From Ulm to Tscheb - 21 to 27 September 2009
From Ulm to Tscheb - 21 to 27 September 2009
by Andrea Reibl, Berlin
I had been thinking about it for quite a while and this year I was able to make it come true.A trip together with my second cousin to a villlage in today s Serbia, where my father and her father s mother were born. Susan came to Europe for that reason from the United States and so, after a couple of years, we were happy to meet again and alsothis old wish came true: to see, smell, feel like it really is in Tscheb, that villagethe older peoplehad been so enthusiastic about - no matter if they had left from there to emigrate or because they had to flee.
The start of our Donauschwaben-trip was Ulm, the southern German city where the central museum of the Donauschwaben is located. Of course, we visited there and also the commemorative stone and tablets on the shore of the Danube. There we could imagine how our ancestors left their homes on small boats, called "Ulmer Schachteln", from here to float down the Danube to Vienna and Budapest.
The next morning we sat in the bus on our way to Hungary. That part of the trip with two long days in a row in a bus andone night in a hotel in Györ in between seemed to be so long and uncomfortable. Surprisingly, the time went so fast and it was so exciting to meet many new and very nice people - even new relatives ! (Roland said to me: "We are related, don t you know ?" and I didn t want to believe him at first. But really, the Tscheb book at home laterconfirmed that our great-grandmothers had been sisters.)
To me the trip on the bus was quite amusing and on the way there werealready so many new stories to hear about Tscheb, the houses of our ancestors as well as stories about the areas we passed through by bus. People were joking, Paul made plans where and what kind of herbs he would buy soon and what kind of dishes he would prepare with them back at home: definitely fish soup, Serbian bean soup and chicken with noodles he d planned already. Besides, it was very nice to hear the Tscheber dialect again after a long time - a few days longer in that bus and my way to talk would have sounded like it, too...
The second day we stopped in an Hungarian Csarda for Lunch. Now it is only 30 km to the Serbian border and out of the European Union! After very delicious stuffed peppers and Palinka (Schnaps made of apricots) as dessert, I really felt like I wason vacation and the stress from the last working days in Berlin was finally gone. After the bus crossed the small Puszta with the sandy and light soil, it was striking to see the dark ground of the Pannonian Plain. Shortly after that, we arrived at the Serbian border and our passports were collected. Oswald, our chief of the trip, gave instructions to say NOTHING at all while going through the formalities, and so we didn t. Everything went alright and we crossed the border to Serbia at Subotica. Still impressed by that dark ground, I looked out of the windows and the three hours to Tscheb went by very fast.
While passing villages with very familiar names (Gloan, the pepper village and Begeć, thecabbage village) the sun was about to set and atdusk we arrived in Tscheb. There were a few people who were on the Hauptgasse to welcome the bus - friends or relatives had come to pick up people from the bus.Also, there were people from Tscheb who knew that descendants of the former owner of their house were on the bus. There were invitations, surprises as well as tears - very moving.We were introduced to Helen and Duko, about whom I had heard very often before and Elfriede had told them about Susan and me in advance, too. It was so nice to finally meet them. I was very happy, that we saw Tscheb on the first evening already and that we could smell the air of Tscheb. We are here, indeed ! Nevertheless,I was very surprisedabout such a welcome, because I thought, we would only stop shortlyto let a few people get off the bus. I walked around a little bit, looked up and down the street and took a deep breath.I saw a restaurant, people on bicycles, some young men sat in a restaurant next to the street underneathsunshades, you could smell the smoke from the BBQ from the other side of the road.And still: it is very special to be here.
In the hotel in Bačka Palanka we got bread, salt and livovicfor a welcome, which I thought was very nice. After dinner and some interesting conversationswithfellow-travellers, who joined the group after arriving by air plane that day, we went to bed early, because we planned to go to the nearby market the next morning before breakfast.
We really did buy fruits and herbs before breakfast - there were wonderful things to buy at that market. After the breakfast we left with the bus to go to Tscheb in a bright sunshine. We passed the old Gutshof, the park and the church on our way to the Rathaus. A lot of children and other Tscheber people were also around when we stepped out of the bus. Some Tscheber residents also wanted to attend the mayor s ceremony. Others sat on the benches and just watched everything, as the children in the park did.Resi and Hermann were there, too, and I was very happy to meet them (again).I had been to Tscheb only once: 40 years ago with my parents, my sister and my brother. Of course, my memories were not so fresh any more.
We were again offered bread and salt and livovic at the Rathaus entrance and then the ceremony started.The mayor did a very short speech and György tanslated it for us into German. Then Roland did a longer speech and gave some presents, while Aranka translated into Serbian. After a lot of nice words and thanks on each side, we chatted for quite a while and had some water, juice and Kipfel.
After the ceremony we could hardly wait to go through Tscheb and look at everything. Susan and I went directly to the Kleinhäuslergasse, because - even if we already knew that the Reibl houses are not there any more -we wanted to see the streets and neighbourhoods immediately, where our close relatives grew up, where they had worked and lived a long time ago.We enjoyed that walk very much, because the weather was terrific, the atmosphere in the very green Tscheb was comfortable and quiet and we were extraordinarily surprised about the kindness of the people who we met on our way. I think we stared at everything and greeted everyone and we were always greeted back.With almost everybody we started a conversation, sometimes the grandchildren were called to translate into English. In case we couldn t find a way to communicate, we at least got grapes as a present.
