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Journey Into the Past, Sept. 5-12, 2007

Eine Reise in die Vergangenheit vom 5. bis 12.9.2007

Matthies, Irma. "Journey Into the Past." Mitteilunsblatt, 15 November 2007, 2-3.

This translation from the original German-language text to American English is provided by Alex Herzog, Boulder, Colorado


For quite some time I had been planning a trip to our beloved home, Dennewitz. After all, I had read several travel reports in our Mitteilungsblatt. Going with my dear aunt was not going to happen, so instead I was to go with my brother, Dr. H. C. Kelm, who had prepared and arranged everything for us. My brother had to join me from Jueterbog as we met early at the Tegelhafen Airport [Berlin]. The flight to Odessa via Prague was a calm one, and we had plenty of time for changing planes. Still, I was excited and anxious about what was awaiting us. At the airport in Odessa there was a bus with the sign "Bessarabia." I was very happy about that. But a really hot temperature of 30 degrees [C. = ca. 95 degrees F.] hit us in the face. One needs to get used to that. We got acquainted with Valery, who helped anywhere he could. Of course, Mr. and Mrs. Kelm were there to greet us [the author fails to explain who these folks were - Tr.].

We felt well taken care of. We had set our watches ahead by an hour when we were still in the airplane.

Following the loading of luggage, the bus took off to Sergeyevka, to a quiet, sizeable vacation resort. We all took up our quarters. We had a gigantic room in a gorgeous house, and we felt good. Even during the first day, following a fine breakfast, everyone was able to drive to his/her home village. At 9 AM we went off to Dennewitz via Akkerman, Sarata, Gnadental and Arzis. The roads and streets were good and seemed rather empty. We admired the very large fields and especially the black soil. We heard that it had not rained in three months. The driver drove at a good clip because we needed to cover many miles, At 11 AM we arrived in Dennewitz. The property my parents had owned was right next to the church. We had studied the village lay-out ahead of time. So now we were able to see everything that was still there. The old Emil Matthies homestead with its old wall fence is still there, but heavily overgrown. Buildings have been put up in the yard, so that everything now looks smaller. I recognized the well and the walled fence toward the neighbor "Rall." The current owner [she may mean "of the Matthies property"? - Tr.] is very ill, has war injuries and suffers from dementia, so we did not enter that house. I would have loved to exchange a few words, but everything remained locked up. In the church next door I was able to make a donation, so I felt a little better.

It was at seven years of age when I emigrated along with my mother Herta, my father Emil Matthies, and my brother Siegfried. We wanted to find the property of my grandparents Christine and Robert Matthies, and with the help of the female interpreter we were successful. The village of Dennewitz has remained unchanged in its loveliness and with its water ditches and the many geese. In the church I was pleased to be able to see again the choir loft and that the tower and the large staircase are still there, thanks to the assistance from our Association. Thinking of how this space had been totally misused and abused sent shivers down my back. Nothing was visible of the bell tower and of the school. The office is gone, and the cemetery is overgrown with weeds. We even experienced a funeral, with a procession going through the village with an open casket, to gather a donation from the Mueller family for the Pop [Orthodox priest]. Afterwards we used the time left by going to Neu-Elft to look for the homesteads of our grandparents Lydia and Immanuel Gutsche. The village is well kept because, as the interpreter told us, there had been a prison in town. Suddenly a woman appeared carrying a map with all the numbers the properties once had. I first went to the neighboring property and looked over the fence, recognizing all the play places I had been in with Leonhard and four siblings. It was a moment of true happiness. From Omas garden we took along a bit of soil to take home with us. I am aware that Leonhard lives somewhere in Russia and is married. After the parents died during the war, the Soviet government had to take over raising the five children. The current owners in Neu-Elft actually knew about that.

Next we went to the other end of the village to look for the property of Rudolf Maier, where our Uncle Ingo Maier grew up. The wall fence in front was still standing, but the old house had been torn down and another had been built in its place. We walked to the church, which is missing its tower, and we said our good-byes so that the interpreter could still make it to Arzis. She had invited us to a snack of sheep's cheese, wine and home-grown grapes and watermelon. Wonderful, and so tasty! By 7 PM we were to be back in Sergeyevka for supper with the larger group

The next day was a free day for relaxation, so we went to the Black Sea to enjoy a day of bathing with beautiful weather. On Saturday the entire group drove by bus through eight villages. We saw the grape groves of Schabo, the county seat of Akkerman, Sarata, Gnadental, Teplitz, Neu-Elft, Paris and Friedenstal. The museum in Friedenstal is one to be experienced and enjoyed. It is a paragon for other museums: yard and garden are kept well, tables with tasty things had been prepared for us - just the way it had always been at home. This was a wonderful day.

On Sunday we enjoyed a wonderful worship service in Akkermann in company with the residents. A choir sang that I had known about in Mecklenburg [Note: many Bessarabians who were resettled in 1939-1940 ended up in the mostly agrarian German province of Mecklenburg - TR.]. Afterwards we continued by bus to Seymeni. There we experienced a grand reception, with all the Socialist trappings, just like in GDR {East German] times. The mayor, who courageously begged for funds for his village, invited us to a meal. Back at the vacation resort we also enjoyed an evening of folklore with artists and singers from Moscow.

On Monday, September 10, we drove along the Danube. Our goal was Vilkovo. I still remembered names of towns I had learned from my parents, such as Tatarbunar, Pomasan and Parapera; Hoffnungstal, too, where my Oma had grown up as a child. I really enjoyed this. In Vilkovo we had a church and the city to visit. We boarded a boat and traveled to an island, where we enjoyed a wonderful repast of bread, wine, fish, honey and tea. On the ship we were able to see clearly how delta was gathering silt, also some rare animals. We had a good guide.

There were 44 participants during this pour journey into the past. They were from Canada, Austria, Leipzig, Halle, Joetebog, Berlin, Lower Saxony, Heidelberg, Schwabia, Goeppingen, etc. During the following day we continued by bus to Basyryamka, Bad Bunas, Sofiental, and Schabo. Sadly, the last day and day for leaving had arrived, with a city tour of Odessa, which because of the rain we unfortunately experienced from inside the bus. Valery and the Kelm couple said good-bye - until we see each other again.

Irmgard Matthies of Dennewitz

(Near Joetebog, south of Berlin, there is also a place called Dennewitz. It has a memorial and a large murial commemorating a battle with Napoleon.)

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

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