On the Trail of my Ancestors – A Trip in Bukovina – 2008

By Kurt Mayer
(Auf den Spuren meiner Vorfahren – Reise in die Bukowina)
Published in Der Suedostdeutsche, Nr. 4, 20 April 2009
Translated by Irmgard Hein Ellingson, M.A.
Published with the permission of the author and translator in the Bukovina Society of the Americas Newsletter,
Vol. 19, No.3 September, 2009

We went on our way to Illischesti. The route passed through Dragoesti on a gravel road down through a valley to the scenic birthplace of my mother. We sought out the cemetery where we found a number of well-maintained graves of the leading members of the Kipper family who included the Landtagsabgeordnete (delegate to provincial parliament) and mayor. However, it was not certain that they were related to my mother. Finally we went to the former property of my maternal ancestors on the Zwoelfergasse, or “Street of the 12.” I knew that none of the buildings belonging to my uncle Fridolin Kipper remained in existence. In spite of that we took a picture. Under a nut tree at the gas station diagonally across the road, we collected some sandstone and some walnuts that were tastier than any that I had ever had. Was it my imagination, or was it just because they were so fresh?

On the way back, we stopped at the former Evangelical Lutheran Church and the former old German school located next to it. Each structure continues to be used in a manner consistent with its original purpose. The church is now used by the Romanian Orthodox congregation and the school by the fifth through eighth grade classes of the community. Finally, at the recommendation of Hermine Schatte, we sought out Mrs. Zachmann, who is probably the last German in the village. The pictures that Mrs. Schatte had taken during her visit in the year 2006 and then sent to us were helpful. She had visitors from Germany, just as she had had in 2006. This time it was not her son Rudi but rather his twin brother Johann. The Zachmann brothers, born in 1956, left Romania in 1993 and now live in Kreis (county) Schwandorf, north of Regensburg in Bavaria, where they have established their independent lives.

In response to the question of why she had remained in Romania, Mrs. Zachmann answered that in 1940, she and practically all other Germans had left Bukovina with their families for resettlement in Silesia. During the flight [ahead of the advancing Soviet army] at the end of World War II, they reached Austria and were handed over by the Ameri-can occupation troops to the Soviets. When the latter saw their birth places on their identity papers, the family was sent back to Romania. There they remained.

Noontime came and we left Illischesti in the direction of Gura Humorului. Just before we left town, we stopped to have coffee in a very respectable hotel restaurant. Our tour guide turned down an invitation for lunch. The time was too precious, since we still wanted to visit the monasteries. We drove through Solka to Marginea, to view some of the wonderful black ceramic vases. Aside from that we obtained beautifully painted Easter eggs.After a short drive, we reached the Sucevita monastery, which was built between 1595 and 1606. Here a nun who spoke excellent German led us through the museum and finally to the monastery church, which has the most well-preserved paintings on its exterior walls. The nun ignored the summons to the next hour of prayer, telling us that she was in service.

The way to the Moldavita monastery, established in 1532, led through an exceptionally beautiful forested area in the Carpathian Mountains. In Moldavita we were received by Sister Tatjana who explained the exterior wall paintings to us and to a larger group from Germany. In the meantime, we became so chilled that we could not make it to the end of the tour but drove back to Campulung. Over dinner we said our farewells to Mrs. Gheorgiu and her colleague, giving them a donation for the work of the German Forum and some personal gifts.

On Monday morning, September 15, we left our group in Campulung to continue on our tour. We drove through Roman, Bacau, and Galati and by evening, we reached Tulcea in the Danube delta. After a wonderful cruise in the Danube delta on Tuesday, we made our way to Bucharest on Wednesday. There we took a city tour and saw the Parliament Palace, a massive but terrifying structure, supposedly the second largest in the world, which had been built during the Ceausescu era. For me, Bucharest is the ugliest city that I have seen in Europe. By evening we were again deeper in the Carpathians, this time in Predeal. Here our guide recommended that we not leave the hotel because of the bears that live in the forests and approach the settlements at night.

