Travel to Kandel, Selz, Baden and Strassburg
Near Odessa, September, 2001

Eine Reise Nach Kandel, Selz, Baden und Strassburg bei Odessa

Bosch, Anton. "Travel to Kandel, Selz, Baden and Strasburg Near Odessa." Volk auf dem Weg, November 2001, 22-23.

Translation from German to English by Alex Herzog, Boulder, Colorado

Every time you take your passport in hand, you are reminded of your date of birth, your home, where your cradle once stood, and of the things you experienced in your childhood or perhaps even in your adolescent years.

The items documented in your passport accompany you your whole life. Some can be a bit of a burden, some might be pleasant -- all according to your personal situation. So I always ask myself and others as well, what news there might be of the area where I was born. I find myself wondering about the lives of the people residing near the Black Sea, that is, those who now live in the villages that used to be our home. Now that traveling there has become relatively problem free, I occasionally take advantage of the opportunity to look around for myself, right then and there, on the very spot.

It turns out that during this year's vacation stay in Odessa, for various reasons we were simply unable to find out much of anything concerning our villages of Kandel, Selz, Baden and Strassburg. Quite in contrast to the mother colonies near Grossliebental -- for over two years now that name can even be found on soda pop bottles.

Hardly anyone now knows that the names Kandel, Selz and Baden were transformed into Rybalskoye, Limanskoye and Ocheredovka after the war. And today they are collectively administered under the name Limanskoye. Not even the current employees at the regional archive in Odessa have any idea that, before World War I, Selz functioned as the Volosty administration and, as of 1920, clearly as the regional center for the rayon of "Friedrich Engels."

With only sparse knowledge of the localities, but in possession of the village maps from the book Entstehung, Entwicklung und Auflösung der deutschen Kolonien am Schwarzen Meer [Formation, Development and Dissolution of the Black Sea German Colonies], four of us, on the very mild morning of the 9th of September 2001, undertook the drive to our old homes on the Nishter (Dniester), which today forms the heavily guarded border to the Moldovan Republic. According to information we received from a compatriot living in Odessa, only 11 German families were supposed to be living there.

On a well-built asphalt highway we passed the exits for Mannheim (Kamenka) and Elsass (Shcherbaka) and drove the 65 kilometers toward our destination in only 45 minutes. Using hoes on very long wooden sticks, the residents were busily removing ripened walnuts from the trees that grew on both sides of the street, and gathering their harvest in grain sacks.

Soon we found ourselves in the midst of the hurly-burly activity of Sunday market in Strassburg (Kutschurgan). As long as a hundred years ago almost anything possible was already being offered for sale, including fresh grapes, watermelons, other fruit and vegetables, even rabbits, goats, horses and cattle. Today one can also buy motorcycles, cars and the like -- all of these wares being spread out on the ground on both sides of the street for about half a mile and on both sides of the main street. The market extends all the way to a customs station, erected on massive concrete blocks that barred our way at the border between Ukraine and Moldova.

Current residents are familiar not only with the name Kutschurgan, but also once again with the old name Strassburg. As was explained to us, this has to do with the fact that Ukraine desires to join the European Union, the seat of which is located in the French city [of the same name], Strasbourg. In the center of town we found the former church building, which has been expanded and is now being used as a club. In Selz we stopped at the church ruin and admired the majestically towering columns of the structure that was erected in 1895 and modeled after the Salzburg cathedral. Its walls were built with seashells, and it is said that egg-whites were mixed into the mortar for resistance to vandalism. We were told that a few years ago some unknown people attempted to break stones out of the walls, but utterly without success.

Across from the church ruins we happened to run into the German family R., who in a spectacular legal case in Latvia nine years back had been awarded their former family home, had returned to Selz, completely restored their dilapidated estate, reestablished an orchard and a vineyard, built a brand-new summer kitchen on the property, and furnished their home in the "homey" way it had always been. During our dinner table conversation, "loosened up" a bit by the hosts' homemade red wine, we learned many interesting details about everyday life in Limanskoye, as Selz is now called.

In Kandel we inspected the upper building of the old school, which now is home to a boarding school for 160 handicapped pupils from the entire Odessa region. We looked specifically for the room of the third grade class which the author of this article had attended there in the winter of 1943/44. During our guided tour through the residential part we received some insight into the strict discipline with which the students are still being raised, all according to the principle of absolute obedience.

Still stubbornly standing, as if it were a memorial to and reminder of our ancestors' achievements, the ruins of the church, dedicated in 1902, currently serve as a coal depot used for heating the school buildings. The tin roof of 1992 is already completely rotted; the wind has blown away most of the tin panels so that the remaining church structure is left to the weather and to total decay.

In a food store below the church we met the German saleslady N., who gladly sold us what we needed and happily related that she had passed the language test and was awaiting the required papers to be able to immigrate to Germany.

Mostly, however, mere hopelessness seems to be the lot of the village residents, who can see no future there for themselves and their children. As if to demonstrate this, we did not see a single child playing on the streets of Kandel. The depressed state of the residents is largely due to its border location; collectively, our former villages, together with the river Nishter (erroneously named after the river Dniester which flows farther west), make up the new state border with Moldova.

We threw a last glance back onto the slender poplar trees ("Bella-Baam") in the lower school yard, uttered an "Ach, wie schön" ["My, how beautiful"] when we discovered the gorgeous farm home on the lower main street of Kandel -- it reminded us of the area's erstwhile prosperity - and drove via Selz back to Baden. There, on the narrow Church Street lined with fruit trees, we found the pitiful ruins of the village church that only three years back had fallen victim to arson.

By late Sunday afternoon we left our birth villages with a melancholy feeling, leaving behind our original homes, of which only memories and the entries in our passports remain with us.

Our appreciation is extended to Alex Herzog for translation of this article.

Catholic church in Krandel, Limanskoje by Odessa (built in 1902)
Catholic church in Selz (built in 1895); in 1935 the belfry thrown down; reopened between 1941 to 1944; since 1944 church left in ruins
Catholic church in Selz (built in 1895); in 1935 the belfry thrown down; reopened between 1941 to 1944; since 1944 church left in ruins Ruins of the Catholic church in Baden

Photographs by Anton Bosch, Nurenberg, Germany, September, 2001, in the Kutschurgan villages near Odessa, Ukraine

Our appreciation is extended to Alex Herzog for translation of this article.

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