Travel to Kandel, Selz, Baden and
Near Odessa, September, 2001
Eine Reise Nach Kandel, Selz, Baden und Strassburg
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
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.
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.