Journey to the Homeland 2004

by Florence (Schatz) Barrow

Regina, Saskatchewan
June, 2004

Florence Schatz Barrow, Regina, Saskatchewan.
Florence Schatz Barrow and her daughter, Alixis, Regina, Saskatchewan
Eva Schatz Barrow, Florence Schatz Barrow and Mary Ann Hueser, Eva's daughter, standing by the highway sign for the Ukrainian village of Kamenka, former German village of Mannheim, Kutschurgan District, about one hour from Odessa, Ukraine. They all live in Regina, Saskatchewan.
Mary Ann Hueser, Florence Barrow and Eva Hueser enjoying Ukrainian dinner in downtown Odessa cafe.
Florence Schatz Barrow standing in the former German villages.
June 1 - Day 1

Eva (Schatz) Hueser, her daughter Mary Ann and I left Regina, Sask. at 6:00 am via Northwest Airlines (KLM partner) for the first leg of this journey. We had to be at the Regina airport by 4:00 am, so we knew this would be a very long day. When we arrived in Minneapolis about 9:00 am, had about a 6-hour to wait for our next plane, therefore had plenty of time for breakfast or a snack. In Minneapolis we were met by other members of the Tour as well as Michael Miller, our Tour Director. In total there were 10 Americans and 3 Canadians. We left Minneapolis just after 3:00 pm for Amsterdam, Holland and Budapest, Hungary.

June 2 - Day 2

We arrived in Amsterdam 6:30 am (next day) after flying approximately 11 hours, had a 3 1/2-hour wait then boarded another flight at 10:00 am, arriving in Budapest at noon. I found my large suitcase had been damaged, the zipper had been broken and the suitcase had been duct-taped about a dozen times to keep it secure. Before leaving the Budapest airport, I put in a claim with Northwest Airlines/KLM, all the while wondering how I was going to manage until I got another suitcase. Our tour guide was very helpful, she got the hotel reception people involved to find a luggage store, because I had no idea how long it would take to settle the claim. Michael Miller, our tour director, said he would accompany me once a luggage store was located.

In the meantime we each went to our rooms. I had no sooner arrived to my room when I got a call from the reception desk asking me to empty my suitcase and bring it down to the front desk because a KLM representative was coming in an hour to check the suitcase to see if it was repairable. I left the suitcase with them. Within a half-hour I received another call from reception asking me to come there to look at a suitcase the representative brought with him, to see if it was suitable. I was more than satisfied, it is a much sturdier suitcase than the one I had. I immediately signed the receipt, shook hands with the representative and happily took my new suitcase to my room to repack. From the time I found my damaged suitcase in the airport until a new one was brought to me at the hotel, it took only six hours. Amazing!

As a matter of information, the difference in time zones are:

June 2 - 1:30 pm (Regina)
June 2 - 9:30 pm (Budapest)

Budapest is 8 hours ahead of Regina.

It rained when we left Regina, and it had been raining in Amsterdam and Budapest all week. I am hoping tomorrow will clear up because we will take in a tour of the City, then visit and spend most of the day on the bus sight-seeing. Even though it is raining, the weather here is hot and humid. By the way, the only English-speaking TV channel is CNN.

June 3 - Day 3

During the City tour of Budapest, we visited a museum, St. Matthews Church, and their Parliament Buildings. Lots of walking, lots of stairs, as well as a lot of forgettable history lessons from our tour leaders. However the architecture is beautiful with many buildings built like castles with stained glass windows. We were then taken to a Chocolate-Cafe where we were served coffee/tea and cakes.

The streets are narrow, and confusing. If parking is allowed on one street there is only room for one car or bus to go through that street, even though all streets appear to be two-way streets.

We also visited their opera house. Impressive! Inside was horse-shoe shaped, had three tiers/levels, with theater boxes on both sides for dignitaries, nobility and moneyed-barons. Each wall and theater boxes have ornate carvings and gold filigree designs to outline each box. Very beautiful! When we entered the opera house we were given elasticized paper shoes to cover our footwear. This was to keep the opera house free of dirt and muddy waters, as all the hallways and aisles are carpeted. All the seats are covered in plush velvet. There are three entrances, each walled with paintings of famous singers and composers.

