Odessa – Straszburg – Tiraspol After 45 Years

Reinhardt, Father Eugen. "Odessa – Straszburg – Tiraspol After 45 Years." Volk auf dem Weg, April 1991.

Translation from German to English by Alma Herman

Prof. Dr. Johannes Florian Müller once told me that as a young priest from Rumania he was sent to the Catholic parishes in the Ukraine in 1941. At that time all priests were displaced and he, together with another priest, was to try to locate these orphaned parishes. On Christmas Eve he came to Straszburg. He was amazed beyond measure how beautifully the church was decorated and how wonderful it was to hear the people sing German Christmas songs. While visiting the houses of birth, I suddenly understood the whole problem of efforts to create a Wolga Republic, especially with the Germans being scattered over all of Russia.

When the Russian, who for more than 40 years had lived in what was once our house, realized that we had come from Germany and wanted to see our parental home, he was deadly shocked. We solemnly declared several times that we wanted nothing and were in no way making demands on him. We only wanted to see the house where we were born. In spite of it all, he refused to let us enter the house. He was friendly, but felt insecure.

Fear of, and hate for the Germans ruled in most parts of the USSR. The hate is fomented by the fear that the Germans could perhaps return to drive the Russians out. Religious fanaticism is another reason for the hatred besides the nationalistic awareness and mutual antagonism toward all Germans in Russia. They are still considered war criminals of Hitler’s Reich. Ten years of hate propaganda cannot be erased overnight.

One of the two German women was related to us. Unaware of this we were surprised to see a photo of our mother on a table. The woman could hardly believe that we had come from Germany with a POW (prisoner of war). Again and again she stammered, “Did you come from the Reich?” She was so excited and confused that we feared for her heart because she was at least 83 years old. She still spoke fluent German in our dialect. We had long and interesting talks. She kept repeating, “The Russians are lazy. They steal, and drink too much Vodka; they are also quite liberal with women.”

The Vodka drinking was obvious everyday. A bottle was quickly emptied. Two people could easily master one bottle per meal. They had a cute way of quickly tipping and tilting the glass. Vodka is expensive under Russian conditions. But since they can buy very little else, enough rubles are left for the Vodka. Even the old babushkas were used in case of a spill.

One night there was a big fight at a hotel in Odessa. Weddings were celebrated nearly every evening, sometimes several at a time in the hotel restaurant. Things would get loud and rowdy. One evening while the guests were out in the street, things began to happen. There was a great mix up! The groom was lying on the ground being beat upon; the bride in her flowing gown stood by the hotel door crying bitterly. The two male wedding guests continued to beat on each other like one can only see in classic westerns. The most unusual thing about it was that the militia was called and after they arrived they just watched the fighting for a while. At last they intervened and the fighting bums separated in haste.

Our appreciation is extended to Alma Herman for translation of this article.

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