Board of Directors:
Mary Agnes Wagner, Vice President
Joe Erbert, Secretary
Bernie Zerfas, Treasurer
Aura Lee Furgason
Dr. Ortfried Kotzian
Edward Al Lang
Prof. Dr. Kurt Rein
P.O. Box 81, Ellis, KS
Editorial response to
P. O. Box 1083
Hays, KS 67601-1083
The convention was a great success and we thank
all the presenters and volunteers who made it possible. Thanks also to people who made donations to the society
of books, documents and data. Erich and Inge Slawski, Michael Augustin, Werner
Zoglauer, Dr. Sophie Welisch, and Kathy Windholz Wolf. A special thanks to
Regina (Schott) Schiessl, daughter of Theresia Augustin, who donated to the
society museum her baptismal dress brought from Bukovina.
The board of directors has made a commitment to
conduct the next Bukovinafest in Regina, Canada in conjunction with the annual
meeting of the Federation of East European Family History Societies. The dates
will be on or near July 18th, 2002. Irmgard Hein Ellingson is chair of
the program and numerous members of the Bukovina Society will participate in the
planning. Announcements will be made in future issues of the Newsletter on
programs and activities.
Ayrton Gonçalves Celestino extends an invitation
to members of the Bukovina Society to attend the Bukovina celebrations in Rio
Negro/Mafra in July of 2001. At the Bukovinafest in Ellis, several members of
the society expressed an interest in creating a tour. Anyone wishing to join a
tour to Brazil may contact the society for more information.
Al Lang gave a report at Bukovinafest on his visit to
Brazil in May of this year. “I had the opportunity to visit Professor Ayrton
Gonçalves Celestino while in Brazil. Professor Celestino is extremely active
with the Bukovina Germans in Brazil. His mother was born Schelbauer and his
maternal grandfather was Ignatz Schödlbauer, who emigrated from Bukovina to
Brazil on 7 July 1887.
First some general observations on my trip to Brazil.
Brazil edges ever closer to the turning point when it will become an economic
powerhouse. It has a population of more than 150 million people, more than the
rest of South America combined, and its economy holds the same status. Brazil
is rich in natural resources and labor. In 1999, Brazil celebrated its 500th
anniversary of its founding by the Portuguese. Portuguese is the official
language of Brazil today, while the rest of South America speaks Spanish.
I fell in love with Brazil. The dynamics of it’s economy
are well evidenced in the fashionable shops and malls offering goods made
worldwide to the street peddlers, that still move their wares by a cart pulled
by themselves. Brazil accommodates both and understands each as acceptable in
order to provide a living.
On a beautiful Saturday morning in May, I left the
airport in Sao Paulo, a city of 18 million people and flew south about one hour
to a city of 1 million people, Curitiba.
Curitiba is said to be the most European city in Brazil.
Indeed, it reminded me very much of the cities of Germany, with the whitewashed
home exteriors, the tiled roofs, and the iron fenced yards. Professor Celestino
met me at the airport and invited me to his home where I met his lovely wife,
Alyrde Canesin Celestino, of Italian descent. (The Brazilians use double last
names). His two children, Fernando and Rosilena where not available to meet
Professor Celestino then drove me to meet a close friend
of his, Carlos Walter Kolb and his wife Suzane. Mr. Kolb is an engineer and a
mathematics professor at the Federal University of Parana, the State in which
Curitiba lies. Mr. Kolb knew some English and understood a certain amount of
German, the written German, not dialect. His father, Kunibert, was born in
Bori, Gura Humora, Bukovina. Carlos’s mother was born Elvira Weber and is a
descendant of the Welisch family. Mrs. Weber was at the house when I arrived
and after she was told that I could speak German, we began a nice conversation.
I noticed that everyone that I met, who could speak German, spoke the written
German. I was told German was taught in the schools until World War II. The
Germans in Brazil were under the same scrutiny during the war as were the
Germans in the United States.