We had the afternoon free, until 7:30 pm when we were taken to an authentic Hungarian ‘supper’ feast followed by an evening city tour of lights. We returned from our 3 1/2 hour sumptuous supper held on the island of Margaret, which is one of three islands near Budapest. One other is named Elisabeth, and the third name was not given. Our authentic supper was delicious with more food than we could eat. Music and entertainment was provided, also costumed dancers were on stage throughout the entire meal.

After the supper we took a short city tour of the night lights, then back to the Hotel Fiesta (4-star) to rest, and pack for our flight the next day with Hungarian Malev Airlines to Odessa, Ukraine.

Budapest is a combined name for two cities, Buda and Pest, separated by the Danube. Buda holds the main businesses and government buildings, palaces and cultural centers, and is on the ‘hilly’ side of the Danube with many trees and parks. Pest is on the flat land side of the Danube where the hub of businesses are held, such as construction companies, hotels, stores and where most of the people reside. Our hotel was in Pest.

Seven bridges cross the Danube, the main one is Chain bridge, so named because it was built entirely with chains in 1873. Another is a suspension bridge located at the Danube’s narrowest point between the two cities.

June 4 - Day 4

The Hungarian airline - Malev - took approximately 1 1/2 hours from Budapest to Odessa. What a joy to have finally arrived. We met Elvira Zahavora at the airport. Elvira is from the Odessa Intourist and extremely organized. She cleared our group through Customs by providing each of us with a Ukrainian Visa. We had been previously asked to provide her with 2 passport-type photos for the Visa which allowed us to enter the Ukraine. Elvira speaks several languages, and her English is near-perfect with a hint of Russian as she speaks. She is efficient, friendly and very helpful - an absolute delight to work with.

We were then driven to the Chornoye More Hotel in central Odessa, to rest up until 6:20 pm when we once again were gathered to listen to the agenda she had outlined for us. We then drove to a Welcome Dinner at a Ukrainian restaurant for another sumptuous authentic meal. I was told that Lilia Belousova would be joining us.

Lilia Belousova is the Deputy Director and Head of the Department of Information, Publication and External Relations, State Archives of Odessa Region. I had contacted her via emails through Elvira Zahavora because the Odessa Archives computers had had a virus. I asked Lilia in February, 2004 if she would do some researching for me, and was advised that she would comply, and would deliver what she had found when she meets me in Odessa.

As we arrived at the restaurant, I was introduced to Lilia. Lilia Belousova, who is very beautiful and talented in research and journalism, but seems quite shy. Elvira mentioned that Lilia appears on televison, often in commercials and in documentaries in order to supplement her income in order to support herself and her son.

Lilia brought many pages of documentation about names of people and ancestors I had asked her to research for me. I had sent her a list in February. There was a cover page for the documents which briefly outlined what they were. Much of it was in either German script, Latin or Russian. When I tried to offer her money for her work and documents, she refused and said “This is my gift to you.” What a treasure!

I will be seeing her again on Tuesday, June 9 before we leave Odessa, when I shall give her photocopies of other documents I have, which I hope she can authenticate. Lilia will bring with her whatever she finds on those other documents, when we will again meet in Bismarck, N.D. GRHS convention July 21-25.

While we ate authentic Russian-Ukrainian food, which included one of my favorites “Haluptsi” - cabbage rolls with equal parts meat and rice, we were entertained by a small group of 2 men and 3 young ladies who sang and danced for us in their lovely costumes. We all enjoyed this wonderful evening.

There was a 24/7 confectionery store located one block from our Odessa hotel where we were able to buy water. I was not the only one that felt dehydrated since we left the USA. Since arriving in Hungary I had been drinking about 2 litres of water per day. The water in Odessa cannot be drunk, whereas the water in the hotel in Budapest was drinkable.

June 5 - Day 5

After breakfast in the hotel we toured the city of Odessa. All our breakfasts were included in the tour, as well as several suppers, and the occasional boxed lunches when visiting the villages. The hotel had taken all our passports for safekeeping, which was probably a good thing for there were many beggars on the streets, some alone, and others in groups of 2 and 3. One woman I saw begging was a very old lady just outside the doorway of the confectionery store.

