Farewell, Beresina – Ade, Beresina

"Farewell, Beresina - Ade, Beresina." Mitteilunsblatt, 15 August 1991, 1.

Translation from German to English by Alma M. Herman, Fargo, North Dakota

Some villages managed to celebrate a considerable number of reunions. The people of Beresina, although theirs had been a large colony, were late in being re-assembled and held only their fourth reunion this year in the illustrious town of Marbach. It was hosted by Helmut Schneider in the name of the Preparatory Circle. Perhaps it was because the Beresina village residents were so widely scattered all over the world. It is remarkable that in the invitation circle the last Beresiners could find each other through singular appearance and intuition based on questions asked of the grandchildren that could be answered by particular Bessarabians. This included the young and the grownups of Resettlement times. The question of “Where to?” by our group of people drives this generation, after all the years of fortunate membership in our society, to ask the question “Where from?” to which they could not get complete answers in the troubled times of their youth.

Beresina was founded 175 years ago. Many visitors came to the rally from the north and south and now at last also from the east. Some, as earlier, came from overseas. They met in memory of our dead to place wreathes in the Marbach cemetery; to the festival worship service that Professor Erwin Dobler of Beresina conducted in one of the Marbuch churches. Then they were reunited with friends and relatives at a program in the town hall where Herbert Wegenast greeted the festival assembly in the name of the Preparations Committee together with a representative of the civic community of Marbuch and Mr. Edwin Kelm of the Association of Bessarabian Germans as chairman.

The festival speaker was Dr. Hugo Schneider of Beresina, for the third time. After he gave an account of the history of the colony, then of the dissolution of the village in 1940, he placed a logical accent on the future. The village is dissolved; the community is scattered. The younger generation of Beresiners (die buba ub mäla) boys and girls of that time, as Dr. Schneider said, have advanced in years. And with the last generation those in Beresina who at Christmas still “ghurgelt” with nuts and, prior to the plastic age, played “Knochantscha” along with the history of Bessarabia will fade into memory. Dr. Schneider should be squarely faced, but he could not stay on general subject matter because he had much concrete information to impart: “According to the will of the festival authorities, today’s meeting will be the last of its kind. The village community says it final farewell, definitely.”

For many, that is a momentous announcement. They experienced the last Reunion festival without suspecting anything. Yet for some countrymen of the previous DDR the political circumstances were the reason they had to remain the first time. The speaker himself admitted that at the thought of it his heart ached – “weh ums herz.” Contrary to this personal sentiment, the following facts must be faced. Time has healed wounds. Entrance to the life of the new old homeland has long since been accomplished not only by the grandchildren. Personally it became constantly clearer how much Dr. Schneider treasured the memory of the Bessarabian homeland and in the social and political developments does not perceive the grounds for more sorrow even if he is not pleased with everything that surrounds us. It is certain that this fourth Reunion of Beresiners took place “under improbable and altered conditions. There is no longer a divided Germany.” Beresina could undeniably express that at least this one time it was celebrating a joint “wiedersehn” (Reunion).

“We are so completely integrated in this country,” said Dr. Schneider, “that an organized assembly would no longer be necessary. Especially if there were not things like motives, wishes, memories and common things that come into play – things that do not come from intellect, but from the heart. It is not a matter of habit but of the heart because home is not a matter of habit.” In these words the well-known and regrettable human connection between the long-prevailing companionship factors and the very personal visible bond uniting people socially and geographically that has marked us.

To these factors belong, my thinking, the younger reporter, for instance. Also, the problem of minorities in Poland to whom Dr. Schneider referred. The general desire of the German is not one that I, as a Bessarabian Germany, am obliged to agree with. The fact remains really also that Bessarabia can still chart a course of life as people, for instance, can be suddenly surprised by a smell that shuts out their native surroundings as Dr. Schneider made clear with one of his poems with which he ended the speech after a moment of silence in memory of the Bessarabian dead.

“For years I went at night by moonlight
Through the Welzheimer Woods
You know what comes over us sometimes;
One believes he hears a melody, or suddenly
He is aware of a smell in the nose
Or a taste on the tongue.
Remarkably, I smelled melons –
Like at home when one in summer opened the cellar door and I
Went down to my shack and wrote the following:

The Smell of Melons

Moist and rotten autumn leaves
Under the shoe of the wanderer.
All take leave; also those who
Would gladly still stay.

The odor of the melons in summers of yesterday.
Many summers, those on the steppe at home.
But that was long ago.
Yet this odor lit the lights of home
On an autumn evening.
The secret tie between the future and the past that never left us Bessarabian Germans was addressed not only in Dr. Schneider’s speech of the day. It was visible and evidenced in the rest of the program at the Homeland meeting and brought awareness of how much a part of our lives this binding tie has been.

During the moment of silence in memory of the dead in Beresina, a band played which had been directed by a Beresiner for years.

One could feel that the representatives of the political community could not really understand why a member of the Preparatory Board that he knew as his neighbor for the past ten years should be among these guests from Beresina and so obviously like himself. We still count him as one of us in spite of all. Together the guests then waited anxiously for pictures of scenes in Bessarabia that Helmut Schneider had selected among old inventories and Alwin Kalish, fresh out of Beresina had brought with him. There were visitors who were ceremoniously entertained in their old villages in Bessarabia. In Beresina the former inhabitants were not received in such a kindly manner. It seems there were secrets in Beresina and the authorities reacted to the visitors with arrests and identification. We were not wanted there. Superfluous would be the question: Who, after 50 years would finally go there again? As visitors, we would have liked to at least be welcomed and tolerated by the authorities. Whatever now develops in our village community, it is in any case, time to heartily thank the host district for four successful and much appreciated rallies in our community of Beresina. We respect your decision not to plan any further rallies even if we regret it and hardly want to believe that the time has come to say a final “Ade, Beresina,” “Farewell, Beresina.”

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

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