From: Building Blocks for the History of our German Settlements
“Bausteine zur Geschichte unserer deutschen Siedlungen”
in Deutscher Kalender für die Bukowina für das Jahr 1935
Sophie A. Welisch PhD, Trans.
(Czernowitz: Deutscher Kulturverein für die Bukovina, 1935), pp. 51-63
I will now publish three petitions which in the years 1847 and 1848 the community of Pojana Mikuli (Poiana Mikului, Buchenhain), in collaboration with the German-Bohemian colonists of Bori and Schwarztal (Vadul Negrilesei), submitted to His Majesty, Emperor Ferdinand I. Aside from the historic significance of these documents, which I found while doing research in the Czernowitz State Archives, they represent for us a second meaning. It is often maintained that the German colonists enjoyed advantages denied the autochthonous population. However, upon reading these moving entreaties, it will not be so easy readily to reach such a false conclusion.
In addition, these documents should be a comfort and an incentive to our German settlers. A comfort: one complains today about the desperate lot of the farmers. But if we examine these petitions, we shall see that at that time they had a harder life than we have today, yet with steadfast frugality they overcame all their difficulties and passed on substantial farmsteads to their grandchildren. And furthermore, despite all their distress, they respected education. They paid the teachers out of their own pockets and built a schoolhouse in order to give their children a basic education. Such examples of sacrifice for cultural purposes should be valued and imitated which, unfortunately, is not the case in many communities today.
The first petition is written in particularly poor German in which idiomatic expressions have an unintended comical effect.
|Your Majesty! Convinced of the generosity and high favor of Your Majesty, we, most loyal and obedient subjects from Pojana Mikuli, again1 cast ourselves upon the all-highest throne of Your Majesty and present at Your Majesty’s feet at the all-highest throne our humble petition with the most indebted submissiveness in the greatest expectation this time not to remain unheard. Not only the lamentable condition of the settlement of Pojana Mikuli, but now also the current very great and prevailing distress which the failed harvest of 1847 has brought about, puts us, Your Majesty, in circumstances most worthy of pity, since in addition to the sad situation and description of the oppressed inhabitants already presented in the humble petition dated February 23, 1846, the greatest calamity has afflicted our colonists who, in this past year of bad harvests, have lost all their food supply and are now subjected to severe famine. Not only is the cold climate a problem for Pojana Mikuli, but the as yet uncleared forests prohibit us from growing many other field crops besides potatoes; we, most loyal obedient subjects, apply all our energy to planting in order to provide for our needs; unfortunately not just a portion, as in other areas, but almost the entire crop rots here, and we scarcely have enough food for our daily needs. In addition to the extremely lamentable circumstances described above, the subsidies we are charged to maintain Czardaque No. 462 present us with very dire grief; although we have been paying them at great personal expense for about one year, despite our best intentions, we are not financially in a position to continue to maintain this military outpost in the future because of our great poverty. Moreover, the winter is already upon us, and we have been asked for the third time to cut klafters of wood, which we have already had to do for two years, which we, without nourishment, bereft of proper clothing, besides being of diminished strength, are scarcely able to carry out.3
And thus filled with hope of not being turned away this time, we, most loyal obedient subjects, cast ourselves down at the feet of Your Majesty, our generous and merciful sovereign, and plead with uplifted arms for a neutral commission which would visit us and examine our desperate situation; after the second petition submitted to Your Majesty, we have received no other favorable decision, except the edict of the highest Imperial and Royal Exchequer dated Vienna, December 20, 1846 Zl 41.646/2580 followed by the high gubernatorial endorsement of January 18, 1847 Zl.777/49. Although ten months have already passed and we have received no favorable response, we will continue to wait patiently for an answer to this matter in which negotiations have been pending.
May Your Majesty lend a merciful ear to the sincere entreaty and petition of the wretched colonists and send us the requested unbiased commission and not let us depart unheard from the throne; for far distant from our fatherland, we set the highest trust on our merciful and generous sovereign, who certainly will not abandon his children who are at all times prepared to give their blood and life for such a magnanimous and loving father.
Pojana Mikuli, December 14, 1847
(There follow the crosses (┼) of twelve Slovak inhabitants with their names supplied by the secretary, in addition to the following Germans, almost all of whom signed their names themselves: Georg Neuburger, Thomas Hackel, Josef Binder, Jakob Kufner, Karl Reitmajer, Georg Binder, Ignatz Hackel, Wenzel Hackel, ┼Mathias Eigner.)
The document was signed by Stefan Schuster, village mayor, and affixed with the seal of the community of Pojana Mikuli.