After lunch at 2:00 pm we had some free time to rest before going to the opera - Bizet’s Carmen, sung in French which entertained us from 7:00 pm to 10:30 pm. The performance was equivalent to $6 USA, plus $4 for the taxis.

When we returned from the performance we arrived back at the hotel for a late supper at 11:00 pm. Few had eaten before attending the opera, so we were famished by the time we returned, and were thankful for the good food that was prepared for us.

Elvira, our tour director, said that times have to be arranged for supper at the hotel. For example, if we wish to eat at 6:00 pm, we must advise them and not arrive earlier because we will not be permitted to sit down anywhere until our appointed time. At 6:00 pm we would be seated, then promptly served by waiters who will only serve our tables, and no one else’s until we are finished. However, if one is late, or if the entire group is late, that is acceptable. We were assured that the hotel will hold our meal until we arrive, then commence serving us.

Very little money has been spent, since most our meals are included in the tour, except for bottles of water. The hustle-bustle of this city is never-ending. Not only does the city never sleep, it seems that cars do not require mufflers. The traffic in Odessa is no different than in any other major city, which means it is constant and very noisy day and night. This hotel was chosen because of the convenience to emenities, therefore the traffic is endless.

Most buildings are from 2-4 stories high and reminds one of run-down seedy buildings that should restored. In between some of these old buildings a newer one is standing as if it had been restored or newly built. The Chornoye More Hotel stands between two such tumbling buildings. However the hotel is clean, the rooms are spacious enough, similar to a 2nd class hotel at home. All of the staff wear uniforms and are pleasant toward us visitors, and give the appearance of being employed by a first-class hotel, which it might very well be by Ukrainian standards.

While touring the city yesterday, we stopped at a nice resort area where we could see the Black Sea. Sunbathers crowded the beaches, but very few were in the water - it was much too cold. The city of Odessa has a population of approximately 1,000,000, and I am sure every one of them drives by this hotel each day. They drive very fast, and if one decides to cross the street they might be taking their life into their hands, because cars appear to have the right-of-way.

June 6 - Day 6

Today is the day we have all been waiting for. We will visit as many Kutschurgan villages as possible beginning with Mannheim, about 60 kilometers north of Odessa. We three Canadians were provided with an interpreter and a driver with a van to take us wherever we wanted to go for the next three days. All six villages’ names have been changed and are now known as follows:

Strassburg - Kutschurgan
Baden - Otscheretovka
Selz - Limnskoye
Kandel - Ribalskoye
Elsass - Cherbanka
Mannheim - Kamenka

Prior to departing Odessa, we gave Michael Miller all the items we brought along for the Landau orphanage. We brought bars of soap, pens, pencils, erasers, writing tablets and chocolates for the children. Michael departed for Landau with some of the other tour members, and we three left for Mannheim.

We took pictures of the Mannheim (Kamenka) church ruins, inside and out. Then we met a boy (Vladimir Trofimov) about 13 years of age on a bicycle with a scythe, and two girls about 8-9 years old, and took their picture. Through our interpreter Janna Gonchar, we asked the boy if he knew where any old German houses remained. Without preamble he told us to follow him as he rode on his bicycle almost out of town. There we found a crude building probably made from sandstone, clay and stones that had to have been one of the first houses constructed in the early 1800’s. Time and the elements had almost destroyed it. Inside was a dirt floor, two rooms, low roof and small paneless windows. Nothing could be salvaged. It is sad to think the first settlers had to build and live in this kind of rough housing. There were several other such houses, some with wells, some with cellars still standing, but nothing salvagable.

We also took pictures of the cemetery in Mannheim. We met another boy about 12-13 years, who asked if we would like to see his mother make pancakes (crepes). We were met by his Armenian mother and possibly other relatives, who were rolling, then flattening out dough. This was in a very small lean-to baking room that was exceedingly hot. The boy’s mother began to swing the dough similar to stretching pizza dough, after which she laid the stretched dough over a flat steel surface where the heat came from beneath a burning wood stove. The thin dough remained stretched as she slowly pulled it off the stove top. Then she laid it onto a pile of others similar in size. The Armenian lady was such a friendly person, seemed pleased to show us how she worked to earn a living.