We spent the next two days in Romania in Siebenbuergen, or Transylvania. Special high points of our sightseeing included the castle Pelesch by Sinaia, which had been built by Karl [Charles] I of Sigmaringen-Hohenzollern, who reigned from 1866 to 1914 as the first German king upon the Romanian throne. Another was Bran [Toerzburg], the Dracula castle. Aside from that we visited the old city of Brasov (Kronstadt) and Sighisoara (Schaessburg) where we dined in a restaurant located in the house in which Count Dracula had reportedly been born. We were very impressed by a worship service in the German school affiliated with Margarethenkirche, or St. Margaret’s Church, the Evangelical Lutheran church in Medias (Mediasch), in which we were permitted to take a look, and finally by Sibiu (Hermannstadt), which was named the cultural capital of Europe in 2007. The central part of the city is outstanding structural condition, and a visit to the National Museum Brukenthal is well worth while. The influence of German culture spanning about 800 years is clearly visible.

After our last night in Hunedoara (Eisenmarkt), we left Romania on September 20 and reached our home after a two-day drive. In the course of crossing Hungary, we noted the great different in the economic development of the two countries. Romania’s industrial development of the Ceausescu era is seen only in ruins but one sees many new industrial areas in Hungary. Will Romania ever attain a central European standard? It is understandable that a very large part of the Siebenbuerger Sachsen, or Transylvanian Saxons, left Romania after the changes in 1989 since the near future held no hope for improvement in conditions.

During our tour, I contacted the German teacher in Bistritz by telephone. She gave me the names and cell phone number of her parents in Lucacesti. With the help of Mrs. Gheorghiu from the German Forum in Suceava, I asked them for information, especially about the black smith shop once owned by my father. Mrs. Gheorghiu, with whom I have again spoken by telephone, told me that the old house on the property was until recently occupied by a store. The proprietors had supposedly given it up out of fear that the former occupants would be able to make a claim upon it. They did not mean the owners prior to 1940 but rather the owners from the beginning of the Communist era, whose property had been expropriated. For more about this, see the report written by the Hermannstadt attorney Heinz Goetsch in Der Suedostdeutschen, Nr. 11/2008, about the Romanian law regarding return of a home in October 2001). In another telephone call to Mrs. Gheorgiu, I learned that the store closing probably had business or economic reasons. My family’s ancestral home is now in the possession of the community.

I would like to use this report about my trip to Romania to remind readers about Mazanaiesti, my birth place, as well as Lucacesti. I invite all readers who may come from this area or have information about it to contact me either by telephone at 05302/2107 or by email at KurtMayer@gmx.net.

Editor’s Note – Luzian Geier

The Romanian village of Lucacesti (Lukaczestie in the Austrian administration), or Lukawec in Romanian, was formed across from Dragoiesti, along the old district high-way between Berchischeschti and Suczawa. In 1900 the village had about 300 Romanian residents who for the most part occupied themselves with raising livestock. German artisans moved there later.

In administrative matters, the community belonged to the judicial district and to the district capital Gura Humor in 1905. It had 370 residents in that year, had its own school, and a post office in Dragoiesti. There was a savings and loan bank, four businesses (two little shops, a tobacconist, and a petroleum business) that were operated by Jews, and a black smith shop operated by Rudolf Novak. The village’s liquor trade was licensed to Elias Wagner, also a Jew.

Mazanaesti was a typical Romanian village of average size. It lies at the source of the Somuzu stream along the district highway. Shortly before 1900, the village had 758 inhabitants and its own school. The post office, however, was located in Dragoiesti. It was also part of the Gura Humor administrative district. The only Germans in the village at that time were the families of black smith Franz Kramer and cartwright Josef Kristel.

In the time between the two world wars, both villages belonged to the Suceava administrative district (Judet) in Romania.

Today both villages belong to the Dragoiesti community in the Suceava Judetz in southern Bukovina with the community center and with Berchisesti and Korlata, two villages in which many Germans once lived. The total population is 5,353. The new coat of arms for the community (since the change in 1989) depicts four heads of wheat, an old plow in the center, and a field flower.