2006 Memories of Tour Members, Part III

29 May 2006
Internet Cafe
Odessa, Ukraine

Marie Tandeski Delizonna
San Jose, California
Visiting the Kutschurgan District villages

"Today was a visit to Elsass, Strassburg and a return to Selz for lunch at the home of Louisa Riesling, located near to the former Basilica Church. After lunch, we walked over to visit the new Museum room near the church.

The Elsass church has its roof, in relatively good shape, and is being used as a sports gym. We did not get inside since it was Sunday morning. Nearby the church is the former parish house and German school. There is an Orthodox Church near to the former Catholic Church where services were being held. I noticed that it was almost all women attending the service and one man.

We viewed the German cemetery outside the village. The Germans planted lilac bushes to cover all of the gravesites. The original cross that was at the front entrance of the Elsass Catholic Church was remounted in cement and stands today at the front of this Ukrainian village cemetery.

In Strassburg, the former Catholic Church is probably in the best condition, which is being used for meetings, cultural center, and church functions.

The countryside is all green wheat fully headed out along with other grains and large gardens. In many ways, it looks like the fertile land of North Dakota.

Traveling towards Strassburg and Selz, we stopped at the large outdoor market near Kutschurgan [former German village of Strassburg). This was Sunday morning so the market was filled with many items and people. One could buy various items for life's necessities including fish, vegetables, fruit, spare car and tractor parts, clothing and dishes. This is the same market location near Strassburg when are ancestors lived here.

Many persons from Moldova come to this Kutschurgan market to buy and sell items. Moldova is just across the border.

Shopping is a must in Odessa including the outdoor park in the city center with much handmade arts and crafts. There were so many nesting dolls that it was hard to decide.

Today, 29 May, is our last full day here in Odessa. I will travel to former Catholic Black Sea German villages of Kleinental and Franzfeld near Odessa. Later in the day I hope to put my feet in the Black Sea."

Donald and Marjolaine Schmitt
Sioux Falls, South Dakota
Donna Neiffer Larson
Fort Dodge, Iowa
Visiting the Glueckstal District villages of Bergdorf, Neudorf and
Glueckstal, Trans-Dnjestr Republic, Moldova

"Donna Neifert Larson, my wife, Marjolaine and I Don Schmitt, accompanied by our guide Serge Yelizarov and our driver, Vladamir, took an excursion to the Glueckstal villages, Bergdorf, Neudorf and Glueckstal. Donna's interests were Bergdorf and Neudorf, and mine were Bergdorf and Glueckstal. To arrive at these villages, located in Moldava, we had to cross the the Ukraine, Trans-Dnjestr, and Moldova border. It was quite a process and with Serge's knowledge and a Border Securtity guard that he had acquainted previously, it took two hours to cross the border and three hours for the return trip.

While there, Serge made connections for us at all three schools and museums connected with them. He took us to homes in each village, which were probably some of our ancestors according to plot plans he provided for us.

We stayed at the private home of Martha Kammerer, and her family. Their home was very primitive but the hospitality was extraordinary. The Glueckstal Colonies Research Association (www.glueckstal.net) had provided the 1804-2004 hardcover book about Glueckstal and its immigrants that we were to present to the Glueckstal Museum, located in the school.

With the Museum director, the Mayor of Glueckstal and the daughter-in-law of Martha in attendance, we were treated as dignitaries. They had 15 children present a program of Folklore dancing, musical numbers and readings, which they had rehearsed for us.

Saturday, was a rainy day so was unable to explore the cemetery in Bergdorf, but was able to enter the church, where my Granparent Schmitt's were married.

Sunday we attended a portion of a Russian Orthodox Church service, walked to Glueckstal and saw two houses, where Schumacher ancestors live and also the Glueckstal church where their marriage took place.

A very pleasant and eventful trip!"

Don Schmitt

Gary and Peggy Sinnemaki Haar
Boise, Idaho
Visiting the former German villages near Simperofol, Crimea, Ukraine

"We arrived at the Ukraine Hotel in Simperofol after traveling through land that looked very much like South Dakota (where I was born). We had a wonderful dinner and walked around the town of Simperofol. It was a very cosmopolitan city - lots of young people in the streets.