Next we visited Elsass (Cherbanka) where we were told by Elvira Zahavora and our day guide Janna Gonchar to contact one Karl Lorenz. We located the house of his daughter Hilda Drobenko, who told us her father died two years earlier. I took her picture because she appeared somewhat older than her 61 years, wore an apron over her dress, had on woolen stockings as well as socks in well-worn shoes. On her head she wore a ‘babushka’ which seemed the norm with the older women of the villages. We continued to drive around looking for more old German houses.

Our next stop was Selz (Limonskoye) where we met another contact, Ludmila ‘Lousa’ Riesling, age 67, who spoke German and for whom we had brought tea bags from Canada. Louisa lives in a house with her daughter Helena and granddaughter, and is trying to immigrate to Germany to live with her brother Walter Riesling. Louisa uses her maiden name so that she can keep the house she was given by the government after her father was accused of a crime then shot. The house was compensation after her father was found innocent of the charges. After her father was killed Louisa had been sent to Siberia, Kazakstan then to Latvia, and when it was safe to do so she returned to Selz where she was given her house. She has since restored the building and the summer kitchen where she does most of her cooking.

She welcomed us with both arms and was eager to please. I gave her the tea bags I’d brought, Mary Ann gave her a huge bag of items which she put together for Louisa. She then showed us her home and proceeded to prepare lunch. We brought our own boxed lunches with enough food for twice the people. However, we had to taste her delicious crepes filled with cottage cheese, browned lightly in a buttered skillet. They reminded me of the ‘blinza’ desserts my grandmother used to make. Louisa also brought out her homemade peach jam, and tea was served. Whatever food was left over remained with Louisa and her small family.
Later we walked to see the ruins of the Selz village church that was in as bad shape as the others we’d seen. I took photographs of the church inside and out. Then we walked around awhile, saw more ruins, then decided it was time to leave for Odessa.

Louisa is an eager-to-please person and certainly enjoys visitors. I asked for her address through our interpreter Janna Gonchor, to which Louisa replied that she would give it to us ‘tomorrow’ because she wants us to come back for another visit, and that is the only way we will get her address. She kissed each of us in turn as we made our way back to the van.
After leaving Selz, we went to Baden (Otscheretovka), and simply drove through it because it looked like a town that was dying. We then drove to Strassburg (Kutschurgan), checked out the ruins of their church, but could not locate the cemetery which was supposed to be directly behind the church. We found a goat tethered to the church ruins, and as I wanted to take it’s picture two girls about 9 years old wheeled by on their bicycles. I asked them to stand next to the goat as I took their picture.

From there we returned to Odessa.

June 7 - Day 7

Another day travelling to the Kutschurgan villages. First to Baden where we saw more ruins of the church. We found our contact Stefan Kolesnikov who was referred to us by Michael Miller. Stefan had visitors from Germany who we spoke with through our interpreter Janna, until Stefan returned from his errand. The lady from Germany told us her husband’s mother was a Waljor/Walyer which was one of the names we were hoping to find. (Eva’s father Anton Schatz and my father Benedict were brothers, and their mother was Marzelena Waljor). We waited for Stefan and the woman’s husband’s return and were invited into Stefan’s house where we tried to determine how the German couple were related to Eva and myself. Our interpreter had to work overtime to translate what was said because it often happened that two spoke at the same time in Russian. During the discussion and translating, Stefan’s son brought fresh food to the table, cherries, strawberries, cookies and tea.

The couple from Germany were Johannes and Katharina Derzap. Stefan gave me the address and the email address of their son Dr. John Derzap who is an orthopaedic surgeon currently living in Munich, Germany. Johannes was excited and talked non-stop, so it was not actually determined how we were related.

As a souvenier Stefan gave us a copy of a written history of the region, written in Russian which will require translation, and he also gave each of us an old Ukrainian note worth 50 Kapbobahis(?) used in 1917. Before we left we took pictures of them all.

