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visit to Russian village

visit to Russian village

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Published by carmenlynn3

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Published by: carmenlynn3 on May 31, 2008
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A Brief Visit To My Ancestral Village of Rastadt, Ukraine, October 20, 1999
By Suzanne Ellen (Heiser) Crawford, 8416 Lake Crest Terrace, Fairfax, Virginia,22039E-mail: roncr@erols.com
Suzanne Ellen (Heiser) Crawford's four grandparents were born in the Beresan villages of South Russia (now Ukraine) near the end of the 19th century. Her paternal grandparentswere George Heiser (born in Katharinental, Ukraine, and Martha Bosch, born inKarlsruhe, Ukraine. Her maternal grandparents both born in or near Rastadt (sometimesspelled Rastatt), Ukraine were Jacob Sticka (son of Ludwig and Monica Jordan Sticka)and Rosa Heidt (daughter of George and Sophie Hebber Heidt (who reportedly lived inSteinfeld, Ukraine). Rosa Heidt's grandparents and great-grandparents lived in Landau,Ukraine.Our cruise ship, the Norwegian Dream, docked at Odessa at 8:00 a.m. on October 20,1999 and was scheduled to sail away from Odessa at 6:00 p.m. With about seven hoursavailable to travel, visit and return, Suzanne and husband, Rondal G. Crawford, set out at9:00 a.m. to make arrangements for a local driver and interpreter to take us approximately75 miles northeast to the Beresan villages. It was immediately obvious that everyone inthe Ukraine is suffering from the incredible failure of the overall economy since the break up of the communist system of Government and independence for the USSR. Due to anexcessive amount of bureaucratic bungling by the Odessa Intourist office, we arrived laterthan planned on the outskirts of Rastadt (current village name in Russian or Ukrainian isPorechye) at approximately 1:00 p.m.The former German villages we passed through or by on our way to Rastadt (Guldendorf,N. Mannheim, N. Rohrbach, Worms, N. Munchen, N. Rastadt and others) all looked inabout the same condition of disrepair and lack of maintenance. We could tell the villageswere all laid out in wide streets with homes built by the German pioneers - all lookingimpressive in consistent architecture but virtually all in great need of repair and paint.Rastadt was joined for at least 10 km to the main highway (northern route) from Odessa toNickojew (a good asphalt road) by a very attractive stone surfaced road which has
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survived pretty much intact, but was very rough and cold not be traveled more than about15 km per hour. Almost every house had geese, chickens or turkeys and dogs runningnoisily about making it difficult to talk with local people. While the air was clean andclear, there was a slight odor of farm animals all over the village. We were awe-struck bythe utter poverty of everyone. There was no electricity being used, gas, telephones,running water or indoor plumbing. We saw no cars or trucks. Since it was cool (about 50Degrees F), very few people were outdoors, but we saw no wood-burning or other smokeemanating heat (people simply dressed with layers of old, worn-out clothing and could notafford to heat their homes.)We did not see any stores in the village, only a school building and a community centerwhere the beautiful church once stood. There was no post office in Rastadt and no mailboxes. A bread truck was dispensing bread door-to-door - we bought a loaf forapproximately ten cents - it was stale, but crusty and multi-grain texture. The houseslooked all lived in, but on this Wednesday afternoon, there were very few people outside.The people we did see, were all solemn and somewhat aloof, but still approachable. Whenengaged in conversation with our driver and interpreter, they seemed eager to help. Wehad absolutely no fear of being robbed, but it was clear all were poor, hungry and tryingdesperately to survive. We passed an archic sugar beet processing barn. Tons of beetswere laying on the ground, uncovered in large piles beside a wooden barn. Eight womenwere methodically using hand-held sickles to cut off beet tops and undesirable parts of each sugar beet, then piling them in a somewhat unorganized pile. Cabbages andpumpkins were the only small garden crops we saw. The surrounding acreage stretchedperhaps a mile or more in all directions and was uncultivated and unused except for a fewgoats grazing. We did see several old horse-drawn wagons in and around the village.Nearby was a small, modern looking water tower.To orient ourselves, we asked several people where the church was, and to ouramazement, most people did not know the site of the church, but seemed to know it hasbeen destroyed by the Bolsheviks. Finally, an older woman was able to tell us the locationof the church, which is the site of a rather unimpressive square "community" buildingwith few windows. We were also told the cemetery had mostly been destroyed and gravemarkers removed.To our amazement, one