Bessarabia: German Colonists on the Black Sea

Book review by Horst Gutsche, Barrhead, Alberta

Schmidt, Ute. Bessarabia: German Colonists on the Black Sea. Translated by James T. Gessele, North Dakota State University Libraries, Germans from Russia Heritage Collection, Fargo, North Dakota, 2011.

I recommend that every family with Bessarabian German origins which primarily or only reads English purchase this book. It has a fine historical summary of our specific Bessarabian German history as well as information on the present situation in Ukrainian and Moldovan Bessarabia. The photos, maps and illustrations are excellent. It gives you a terrific summary of life for whatever the number of years were that your family spent there. In my own extended family this means as few as 63 (1815 to 1878) years for early immigrants or as many as 126 years (1814 to 1940). For the descendants of early immigrants it lets one know “what happened to the relatives and neighbors who stayed behind.”

In order to gather material on family history which can be shared in the English language in a most efficient manner I recommend doing the following:

  1. Research a family tree and get it together.
  2. Collect family stories and old photos and find out who is on the photos (a family history book or record)
  3. Purchase this book by Dr. Ute Schmidt from NDSU in Fargo, North Dakota
  4. Purchase of any other material which is available on the villages in which the family resided in Bessarabia.
  5. Copy some of the material free of charge for family members and encourage them to contact, support or join the Germans from Russia Heritage Centre in Fargo, North Dakota and the two societies (for Bessarabians the Germans from Russia Heritage Society in Bismarck, North Dakota for sure and preferably also the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia in Lincoln, Nebraska) and purchase materials.
  6. Have family reunions and/or Bessarabian reunions on some kind of regular basis and make this into a local gathering of people with the same heritage. This has certainly continued to function well in Germany.
  7. Visit Bessarabia, perhaps Poland, and definitely the part of German-speaking Europe where the family originated as well as the Homeland Museum in Stuttgart in Southwest Germany. If you do your family tree and speak German you will have no problem finding distant relatives in Germany who you can visit and stay with for a few days each.
  8. For communities which are of German from Russia heritage I would recommend a yearly festival highlighting the family heritage. This may mean bringing in advice from outside the community. These could be led by people in local GRHS or AHSGR chapters or by others who simply want to enjoy a fine event of fellowship as our forebears did.
  9. Have a bookcase in your home to preserve these materials for visiting family or friends to perouse.
  10. Learn German, Russian and Romanian if you wish to perhaps move to Europe or a part of the European Union to study, work or live. We live in a global world much different than even 20 years ago.

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