Back to Mannheim (Kamenka) we met up with the Pastor of the Lutheran Seminary, Most Rev. Alan Visser who had just returned from Prince George, B.C.. He took us through the nearby ruins of the Catholic Church, built in 1870, explained that he was an American who lived in Canada, and was in Mannheim teaching new seminarians for a six-week term through an interpreter. He mentioned there had been three Catholic priests buried near the church, although it was impossible to find their graves because of the high overgrowth of weeds. He also said one other priest had been buried inside the church, but was removed later on. This last priest was thought to be near beatification after his death. No names of the priests were known.

Rev. Alan Visser told us that the gravestones of the original Catholic Germans were bulldozed into a pit and covered, are now under lilac trees, and are not locateable. The church was burned 1991 when a die-hard Communist thought the people might rebuild the church. The roof was burned with that fire.

Off to Kandel (Ribalskoye) where we located the ruins of their church. This was a much larger church than others we’d seen, built on a hill with steps leading up to the entrance. Again I took pictures, also one of Janna Gonchar our interpreter and our driver Yvon. As it was nearing lunchtime, we found a suitable table with benches where we ate our boxed lunches. We also shared our lunch with a stray dog who stayed close to us.

We returned to Louisa Riesling’s home in Selz (Limonskoye) where she again insisted on feeding us. We had a lovely visit, met her brother who had arrived from Germany while we were there. On this visit, Louisa gave me her mailing address.

On our way back to Odessa, we passed Mannheim (Kamenka). The church stood out in the distance, so we stopped to take one last picture from the road. As we neared Odessa we approached the “Odessa Hero City” monument with a huge star and the word Odessa in Russian. The Hero City is in memory of the Ukrainian soldiers who fought and died defending their country in 1941 against the Nazis.

Generally the villages are poor and live on what they can grow. It appears that many have large gardens with vegetables of every kind, as well as fruit trees. Some homes have cellars below their houses, which can be entered from both inside and outside the house. Others have cellars next to the house with one entrance facing either front or back. We saw a good number of flowers such as rose bushes and delphiniums in front of houses. But what is most noticeable is the many trees in the front and back yards, almost to the point of hiding the house itself.
The roads in the villages are full of pot holes, and none have sidewalks along the streets. Everywhere people walk, older women wearing ‘babushkas’, aprons, woolen stockings and socks. Their ‘babushkas’ are very colorful, while the rest of the clothing are generally on the dark side.

There are cars in the villages, however they are rare. Children ride bicycles. There do not seem to be any traffic laws, except that they drive on the right side of the street, and give cows and other animals the right-of-way. The entrances into their yards are well packed-down dirt. No drainage was visible, which causes problems with heavy rains. The roads in the villages must have once been paved with asphalt, but they are now in ill-repair.

The people are like any other people in small villages; they sit on benches outside the front of their homes, playing cards, dominoes, or simply watching other people driving or walking by. We were often stared at. When our driver stopped to ask directions, it was the 13-15 year-old boys who were most helpful. Many of the houses are in poor shape, in desperate need of new siding, paint and repair. Some were white-washed, but over time have become blotchy and streaked. Rubble and sandstone debris seems to be everywhere, and is left where it fell or was dumped. A few houses we saw were tidy and had clean yards with fences. Goats, cows, geese and countless dogs and cats roam free on the roads. Many homes have dogs, most of them quite small, very thin and scraggy, some with ticks.

After we left a village and got onto the highway, it was smoother. The highways are well kept, and are not much different from ours. Traffic is heavy with cars and trucks. Often one will find a fruitstand along the highway, or someone selling goat’s milk, vegetables and other produce. People hitchhike and can be seen walking along the highways with their arm extended - just like at home in Saskatchewan.

I have not seen any negros, nor East Indians here in the Ukraine. There are Orientals, but very few. People here speak very loud, and noticeably it is the German-speaking people who talk and laugh the loudest. Russian is spoken by everyone, but some can speak or understand English, such as the receptionists at hotels. One cannot drink their water, and must be purchased. The food, however, is exceptionally good, perhaps a little too good! So far, every meal has been included in our tour. The money we have spent has mainly been for bottled water, some postcards and for compensation to the villagers who fed us and made us feel welcome in their homes.

