Neu-Elft Observes its 175th

Winkler, Ella Jeske. "Neu-Elft Observes its 175th." Mitteilungsblatt, 1 February 2001, 2.

Translation from German to English by Alex Herzog

Nadja, teacher, and her students welcome the German guests with Ukrainian bread and salt at Neu-Elft.

Neu-Elft observed its 175th birthday on August 19, 2000. It was the reason for our repeat visit to our old homeland. Five years earlier, I had fulfilled this long-standing wish for the first time. What a great gift to myself it was to be in my birthplace after so many years, and to be able to get to become reacquainted with the home of my ancestors.

We were warmly received by the current residents, and their hospitality was great. In Akkerman we were received with the traditional symbolic bread and salt. After breakfast the next day, we drove to Neu-Elft. After our arrival, I noticed that exactly eleven people formerly from Neu-Elft had made the trip [elf = eleven, Tr.]. What a coincidence!

A friendly reception from the people we had come to know before. In the school yard, people were busily erecting a memorial stone and preparing for the upcoming celebration. On August 19, along with a large group of travel companions, we drove to Neu-Elft to attend the celebration of the big jubilee. It was a hot summer day. We arrived in the village at 10 a.m. and were greeted by the locals and by Nadya and her school children, who were clad in their beautiful, home-crafted local costume. She welcomed everyone in the German language. Mr. Kelm thanked Nadya, the children, and all the locals who had already assembled. He was so pleased to see the children in their colorful costumes. Here, as before, bread and salt were extended as a sign of welcome.

German visitors stand by new Neu-Elft monument in the village.

Pastor Buchwitz welcomed the local residents, all Neu-Elfters present, and all the guests. Then we all sang a hymn intoned by Mrs. Kelm, Grosser Gott, wir loben Dich ["Holy God, we Praise Your Name"]. Pastor Buchwitz spoke on the text from Isaiah 40:1, "Troestet, troestet mein Volk! spricht Euer Gott" ["Comfort, comfort, my people -- it is the voice of your God," New English Bible translation]. In an old saying, we often hear "Du bist nicht ganz bei Trost" [loosely translated, "You are in need of comfort"]. That is quite normal, for we all need comfort and help from others. In good times and in bad. It is for this that our memorial stone stands here today, that it may give us comfort in difficult times. There followed the "Our Father," prayed in unison, and the hymn "Ich bin durch die Welt gegangen" ["I have passed through this world"].

Nadya's words, spoken in German, expressed the wish for peace and friendship between the German and the Ukrainian people. The mayor expressed the same wish in his own speech. He cordially welcomed us visitors to Neu-Elft. All speeches were translated by our travel guide, Tatyana. I would now like to add some of my own thoughts on the dedication of the memorial stone.

In the spring of 1818, a train filled with hopefully expectant settlers from Wuerttemberg, Prussia and Saxony reached South Russia. They arrived dirt poor and weak of body and soul, but also deeply disappointed at the sight of a treeless, bare steppe-like land overgrown with wild grass a meter high. Had it been possible to do so, many would have turned back right away.

Settlement of the community Elft, which according to tradition was originally named Michaelsruhm [loosely, "Michael's Glory"], took place during the years 1822 through 1825 -- 1825 being the founding year of the Neu-Elft colony. The group of 126 settler families were originally assigned to the area number 11 of that region set aside for settlement. The size of this mass of land was 7,655 dessyatine [Russian surface measure], or 8,383 hectares [a hectare equals 10,000 square meters]. With unbreakable courage and genuine pioneering spirit, the settlers founded the colony ALT-ELFT on the western bank of the small river Kogaelnik, and the colony NEU-ELFT to the North, in the Alliaga Valley. Neu-Elft is a mosaic stone without which one can simply think about the history of our communities. Its settlers toiled in agriculture, animal husbandry, viniculture, and fruit-growing. Wines from Neu-Elft, especially its quality wines, were popular and in high demand. According to the last accounting, more than 30 shops of skilled tradespeople were also part of the community: wagon builders, carpenters, millers, coopers, and especially masons.

Along with its current residents, we are happy and grateful that today, on the 175th anniversary of Neu-Elft, we are able to celebrate the dedication of this stone in the memory of its German colonists.

The inscription on the memorial stone reads as follows, starting with a phrase from the Bible:

Peace be with this place. Neu-Elft was founded in 1825 by German colonists. According to the German-Soviet Agreement of 1940, its German residents were resettled in Germany. This memorial was erected and dedicated on 19 August, 2000 by former German residents of Neu-Elft.

Mr. Kelm concludes the celebration with the following words: "This celebration is a small mosaic piece on the road toward Europe. We walk together with you into the future. Our wish is for presperity for the Ukrainian people, not within twenty years, rather, in ten years or even sooner. My wish also is that you may live, the way our ancestors lived, happily, and in friendship and peace."

Following the dedication fesitivites, we were treated by the team of teachers and students, right there in the school yard, to a grand ethnic program of singing and dancing. They even performed a few verses in the German languages. Afterwards, we were invited to dinner in the old school. The tables were could barely contain the great amounts of food, drinks, and various delicacies. We carried out a spontaneous collection that should have repaid our debt to some degree.

Present also were two former countrymen who for some reason had not left Bessarabia: Hugo Juengling, born in Neu-Elft, who today had come from Alt-Elft; and Alma, nee Kuck, who had come on horseback from Paris.

Mr. Horning filmed the entire trip in impressive style. If you are interested, you may order the video from him.

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