Germany - Ukraine - What happened? What is going on? What is coming?
By Yuriy Vlasishen, Odessa, Ukraine, first prize winner in essay contest sponsored by Goethe Institute, 2001.
Translation from German to English by Christine Woods.
Our appreciation is extended to Margaret Wolf, Vandalia, Illinois, for providing this information.
October 3, 1990 - Reunification Germany's
August 24, 1991 - Independence of the Ukraine
Since this time much has changed between the relationship of those two countries. Economic relations, cultural exchange as well as personal contact. Write about the development, position and especially the future German-Ukraine connection: starting with the close-knit private surroundings up to the big political picture.
Highlight various positions and point out:
Germany-Ukraine: What happened? What is going on? What is coming?
Odessa, First prize
At the verge of change:
I am living at the border. At the border of epochs, the border of an outbreak of information and nerves, at the border between Odessa and non-Odessa. From my apartment to the next little town it is ten minutes by street car, called Tschornomorka, to the former Lustdorf, a happy German village which used to be called Luisdorf. But since its foundation be the resettlers of the German colony from Württemberg at the picturesque but treacherous and instable coast of the black sea in the year of 1805, has it been carrying the noble name "Kaiserheim".
Today it seems that Lustdorf has recaptured its historical name. It's not on the Tschornomorsker road anymore but on the Lustdorfer street through which the overly crowded Pomeranzen-street car drives back and forth to Odessa. Just like it used to be at one time . . .
Lustdorf, Lustdorf ... The first vineyard (1807), the first school and church (1820), the first really big building (1823), the theater that performed plays in German, Ukrainian and Russian but not only in their home town but also in Odessa as well as in dozens of other Germany colonies which had ended up settling a long time ago in the southern Ukraine steppe.
The Lustdorf people and other colonists survived together with the Ukrainian people the misery and scare of the first half of the stormy century: The first world war, the revolution and the civil war, the famine of 1921-1922 and 1931-1933, the expropriation and the Stalin repression ...
Until the black day came - the 22nd of June 1941. In the grey sky over Lustdorf appeared an airplane which turned out to be a bad thing. Out of the airplane black specs came out over the black sea. Those are parachutists! Germans! The hospital people from Lustdorf gave their fellow country men full of trust a place to stay but they turned out to be disguised Tschekists. What happened afterwards is hardly difficult to guess. Arrest and summary trials. The "lucky ones" found themselves together with thousand of Volga-Germans and "other elements" in Siberia.
There is another, probably believable version of the decline of Lustdorf. Apparently the two versions were "mixed" together in the real situation. According to the "duties" of Odessa by the red army, a certain amount of colonist stayed behind in their village which wasn't so happy anymore and it was held in occupation. Of course the German and Rumanian powers treated them differently than the Slavic and especially the Jewish population but even here the humanity rarely surpassed the politics and brotherly quarrel and fear. Many Ukrainians, Russians, Moldauer, Bulgarians, Jews, resistant fighters or other citizens from various nations or other beliefs that were sentenced by the Nazis were saved by the black sea Germans.
Nevertheless, the people from Lustdorf that didn’t compromise with the occupants, couldn't hope for mercy from the totalitarian Soviet system which by that time had already recorded larger military victories. After Stalingrad many colonists were aware that they had to separate themselves from their home country. They had been on this fertile Ukraine soil for almost 150 years, five generations and who knows how much work and love they had put into these places which were more familiar to them than the far way Württemberg and now they had to leave it all behind - could this really be true? Yes, it is and it hurt but it is better than giving your life away.
And that is how it happened. On March 17, 1944 all inhabitants of Lustdorf - the old people as well the really young ones - moved with their animals and all their belongings towards the west (they went by foot and only the weak were allowed to sit on the hand-carts) behind the German army that had been pushed back by the Soviet troops. Finally, in the little Serbian city of Pantschewo on the Danube were they able to get on the train to Lodz? They didn't reach Germany until the end of the year, at the end of their strength. But the men had to join the army right away - in defense of the historical home country.
By now Germany was starting to get occupied. The new power punished the war criminals harshly. The black sea Germans that survived were deported to the USSR, to the exactly same Siberia because by law they were Soviet citizens. Only some very lucky ones that were in the American occupied zone were able to stay in their home country.
Lustdorf, Lustdorf - your faith has been anything but happy. The only reminder of the olden days are the topographical terms: The central Ernst-Thälmann-Straße, the kolkhoz "Karl Liebknecht" where nothing has changed since the Soviet times - today however, God behold, is isn't called kolkhoz anymore but instead "collective farming enterprise".
Nevertheless, I like to walk on your neglected beaches. Are you listening, Lustdorf? I like to stroll along the endless ocean with its standing winds to remember and to dream. What would have happened if there hadn't been any parachutists, any war, if we didn't carry cruelty, envy and the low desire to insult the person next to us, inside of us, if we didn't make the most out of the misery of others? ... If we didn't dream of absolute power and absolute humility?
Over and above that, I love the church. No, "I love" that isn't the right word, it doesn't fit to God's houses, even if I have the feeling to be enchanted when I look upon it, at times a little sad and in pain (by the way, it is the main church of the German Evangelic-Lutheran church in the Ukraine). With all the master architectural works of which Odessa is so plentiful, the Sankt-Pauls-Kirche brings my soul to a tremble. Why is that, actually I am an atheist? Maybe it is because it is half way destroyed just like my country? It is a tragic story. Not an easy present. And an even more uncertain future.
To be understanding it the most important thing:
We are different: Germans and Ukrainians but we are also similar. We speak different languages but many of the words are the same. It this world the word is at the beginning and together we have to live in this world. And this world was given to us, to make it more beautiful - but only together!
Therefore "Razon" (together).