June 8 - Day 8

Today we made another romp around the Kutschurgan villages. In Baden we met Stephan Kolesnikov’s 17 year-old step-daughter Yana, who had just graduated from Grade XII and who spoke English very well.

Some of these villages are so close together that they share the same post office, which is on one villager’s front steps, usually one who works for the Mayor. Strassburg and Baden are connected, and one can address an envelope to either village. Selz and Kandel share the same front steps as their post office, and Mannheim and Elsass also share the same post office.

Stephan and his step-daughter Yana came with us for the ride when we went to Selz to meet with Louisa Riesling for the last time and share our lunch with her, along with sampling her Schnapps. We met her brother Walter Riesling, visiting from Germany who drives to Odessa about twice a year. We also met Louisa’s daughter Helena and granddaughter who live with Louisa. Helena works as a cook in Kandel and has lived with her mother since Louisa’s husband died two years ago. Louisa took back her maiden name after his death.

The Mayor of Selz, Margaret Alexiovna (?) came to see us. She is a former history teacher, about 35 years old, very pretty young woman. When I gave her one each of every lapel pin I had, she told us she plans to open a museum in Selz, perhaps in the school, and that these pins will go into her museum. After lunch we all walked to the Kandel church ruins and were told it was originally built in 1893 and completed in 1908, named Sts. Peter and Paul Roman Catholic Church. We walked up a nearby hill toward the old cemetery and took another picture of the church in the distance.

Finally, after a few tears and many hugs, we said good-bye to our new found friends in the Ukraine. I left a little bit of my heart with those warm and friendly people and promised to write to each who had provided me with their address. There are many people whom I must thank for their kindness and hospitality.

After we returned to Odessa, we began to pack our suitcases once again for we were leaving this remarkable country the next day for Stuttgart, Germany. About 10:15 pm I received a telephone call from someone called Serge Yelizarov who said he has a friend Alexander Pantchenko who is married to Svetlana Schatz who is a descendent of Dr. Ignatz Schatz - my g-g-g-grandfather. Serge said they wanted to meet with us at the State Archives tomorrow after I was finished with my meeting with Lilia Belousova. It was through Lilia that Serge found out about my quest, and as luck would have it he contacted Svetlana and Alexander, then called me. I explained we were leaving the hotel with our tour by 1:00 pm, to which he replied that he and Alexander would pick us up after 8:00 am and bring us back to the hotel by noon.

June 9 - Day 9

This was an exceptional day. We met with Lilia Belousova at the Odessa State Archives before 9 am. She gave us the Font 628 Mannheim Marriages of/at St. Peter’s R.C. Church in Odessa. As she asked, I gave her a list of page numbers so she can produce the file for each.

Serge Yelizarov arrived, told us the car was here so we can meet with Svetlana (Schatz) and Alexander Pantchenko where we will have an opportunity to view their family tree. Before we left I took a couple of pictures of Lilia, Serge in her office. Serge introduced Eva, Mary Ann, and I to Alexander who was waiting by his car. He drove us to his apartment, showed us their rooms, very nice and spacious. The building they live in contain only professional people. Once inside his apartment he offered us water then brought out his family tree, the size of which covered the coffee table and more. Mary Ann asked Serge, who was our interpreter, if he could photocopy the tree and bring it to Bismarck. He said he’d try.

Alexander kept asking questions about our families. I showed him on his ‘tree’ where we belonged. Svetlana is a descendent of Karl Ludwig, oldest son of Dr. Ignatz Schatz, whereas we are descendents of Gabriel Sr. his youngest son. We noticed on his tree that our grandfather Johannes Schatz was not listed, so I told Alexander that I would send him a list of the descendents from Gabriel Jr. down to present day. We met Svetlana and Serge’s wife Eugenia, although the meeting was brief as they had to return to work.

Close to noon it was time to leave. Alexander gave each of us a tall beer glass as a souvenier to take back with us. When we returned to the hotel it took a long time saying ‘Good Bye’ with a lot of hand-shaking and a few hugs. During our visit, Alexander kept saying, “Next time you come, you will stay with us - it will cost you nothing while you are here.” It was kind of him to offer the invitation.

