A Bukovinian Finds the Hometown of his Ancestors

from: “Ein Bukowiner findet die Heimat seiner Ahnen,” Katholischer Volks- und Hauskalender für die Bukowina,

Wenzel Hoffman

Czernowitz, 6/1939, pp. 61-62.

Sophie A. Welisch PhD, Ed. & Trans.

Posted 21 August 21 2002

It was August 1917. I was sent from the field to the [military] relief unit in Lemberg [Lvov, Galicia]. There I received the order to escort twelve men to the cement factory in Floridsdorf near Vienna. At the Lemberg railroad station I asked a commanding officer, a Polish first lieutenant, where Floridsdorf was located. He thought it must be in Bohemia. The railroad conductor, with whom I talked in the train, was also of the opinion that Floridsdorf lay somewhere in Bohemia. So shortly after my arrival in Vienna I asked when the next train departed for Prague and traveled on with my twelve men. After several hours a conductor appeared and asked about our destination. I replied “Floridsdorf.” The conductor, a Czech who did not know German well, replied that he did not know of such a place, but it must lie in the Bohemian Forest, where all villages and cities are German. We then traveled on for many hours.

A new conductor came on board, a German Bohemian. He also inquired about our destination. When I told him Floridsdorf and detailed our previous route, he called me an idiot and said I have already passed Floridsdorf. I then told him what the first lieutenant and the various conductors had said, who all had advised this route. Thereupon he roundly berated the first lieutenant and the conductors, calling them asses. We got off at the next station, Hirschberg, to await the next train back to Vienna and thus to Floridsdorf.

In order to kill time and assuage the frustration, we went to closest restaurant. Soon thereafter we entered into a conversation with the waiter. Since I remembered that my grandparents had immigrated to Bukovina from this region of Bohemia, I asked the waiter if here in the vicinity there are people with the surname of Hoffmann. He himself was named Hoffmann, he replied. He also had a 200-year-old family chronicle, which perhaps could yield some information. To my delight and amazement I found that according to this old book my grandfather with two brothers and several others had emigrated from there to Bukovina via Galicia in 1831. After about four months a letter from my grandfather had arrived from Radautz in which he complained that after so much stress and strain they had arrived in Bukovina but that they [the authorities] had still not allotted them the land which had been promised for settlement. After a year they received another letter with the news that one brother had stayed in Radautz and the others had relocated to Gura Humora. In 1841 my grandfather then relocated to Schwarzthal.

This big old restaurant was in the hometown of my ancestors, and the waiter was my relative. Naturally all my men and I dined well and also imbibed at bit to quench our thirst. The hours, which I had earlier thought would be boring, passed far too quickly. After hearty farewells we boarded the train and after a twenty-hour delay, I delivered my twelve men to Floridsdorf before returning to Lemberg.