older person told us a 93-year old German man and his familystill lived in Rastadt (the only Germans there today). We visited him and think thespelling of his name is Shmaltz or perhaps Schmaltz. We think he said he used the nameIliya Frantosivitch after World War II. We could not make out the name of his wife. Hisdaughter and son-in-law also live with them. Since he has forgotten how to communicatein German and knows little English, we had difficulty getting any specifics. Through theinterpreter speaking Ukrainian, we learned that he returned to Rastadt after many years of exile "up north" (probably Siberia) to find, of course, that his beautiful home was ownedby Russians. Through hard work and German know-how he was able to eventually ownand repair one of the other smaller homes built by the original settlers. While his homeand yard looked better and more organized than his non-German neighbors, it was alsorun down and in need of repairs and maintenance. The main house was a small three-room, plus a small entrance room. Inside it was clean, simply furnished and nicelydecorated, but very dark and cold. We noticed Roman Catholic accents on at least two of the living room walls. Across a small garden-like fenced in courtyard, was a wine cellarand small one-room kitchen where we were graciously offered "new (red) wine" andPage 2of 5The NDSU Libraries: Germans From Russia5/14/2007http://www.lib.ndsu.nodak.edu/grhc/outreach/journey/ellen.html
potato pancakes. Here we saw a two-burner propane camp stove. We sat together a fewminutes and learned that Mr. Shmaltz' brother had gone to America in 1917 and neverheard from again. At this point, he had tears in his eyes. He remembered Ludwig Sticka,and Ludwig's young son, Jacob, but could not recall any of the Heidt's or Jordan's whomight have lived in or near Rastadt.Behind the fenced-in courtyard was a second small fenced in area (six-feet high fence)which contained two old, but good, useable outhouses. My husband used the outhouse andreported it was the standard one-hole variety, but as you might expect from Germans, itwas clean and wallpapered perhaps years earlier with an expensive-looking (gray withflowers) victorian-style wallpaper - perhaps partly for warmth. The second courtyard alsocontained several animal or chicken coops - some near ground level and some a few feetabove the ground level. All of these cages were useable looking, but very empty. I think these were earlier used for chickens, geese, rabbits, and turkeys. The high fences perhapsnecessary to keep wolves and other predators out.We were able to tell the German family about some of the former inhabitants of Rastadtwho had made their way to North Dakota, but not sure the communication wasunderstood. With our lack of communication, and time running out, we resorted to smiles,back patting and eventually to long hugs after the old man was crying when we said wehad to leave. He followed us to our car (where our driver was waiting for us) and wavedto us as we drove away. His last words through the interpreter were "Don't let Americaforget us." It brought tears to our eyes.Not being prepared to meet anyone with knowledge of Susanne's ancestors, we hadnothing to give the German family except for dollars. Had we known, we would havecarried much clothing, shoes, toiletries, magazines, books and other disposable items fromour cruise ship. Later we regretted not thinking to present them with our pocket knife,umbrella, hat, etc., since these people and all neighbors were in severe need of anythingwe could give them.With slow local roads and our time mostly exhausted, we dejectedly missed going on tonearby Katharinental and Karlsruhe as we had wanted so much to do, and headed back toour cruise ship at Odessa. We shall never forget our brief visit to Rastadt and especially tothe home of the Shmaltz family. We did not have a still camera but we did get about onehour on our 8 mm video camera. If possible we will send care packages and money tothem via GHRS or other appropriate organizations. Ukraine (we also spent a day in andnear Yalta) appears to be in a severe economic crisis and needs relief from other countriesASAP. Most say that relief efforts to date have not trickled down below the governmentand upper classes. The masses are suffering and appear to be in danger of not surviving.There is almost nothing today that is quaint or pretty about the man-made improvementsto the attractive Ukrainian countryside. But an informed eye can unmistakenly detect theexisting remnants of many formerly flourishing German villages with mostly unimprovedand uncultivated rolling farmland between them. An occasional collective farm (forced onthe landowners under communism and still operating today), will give a military-likeappearance with their fortified fences, barracks, barns, and other bureaucratic buildings inthe middle of large wheat fields.Page 3of 5The NDSU Libraries: Germans From Russia5/14/2007http://www.lib.ndsu.nodak.edu/grhc/outreach/journey/ellen.html

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