After lunch, we brought down our luggage. Elvira Zahavora was there checking to see that everything was running smoothly. Several days ago I gave Elvira a Thank-You card which included $50 USA. The tips were prepaid, but I felt she had done such a good job, was so patient with a good sense of humor that created a great atmosphere. Just before the bus came to take us all to the airport, Elvira handed me a bag containing a small tablecloth and some dried poppy pods full of seeds. I had been so impressed with all the wild poppies growing along side the roads, had mentioned that I would have liked to harvest some of the seeds. What a generous person she is.

We got to the airport, no problems arose as all our papers were in order. We had a few hours in Budapest again on our way to Stuttgart, although none of us left the airport building because it was extremely hot outside. We finally arrived at the Ketterer Best Western Hotel in Stuttgart, and when I got to my room I immediately cranked up the air conditioner. Tomorrow is a Catholic holiday in Germany; most stores will be closed.

June 10 - Day 10

This morning our city tour guide, Renatta Block, took us on a tour of this beautiful city. Stuttgart appears to be at the foothills of some of the Alps, and the view from the top of those ‘hills’ is spectacular. Population about one-million, narrow streets outside of the main street, otherwise the streets are up to six lanes wide. This city is the centre of Mercedes-Benz cars, built and manufactured here. I took a picture of an ancient bronze statue of a soldier named Aberley riding his horse. Aberley is said to have been quite a ‘womanizer’ in his day.

In order to avoid confusion of birth surnames, which is how some of us were registered at the hotel, Eva was able to use her married surname Hueser, however I was referred to as ‘Frau Schatz.’

June 11 - Day 11

Today we travelled to Seltz, Weissembourg, Alsace, France, where our ancestors lived before they immigrated to Russia in 1808. We passed such towns/villages as Landau, Hagenau, Geitershof, Crofttswiller, Niederroiden to Karlsruhe, then Roesstog, Rastadt and Sessenheim where we stopped to have lunch on the way to Seltz. (Wir essen in Sessenheim) Lunch consisted of a crepe crust-like pizza with tiny bits of meat covered with a wonderul cream cheese. Dessert was also on a crepe crust with finely chopped fruit - very tasty.

In Seltz we passed a business called Wallier Motos (Motors), took a picture of Eva Hueser standing in front. We wanted to go inside but it was locked. We walked around, admiring the scenery, spotted a lady watering her magnificant flowers and plants, whose picture I took. There were no tourist traps anywhere. I have not found any place that sells lapel pins as souveniers.
On the return trip we took another route, on the Autobahn, passed Baden-Baden and Pforzheim on our left, and the famous Black Forest on our right. I am impressed with what I have seen of Germany so far. I would have no problem living in and around Stuttgart, except that I would have to bone up on my German. One could not help but enjoy the beautifully decorated houses, flower boxes in the windows and well-kept yards. It is evident the people take pride in their homes and property. Shoes come off when entering each house.

When we returned to Stuttgart we were told by Michael Miller that Dr. John Derzap will meet us at tomorrow’s Bundestreffen (in Karlsruhe) with his parents Johannes Derzap and Katharine (Wangler) who were visiting Stefan Kolesnikov in Baden, Ukraine a few days ago, where we had learned that Johannes’ mother Martha had been born Waljor-Walyer-Wallior-Wallier, a possible relative of my grandmother’s family.

June 12 - Day 12

We left early on the bus for the two-hour trip to Bundestreffen held in Karlsruhe, Germany. Bundestreffen means “a gathering/meeting of specific groups of people” - in our case Germans from Russia. It was held in the Messe, which means ‘exhibition’ building, a marvel in architecture. This was a building of 99% glass with 3 large halls, approximately two blocks square in size. Michael Miller put up his colorful and informative displays in one of the large halls, and we were pleased to find that he put up the Canadian Flag on the wall next to the American flag.

