Lichtental (Svetlodolinskoye) Celebrates 175 Years

“Lichtental has experienced the best and most beautiful celebration in the village’s entire history.”

Lust, Kuno, "Lichtental (Svetlodolinskoye) Celebrates 175 Years." Mitteilungsblatt, December 2009, 7-8.

Translation from the Original German-language text to American English provided by Alex Herzog, Boulder, Colorado
The venerable church, now protected as a historic building, is the symbol of Lichtental and a witness to German culture that is worth seeing.
Left to right:  Klaus Hilius, Dr. h.c. Edwin K3lm, Kuno Lust being greeted by Mayor Prodanov.

The above headline appeared in the Sarata newspaper’s full-page report on the two-day birthday celebration that was celebrated on September 21 and 22, 2009.

It was not a celebration limited to just Lichtental residents. Many guests were in attendance, from near and far, from every neighboring town, especially Sarata, and among them several mayors, community council members, local politicians, plus other influential personalities from the rayon [administrative region].

Our own German travel group consisting of fifty-five countrymen, with thirty-two Lichentalers among them, was greeted very warmly by Mayor Vladimir Prodanov. A very special welcome was given to the guest of honor, Rudolf Schäfer.

The celebrations began with a festive devotional service conducted by Deacon Klaus Hilius. He had chosen a text from John 8:12: “I am the Light of the world …”

Above us was the gleaming, bright Bessarabian-blue sky, the sun was painting a wonderful light-and-shadow scene on the walls of the venerable church ruins, and the beautiful sound of the Lichtental church bells tugged at our hearts. It was a wonderful, peaceful Sunday morning, one we will surely keep in our memories. I spoke some words to honor the dead and, with Rudolf Schäfer, laid down a cross of honor while Olga Kelm provided musical accompaniment.

Immediately next door, in the old school building (which at an earlier time we had called the new school), the Orthodox community, led by three clergymen from different communities, was celebrating its own four-hour service.

Dr. h.c. Edwin Kelm presented to the leading cleric of Sarata, six hundred Euros intended for pastoral care and for assistance to the needy. Dignitaries and the faithful in attendance received the donation with great joy.

A further highlight of the anniversary celebrations was the unveiling of a memorial stone for Gottlieb Hahn (01/08/1812 – 10/05/1885), the first colonist and founder of Lichtental. On this subject I plan to report in more detail in the next issue. The unveiling was performed by 15-year-old David Hilius (representing the fifth generation of descendants) and Mayor Vladimir Prodanov. There followed speeches by Klaus Hilius, Vladimir Prodanov, Kuno Lust and Edwin Kelm. At the conclusion, we all spontaneously sang the first verse of “Kein schooner Land …” [a traditional German folksong, “No land more beautiful …”- Tr.]

Lichtental, situated in the wide, beautiful steppes.
Village residents listening thoughtfully to speeches.

The formal festive act was held outdoors under wonderful sunshine, under tall, proud trees in a park area (which at an earlier time was famous far and wide as a church garden with a variety of fruit trees). Mayor Prodanov welcomed the many guests from Germany and Ukraine. Speeches by Kuno Lust, Ingo R. Isert, Edwin Kelm and several regional representatives were interspersed with a variety of performances by the students and by dance and choral groups – all received with great applause. Hedwig and Kuno Lust received the traditional welcoming greeting with the customary gifts of bread and salt.

Accompanied again with grand applause, Edwin Kelm, Rudolf Schäfer and Kuno Lust were named honorary citizens.

Mayor Vladimir Prodanov paid tribute to, among other things, the achievements of our honorary national chairman, Dr. h.c. Edwin Kelm, who also received on behalf of the Ukrainian president, the Order of Yaroslav, for his great life’s work and the excellent relationship between both nations in the humanitarian sphere. More than forty years now, E. Kelm has stood as a bridge to Ukraine and, in particular, to Bessarabia and its many home places. Thanks to his energy and endurance, many churches and medical facilities have been built or renovated. And thanks to him, good relationships have developed between peoples. Along with his wife Olga, Edwin Kelm has for so many years provided considerable material assistance as well.

Rudolf Schäfer was the guest of honor. He and his daughter presented their gift, a sum of 1,200 Euros, to the lady rector of the school, again under great applause from the attendees. Our own national chairman, Indo R. Isert, received words of gratitude for his dedication to the understanding between peoples and for continuing and future fruitful collaboration in affection and peace. Kuno Lust also received grateful words for years of close friendship and for his manifold acts of assistance in Lichtental. A collection by our travel group amounting to 400 Euros was presented to the village apothecary.

In the hallway of the community house (once known as the German House) the walls were covered entirely with displays of more than 100 photos about the “German times.” In the same building the grand luncheon was held as well. A long table had been set with many good foods for us 100 guests. It was an opulent meal, with a great variety of drinks – an impressive scene of Bessarabian hospitality.

During and after the meal there was ample opportunity for making personal contacts and for conversations.  Several competitions were held in various kinds of sports, such as free-style wrestling, soccer, and gymnastics. Of course, there was also dancing and singing – and how! The activities lasted far into the morning hours.

Of course there was also ample opportunity for touring the village of Lichtental and the farm sites of our ancestors.

Mayor Vladimir Prodanov said his good-byes to us with cordial words of gratitude for our visit, for our generous donations and assistance on behalf of the kindergarten, the school, the social services office, the orphans, the community, and twenty poor families. He also thanked us for the many friendly encounters and for our own contribution to the successful and harmonious celebration of understanding between peoples. He expressed the wish that we might meet again and often. We were invited to pay more visits in Lichtental and would always be welcome.

I expressed words of gratitude on behalf of all travelers, but also of the Lichtental residents. We, too, wish to build on our friendships and our relationships. We will come back! Lichtental is the home village of our ancestors and even the birthplace of many among us.

The Sarata newspaper was certainly right: “This was the best and most beautiful celebration in the history of Lichtental.”                             

Our appreciation 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