When we happened to meet Hermann again, who offered to take us to the Danube, we were delighted. Now we had the chance to see the Danube on the first day already. I remembered that river as very impressive, turbulent and floating fast and whenever I ve been to the Danube during the last years, I thought about Tscheb and that I d like to come here once again. Our small trip to the Danube was wonderful and Susan and I thought that even after the first half day our Tscheb-trip was a success.
We had made an appointment to visit Resi that afternoon, and so we did. Again we could stroll through the Tscheber streets and spent some very nice hours with interesting conversationsin Resi s and her sister s house and garden. The evening event in the Danube Csarda with very delicious fish, music and dancing (for those of us who liked to dance) was an appropriate end of that very special day.
The second day of our trip was a church-day for us. In the morning we went to the catholic church in Tscheb. Some people prepared songs for the service, that took place a little later and after that a commemorative stone was inaugurated at the German side of the cemetery. The afternoon was devoted to the place of pilgrimage Maria Schnee and thefortressPetrovaradin. There is a story behind the snow and the Turks, but I can t repeat it....
Maria Schnee and the fortress high above the southern Danube coast overseeing Novi Sad were very interesting places to visit.Looking to the west, the mountains of the Fruka Gora can be seen - a very beautiful panoramic view. I d like to mention Steffi s singing in the morning in Tscheb and in the afternoon in Maria Schnee. Both events were wonderful enrichmentsto that day, which did end in the evening in our hotel with fish soup and noodles.
After some considerations about what we should do on our last day in Tscheb, Susan and I decided to borrow two bicycles and to do another excursion in Tscheb, independent from the group.Susan wrote a small and very nice report about that, and therefore, I only want to say, that it was a beautiful day.We were glad that we made this decision, because there was still so much to see in Tscheb and we could cover longer distances by bike.
Before we left Serbia the next day, a folk-dance group performed in our hotel that evening. Susan enjoyed that very much, because she d been doing that kind of dancing herself for years and knew exactly, how difficult the individual step combinations are. A very nice end of the trip !
On our way to Hungary the bus stopped a last time in Serbia to lay down a garland at the cemetery of Gakovo.Since Susan and I did not join the group the day before to see the memorial places of Jarek and Sremska Mitrovica, this was the moment for us to think of all the people who were in internment camps or had been abducted.A fate that a lot of them did not surviveand that my ancestors (who left Tscheb in October 1944) did not have to experience.
After the silent bus ride to Hungary and that last day in the bus, Susan and I said good-bye to all our fellow-travellers after dinner in the hotel Raba in Györ. We already had the train tickets to Bratislava in Slovakia for the next morning. Susan s relatives from her mothers side live there and we wanted to meet them for a short visit on our way to Vienna (where our flights home had been booked).
There was one more detail of our Donauschwaben-trip left, because we didn t want to miss visiting the West Hungarian cityof opron - since we were so close.Here, the trek from Tscheb ended in 1944 and then the people had to go on by train in cattle-vans to Silesia and later to Germany. opron is a nice little town with a beautiful historic center and we ate Paprikagulasch with Nockerln for the last time before we went on a long walk to the memorial in the cemetery in the southwest section ofopron.There we found many graves of Hungarian soldiers from both world wars and we also found the commemorative stone for the war dead (1939-1945) and for the Hungarian and German soldiers who had been buried here. Also listed is the name of my uncle, who died nearby in a military hospital.
Also, I d like to mention that there was an exhibition with respect to the 20th anniversary of the end of the cold war in a park near the opron train station. Very close from here, north of opron, the Hungarian government did encourage the peaceful end of the cold war by e.g. opening up the border for a certain amount of time, disassembling the iron curtain as well as supporting events like a pan-European breakfast.Apart from the portion of the Polish Solidarnoć movement, this was a big share to achieve the East Europe as it is today.
In the train to Vienna we could summarize, that we liked the trip very much, we got to know very nice people and we learned so much during these couple of days. I liked best the mixture of the people on the trip, not only with respect to age (from students to people who were born in Tscheb), but also with respect to the different experiences of life (internment, refugees and people who came to Germany a long time after the war). Everything was very interesting and exciting and even if there had been a lot of very sad stories, we enjoyed the trip and had things to laugh about, too. That trip changed our points of view, the trip changed ourselves and we wouldn t have wanted to miss that experience.
In Vienna our geographical trip ended. For us, it had also been a travel through time, from the emigration of our ancestors eight generations ago and their lives in Tscheb, to war stories and histories of refugees from the second world war and the Balkan war, to the present day Eastern Europe. I do hope very much that the people there will have a happy future without war and expulsion. Also, I do hope that the descendants of the former Balkan people will visit these regions, as we did, because this could be a small contribution to an agreement between nations.
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