On 28 May, our translator, Albina, found the way to Friedenstal where we had located the cemetery. After walking through the Russian part of the cemetery, we were told by a villager where the German graves were. Many gravestones have been broken, some have been placed into a pile, but some remained standing even through they are surrounded by trees and brush. We photographed those we could see easily to try to interpret later.

After leaving the cemetery, we walked down the main street of Friedenstal and discovered old German houses that had been deserted. They had walls that were 12 to 18 inches thick. They were built to last forever. At the bottom, were limestone blocks. The top were bricks made of some kind of animal refuse and straw. The house we investigated was quite large – about seven rooms.

After Friedentstal, we drove to Neutatz where we located the school that was built by the Germans in 1878. Finding the school director was harder. We did find her and her name was Galina Bondarchuk. She was a very fine lady who stopped to put on her finest clothing before she took us into the school. We left two shopping bags of paper, pens, crayons and color books. In exchange, we received a narrative of how the school was built and her desire to teach the children not only of their history as a village, but also to import the feeling of good will to all races and ethnic backgrounds. Galina was a remarkable person - just the kind of person you hope are teaching the children.

While at the school, it began to rain and then pour. We were not able to see the rest of the village or visit the cemetery there. Also when we got back to Simperofol, the streets had turned into rivers so we were unable to visit the cemetery there.

On Monday, 29 May, we attempted to locate the village of Bulatsche on our way back to Odessa. Our translator, Albina, did her best to ask the local people where this village might be, and we were in the process of tracking it down, but the roads were so muddy raining so hard that our driver could continue now further on the country roads.

We discovered a lot and we enjoyed the trip gathering enough material to keep us occupied awhile. We felt it was an excellent tip hindered only by the weather."

Donna Neiffer Larson
Fort Dodge, Iowa
Visiting the Glueckstal District villages of Bergdorf, Neudorf, and Glueckstal, Trans-Dnjestr Republic, Moldova

I traveled with Marjolaine and Don Schmitt, our guide and translator, Serge Yelizarov and driver, Vladamir, to the Glueckstal villages in what is now the Trans-Dnjestr Republic, Moldova. My special interests were Neudorf, where my father was born, and Bergdorf where his mother, Elizabeth Ahl, was born.

On the trip to the villages, we saw workers using hoes, or pushing single blade cultivators, to clear weeds from the corn fields; as well as people cutting grass along the road with hand sickles and taking the grass home in horse drawn carts. Goats, cows, and horses were staked out along the road to feed, and chickens and geese roamed freely. It seemed as though we were the only car on the road most of the time.

I was sorry to learn that the church where my father was baptized is no longer in existence, and the cemetery where my ancestors would have been buried was bombed during the war and/or destroyed during the Communist Period.

But we visited the current school in Neudorf, and I was told that the church I was interested in had been located on a hill just behind the current school building. I believe that I must have walked on ground where my father played as a boy. I also visited the location of a house where my Neiffer ancestors may have lived.

The school museum in Bergdorf contains a brick from a deteriorating house which had been in the Ahl family. I can’t be certain it was a direct relative’s home but it much be a connection to my ancestors. The director removed it from the display so I could have my picture taken with it. We later visited the house and took pictures of the house.

We walked around the village of Glueckstal on Sunday morning where we were soon followed by a group of children. We couldn’t speak Russian, and they couldn’t speak English, but their big smiles assured us that they were happy to see us. When we returned to our car, the children presented Marjolaine and me each with a bouquet of flowers. We, in turn, gave them small gifts.

Our host family was delightful, and made every effort to see we were comfortable. It’s true that their living conditions are more like ours were in the Depression Era than now, but their hospitality and graciousness made it very obvious that they enjoyed having us with them.

I know that my visit to my ancestral homeland was enhanced by the efforts of Serge and Vladamir, who made everything seem easier when I’m sure it wasn’t, and by Don’s ability to speak enough German to communicate with Martha when Serge and/or Vladamir were not available. It was an incredible experience.

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