Memorial Site in Zebrikovo/Hoffnungstal Taking Shape -- a German-Ukrainian Story

Holzwarth-Kocher, Angelika. "Memorial Site in Zebrikovo/Hoffnungstal Taking Shape -- a German-Ukranian Story." Volk auf dem Weg, December 2011, 34-35.

Translation from the original German-language text to American English is provided by Alex Herzog, Boulder, CO.  Editorial assistance provided by Nancy A. Herzog, Ph.D.

Together with a small group of young men of Zebrikovo and the surrounding area we were standing in the former German cemetery in order to take initial action toward the realization of our memorial site project for the Hoffnungstal Parish. Although the sun was shining brightly, the wind on that October day was blowing very cold. It penetrated any and all protection offered by a jacket or whatever. At the open field of the former cemetery it was free to blow wherever it would.

Our group consisted of Willi Wall, his daughter Lena (at nineteen years of age the youngest-ever visitor to Zebrikovo), Erika Dorn, Rita Heidebrecht, my husband Thomas Kocher, and me. On October 14 we arrived in Zebrikovo, the former Hoffnungstal, with the goal of beginning to make our project a reality.

After some still existing gravestones from the village of Hoffnungstal were discovered in 2004, the council of the [former?] Hoffnungstal Parish wanted to make sure to secure those stones, to keep them safe from vandalism, and to preserve them in the framework of a memorial.
The following factors contributed to making it possible to establish in Zebrikovo, a village in which no Germans reside these days, a memorial site to commemorate the former residents of the entire parish:
the relationships between participants of Hoffnungstal Parish gatherings and the residents of the former village of Hoffnungstal itself that began in 2003 and have been improving ever since; ever-growing friendships; visits to Zebrikovo; and especially the opportunity to welcome visitors from Zebrikovo during three get-togethers of the Hoffnungstal Parish organization.

What had its beginnings during the term of Mayoress Tatyana Matros was finally taking on reality through the support and active help from acting mayor Volodymyr Barnasevych, the Oleksandr Manko business concern, and a group of young workers.

Their support came in the form of a group of helpers and of construction machinery, plus their inimitable hospitality. They put us up in the homes of Oleksandr Manko and family, Vasil Ustinov and his sister Ludmilla, who happened also to feed us and take care of us with exceptional warmth. All this allowed our work and our stay to become a special experience. We hereby express our sincere gratitude to all.

For our German and Ukrainian construction team these proved to be two interesting and exciting days. On Friday morning we were all moved as the first grave stone was dug up with great effort and transported to the memorial site. Our thoughts were with the parish residents who had lived here at one time and of whom many had found their final resting place in this cemetery. We were working through many emotions, and after we had completed the first work day we all said a quiet Our Father.

We pay great respect to our Ukrainian helpers and admire the engagement with which they supported us in our work and how they found spontaneous solutions to problems that kept arising. The problems ranged from preparing the memorial site grounds to securing the gravestones and transporting each individual stone across the former cemetery to the memorial site, and from careful disposal of waste to building a new path paved with gravel.

Certainly they must have wondered about our exactitude and about the way in which we proceeded and the methods we employed to determine and create exact distances, spaces, straight lines, and so on.

Erika and Rita, the only ones of our six-member group who spoke Russian, were constantly translating and interpreting. Still, and despite all, in many small things we and our helpers understood each other, at times without words being spoken, often simply via a glance, a gesture, or a hand motion.

On Saturday, deeply moved, we admired the fruits of our labor. The first project phase was complete. The final phase, to include setting the memorial stones, sowing grass, erecting a fence, etc., is to be implemented in the spring.

The joint dedication of the memorial site is being planned for September of 2012. It will be part of a village celebration in Zebrikovo and include the participation of Mayor Barnasevych, Messrs. Manko and Ustinov, Mrs. Matros, the pastor of the German Ev.-Lutheran Parish of St. Paul in Odessa, Andreas Hamburg, and the bishop of the German Ev.-Lutheran Church in Ukraine, Uland Spahlinger.

Former Hoffnungstal parish members and descendants have already indicated their interest in participating in the dedication celebration!

The concluding part of our stay included a walk from Zebrikovo to Torosovo, the former Hoffnungsfeld. Irina Manko spontaneously decided to come along. With Irina, we were walking in the steps of our forefathers! Her six-year-old daughter Amalia was elated when she was able to greet her mother again after the twenty-one-kilometer trek [ca. 13 miles].

The eventful days came to an end when we parted via our return flight of October 18.

We wish to thank all those who have already supported the memorial site financially and those who will yet do the same!

On behalf of the project group,
Angelika Holzwarth-Kocher,
Tel.: 011-49-7033-392041

Unearthing and Transporting the Gravestones.
Our team, left to right: Angelika Holzwarth-Kocher, Thomas Kocher, Erika Dorn, Rita Heidebrecht, Willi and Lena Wall.
The Memorial Site during the Initial Phase of our Project.
Together we got it done!

Our appreciation is extended to Alex Herzog for translating and to Dr. Nancy A. Herzog for editing this article.


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