Petition of April 6, 1848
Struggling in dire straits and convinced of the justice and generosity of a kind monarch, we, loyal and obedient subjects, left our beloved fatherland of Bohemia and relocated to Bukovina in the hope of improving our domestic circumstances. We were told that through the great generosity of Your Majesty, we could participate in a settlement which would be established here; however, dear God, this settlement is here so structured that great physical exertion is demanded in order barely to survive; not only does the raw climate prohibit the planting of few crops other than potatoes, but the nature of the settlement is such that it is located entirely within a thick dense forest and can scarcely be cultivated even with the greatest toil. Yet this, Your Majesty, is a only one aspect of the complaints of us, your miserable subjects; moreover, since this is only the sixth year here, it is very difficult for us to satisfy all the burdens and debts for which we are responsible in same measure as other communities which have good land, since we did not have free-tax years, as did other settlers. Because of these circumstances we, most loyal and obedient subjects, presented in most indebted submission to the all highest throne of Your Majesty for your merciful consideration, a petition erga retur recepisse (with return receipt) dated February 23, 1846 and another on September 25, 1846, requesting release from cutting the klafters of wood; but to date we have not had the good fortune of a favorable reply.
Aside from this highly tragic situation, the maintenance of Czardaque 46 gives us, most impoverished settlers, one of our greatest concerns, since aside from providing for our large families in dire need, we have also been burdened with maintaining the Czardaque.
In response to our three petitions submitted to Your Majesty, we have only received a reply with the decree of the highest Exchequer dated Vienna, December 26, 1846, Zl. 41646/2580 followed by the high gubernatorial endorsement of January 18, 1847 Zl. 77749, telling us patiently to await a decision in this matter.
Pojana Mikuli (Buchenhain) on April 6, 1848.
(There next follow the names of twelve Slovaks, who all signed with a cross (┼), then the names of the German settlers who with one exception signed their names with their own hand: Adalbert Fuchs, Wenzl Hackel, Johann Beugel (?), Josef Binder, Georg Hellinger, Georg Neuburger, Mathias Eigner, Josef Hartinger, Emilian Baumgartner, ┼ Josef Haiden (?), Josef Seidl, Konrad Stöhr, Stefan Schuster, village mayor.)
On August 23, 1848 almost all the same twelve Slovaks, who had signed the above petition, forwarded a petition to the Emperor through their representative Miron Czuperkowicz, in which they declared that “their life here exists for the pity of humanity.
“And further, despite the promises of the praiseworthy Solka Office of Economic Affairs to issue us a formal contract for the past six years, to our greatest sorrow and to our frequent inquiries we have to hear from the mouth of our praiseworthy administration that we are only considered private settlers”4 [private as opposed to government-sponsored colonists not entitled to an endowment–SW].
Our village of Pojana Mikuli consists of seventy-eight house numbers of which thirty-six numbers belong to the so-called Slovaks,5 whose parents came from Hungary almost sixty years ago and settled in Bukovina. . . .
The petition is significant for us because we can tell there from that in 1848 there were forty-two German colonial farmsteads in Pojana Mikuli.
The last petition in this series, dated Gurahumora September 19, 1848 and addressed to the Austrian Ministry, expressed similar themes as the foregoing. This time, however, three communities authored it, specifically Bori, Pojana Mikuli and Schwarztal (Negrileasa; more accurately, Vadul Negrilesei). In the document the latter is referred to as “Vatra Negrilassa.” The following settlers signed the petition: Andreas Jung, mayor of Vatra Negrilassa; Wenzel Schaffhauser; Josef Baar (perhaps Beer); Wenzel Hilgarth, mayor of Bori; Christoph Maidl; Johann Haas; Johann Lang; Stephan Schuster, mayor of Pojana Mikuli; ┼ Anton Iwaschko (?); Anton Tischler; Nikolaus Kuschamik (?).
1From this document we learn that this community had already submitted two petitions, which, however, I did not find.
2Military outposts which the local communities had to maintain.
3The colonists were obliged annually to cut a specified amount of wood for the administration, i.e., in this case for the Office of Economic Affairs in Solka. More on this topic below.
4When the colonists of Pojana Mikuli, Bori and Schwarztal turned to the administrator of the Solka Office with the petition to transfer the properties to their permanent possession as His Majesty, the Emperor had promised and called upon heaven to witness the veracity of their words, he apparently answered as follows: “The Emperor is far off, the sky is high, and here I am the Emperor!” These words have remained in the memory of the colonists to this day and were recounted to me by several sources.
5Interestingly the non-German inhabitants of Pojana Mikuli felt insulted to be called Slovaks; they wanted only to be Polish.