The First Approved Visit to Beresina
By Edward Nill and Reinhold Schneider, May, 1991
May 11 we, Edward Nill and wife, nee Schlaugh, and Reinhold Schneider and wife, took off from the Stuttgart airport. Mrs. Kelm was very helpful in our preparation for the trip, for which we would like to express our thanks to her.
We arrived at Odessa after a good flight with wonderful sunshiny weather. From the very beginning we felt at home. Mr. Kelm was waiting for us at the airport and escorted us to the hotel. The four of us were introduced by Mr. Kelm to the district magistrate of Tarutino, who gave us permission to visit the village of Beresina. Thanks to the well- planned preparations by Mr. Kelm's Russian friends, we traveled by bus to Friedenstal. There we were personally welcomed by the chairman of the district council, who took us in his car to the inn, which lies on top of the hill between Beresina and Tarutino. From there we had a beautiful view of Beresina and the whole wide valley. During the trip he noticed how excited and anxious we were about coming to the place that had once been our home. Without stopping at the inn, he immediately drove on directly to Beresina. As we drove down the hill and saw the wide valley below, we remembered our childhood days and our joy was overwhelming. As it was late in the evening, we continued to the railroad station and then to the home of the Schlauch family [of the] Reinhold Schneider family. After, we drove on to our quarters at the inn where we had the next [few hours] to ourselves. To our surprise we were treated to a family-style meal at the inn in our honor and arranged by the chairman of the district. Present also were the friends of Mr. Kelm, the chief of police and his wife, the manager and engineer of the nearby factory. We had the feeling that the dinner was meant to make amends to the people of Beresina, who up to this time were officially denied visitations by outsiders. So we were the first four visitors who were permitted to visit Beresina.
The next day the mayor of Beresina came for us with his car, taking us to the courthouse where we were assigned an interpreter and guide. We were permitted to go about freely and take pictures with the exception of the area of the military.
First we stopped at the church where we were permitted to visit the school, the chancellery and the church and take pictures. After this we went with our guide to the railroad station where we noticed a new school to the left on what was once the properties of Emmanuel and Friedrich Herman. To the right we saw a large playground. From there we went to the family home of my wife's parents, the Edward Schlaughs. At first, the new occupants were somewhat suspicious, thinking that we would reclaim the house. My wife had a picture of the house where she as a child sat on steps. We showed this to the people and thereupon they let us into the garden and yard. My wife happily sat on the same steps. I took a picture of this; so we now have the same picture of the house as of fifty years ago. For this we gave them some gifts, which were joyfully appreciated. A few tears were shed on both sides. Together we went to the railroad station. The building is still in good condition; the surrounding grounds, however, left much to be desired. However, Schlenker's house still stands across the street. We then, following the railroad station street, went to the homes of Otto Lenka, Otto Burkhardt, Edward Schneider and Johann Nill. Many of the other homes were razed and replaced with a grain terminal and a warehouse. However, the homes of Stolz, Necker, and Mehlhaf are still in good condition. After this we went to the so-called "Sugar town," to the home of Reinhold Schneider, which is to some extent in fair condition. Unfortunately, no one was at home, so we were not able to enter the yard. The homes of Johannes Speidel, Christian and August Schulz were torn down. All other homes in the area are still in good condition. From here we traveled by train to Borodino. At the intersection at Johann Roeder and Otto Woessner we went to the home of Christian Woessner, and farther on to Jakob Biederstedt. All homes here were in good condition. On the same street, the home of my parents, Hans Friedrich Nill, was kept in good condition. The people were very friendly to us and allowed us to take pictures in the yard and garden. At our departure they gave us a beautiful bouquet of lilacs. Here also tears were shed by all. At noon we were guests of the mayor, who introduced us in a true Bessarabian manner. After dinner we went to the home of Gottfried Schneider (schoolmaster). Because of the military installations we were not permitted to go any farther. From here we went in the direction of Oberdorf. The homes on the left up to Jakob Reichert, Friedrich Esslinger, M. Schwarz, M. Balder and Johann and M. Goehner are in good condition. To the right the homes were all torn down and new ones built, up to the home of Johann Schneider, which still stands.
After this beautiful and sunny day in Beresina the mayor took us through the beautiful "Koguelniktal,” where by the big tree we always participated in the Easter egg hunt and dance. From here we returned to the inn on top of the hill.
Again we had the opportunity to enjoy the beautiful view of Beresina below.
As a farewell, the management and engineer of the factory gave us an enjoyable evening together. Unfortunately, Mr. Kelm could not be with us at this time because he had to return to Odessa earlier.
The four of us, and I believe in the name of all Beresiner, we again would want to say a hearty thank-you to Mr. Kelm. We hope that from now on, because of his efforts and perseverance, we can look forward to many future visits.