We were there about a half-hour when Michael Miller introduced us to Dr. John Derzap, a famous orthopaedic surgeon. We found out later that he is indeed famous, especially throughout the eastern hemisphere. Dr. John Derzap is about 40+, unmarried because he said he never had time for a relationship, spending most of his time taking up-grading courses. He told us he enjoyed practicing his English on us. He arranged to meet with us about 8 pm at our hotel in Stuttgart, the city where his parents live.

During the Bundestreffen Eva and I spent our time looking at the exhibits. Every booth of exhibits was in the Russian language, books, tapes, CD’s, literature, etc. but no lapel pins. People spoke to us in Russian wanting to sell us their merchandise - no translation was needed. We watched some performances, dancing in beautiful costumes, singing and playing various instruments until it was time to leave at 6 pm.

The traffic in Germany is just as insane as in Hungary, Ukraine and North America. Speed on the Autobahn is 120 km/hr. or more. Parking in the city is a premium; cars are parked on sidewalks and close to buildings where people walk. Stuttgart has a population of about 800,000. Prior to going to the Bundestreffen, we had packed a light lunch, which we ate on our way back to the hotel because it would have been too late for supper by the time we got back. Dr. John had left a message saying he would pick us up about 8:30 pm. We were ready and waiting for him when he arrived. He drove us to his parents ‘flat’ near the airport. Their flat was lovely, although a little dark in colors. We were greeted by his parents, Johannes and Katharine, who were very hospitable. Katharine had laid out a table with her best china and silverware, with enough food to feed a dozen people. With Dr. John as our interpreter, she apologized saying she hadn’t had enough time to prepare a dinner - they also had a two-hour drive from Karlsruhe to Stuttgart.

Since none of us were hungry we did our best to sample the food on the table. We were also served Russian wine, Vodka and water. One small glass of the wine was about all I could drink, it was very potent. Then we got to talking about the Walyer family and after much exchanging of information we found that our great-grandfather Raphael Walyer (my grandmother’s father) was a brother to Dr. John’s great-grandfather Ferdinand. Dr. John brought out all his genealogy information with documents from the Odessa Archives working closely with Lilia Belousova for the past few years. He has a lot of information, and I hope we can exchange what we have via email. When I return home I will forward all the Walyer information I currently have.

Dr. John showed us photos of the orthopaedic surgery results on patients who had been considered candidates for amputations. Dr. John has perfected a method of surgery that in some cases do not require anesthetic. He was the first doctor to use/test this method. He showed us pictures of surgeries where he was able to lengthen legs and arms where necessary, straighten bowed legs, and to correct and fuse bone tissue that did not heal properly. He told us he has corrected feet that had been turned inward, and others that needed to be lifted up at the toes so that the patient can learn to walk on the whole foot instead of just the toes.

He has been called to perform surgeries in Russia, Germany, all of Europe, Egypt and other Eastern countries, and the United States. He has been invited to speak of his methods at various medical conventions, and showed us certificate upon certificate that he has earned. He has also done surgery in Kazaghstan. He goes where he is called upon to speak and do surgeries.

He told us he was driving to Munich, Germany the next day where he lives, then the day following will be going to Rome to the Vatican for meditation and prayer because he is going to take in a long and difficult up-grade course after his visit to Rome.

As we were leaving, Katharine and Johannes plied us with gifts, a beautiful crocheted doily about 2-feet in diameter, one each of hand-painted paddles for hot pots on the table, a box of chocolates, and of course a bottle of their Russian wine and a bottle of Vodka. After many hugs and kisses we arrived back at the hotel about midnight.

June 13 - Day 13

We were too tired to attend church, which would have been entirely in German, and difficult to understand. On another city tour we visited Ludwigburg Castle in Stuttgart where I finally located some lapel pins. I bought nearly a dozen, which sold for $3.90 Euro dollars (about $7 Canadian dollars each). Renatta Block was our city tour guide again. After the seeing only the courtyard of the impressive castle we visited the Mercedes Benz Daimler car museum. When we returned to the hotel, it was time to start packing for our 11-hour flight home the next day - Stuttgart, Budapest, Amsterdam, Minneapolis and Regina.

June 14 - Day 14

Home at last!

Permission to use any images from the GRHC website may be requested by contacting Michael M. Miller