republish both books. And because the first edition had been met with good response - not only in Germany, but also in the US, in Canada and in Switzerland - many countrymen came forth with memories and documents, some of which found their way into the second editions.

These publications also provided other powerful impacts. When Eduard Mack learned that the former German villages of Grossliebental and Alexanderhilf were to celebrate the 200th anniversaries of their founding (2003 and 2005, respectively), he proposed to Alexei Kotoich, community chairman and former school principal of Freiudental (which today is called Mirnoye) a commemoration fo the 200th anniversary of settlement (1806-1807). "If you'll help us," was the reply from the chairman.

And so the entire family went into action. Daughter Elvira, a doctor, translated into Russian various materials from the book on the history of Freudental, and an extensive folder containing photocopies and other contemporary matter was prepared. Finally, in October of 2007 there was not only the celebration of presenting a memorial for the German colonists of Freudental, but in addition a cornerstone was laid for a museum on the village's history.

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

Permission to use any images from the GRHC website may be requested by contacting Michael M. Miller