Mr. Kolb gave me a tour of his home. It reminded me of
the homes in Germany, with one exception. It seems that newer homes in Brazil
have a barbecue pit as an addition to the house proper. The Brazilians are well
known for their consumption of beef and make an art of its preparation. After a
short visit, Mr. Kolb, escorted Professor Celestino and me to a local
A Churrascuria con rudisio(sp?) is an attraction in
Brazil, that no tourist should every bypass. It is a steakhouse with waiters
that rotate throughout the restaurant with various types of meat. Each table is
provided a toggle with one end green and the other end red. Typically, a salad
bar is provided and when one is ready for the meat entrees, flip the toggle to
show green on the top. Each waiter has a meat specialty on a skewer and when
you indicate you are ready for them by flipping the toggle, each waiter will
come and offer you a portion of the meats of your choice. It is a memorable way
to sample a bit of the many types of meats prepared to your desire, rare,
Later that evening, we were to meet with Mr. Nivaldo Lang
and family. Nivaldo was born in Rio Negro, but his ancestors came from Bori,
Bucovina. Nivaldo’s wife is Maria Estela Schneider Ferreira Ramos Lang
have nine children. We were fortunate to meet most of the children with spouses
and grandchildren that evening, as they were celebrating a baby shower.
When I met Nivaldo at the door, I greeted him in the Boehm-deutsch
dialect. He looked surprised and started speaking to me in the written German.
His physical appearance mirrored other Langs that I have met. The family was
extremely hospitable and several of the children attempted to speak basic
English with me and I attempted Portuguese with them. Amazingly, we could make
ourselves understood. An amusing event occurred, when a small girl, age 3 or 4,
made an observation that made the others laugh. With the help of the
professor’s translation, it appears the little girl thought that I was a movie
star…after all, I could speak English.
The time spent there was too short, but the pleasant
memories will remain. I look forward to the time when I can again return to
Brazil to create more memories.”
The annual business meeting of the Bukovina
Society was held during Bukovinafest 2000. Board of Director terms of Joe
Erbert, Bernie Zerfas, Ralph Honas, and Darrell Seibel expired and the
membership reelected them to another term. Following the convention the board
met for election of officers and reelected the same slate. The International
Board was expanded by the addition of Rebecca Hageman, Dr. Sophie Welisch and
The Bukovina Society has reproduced an out of
print book written by Anne-Marie Hilgarth and originally published in England by
Arthur H. Stockwell Ltd. in 1980. Dr. Sophie Welisch, a frequent contributing
author and translator for Bukovina Society publications, gained permission from
the author and publisher for the work which is on sale at Gulliver's Books in
Hays or by mail from the society.
Anne-Marie was a teen caught up in the Second
World War movement of ethnic Germans from their homes in the eastern crown lands
of the Austrian Empire. These Germans were attracted to settle frontier lands
much like the Germans who migrated into the Russian Empire. Whereas Hitler
split with Russia, leaving ethnic Germans at the mercy of Stalin, he made a deal
with Austria to resettle the Germans back to the Reichland. This involved
uprooting thousands of families, most of whose men were off to war. "The
autobiography by Anne-Marie offers a glimpse of the grim realities which faced
the displaced in World War II", according to Dr. Welisch. The young girl was
separated from her mother and had only the name and address of a convent of nuns
in Austria, home to her aunt. She endured hardships, hunger, and horror to
reach her destination and final reunion with her mother. Anne-Marie lives today
in England with her husband, children and grandchildren. She revisited the
haunts of her childhood a few years ago.
The 30-page book, titled Anika, from her
nickname, contains three pictures and the cover is a copy of the original book
dust cover. Her father, Otto Hilgarth, was a professional woodcarver who
learned his craft in Oberammergau. Pictures of two of his famous Stations of
the Cross carvings from Zeltweg, Austria are printed in the book. An order form
is enclosed with the newsletter, or send $4.00 to the society to receive it by
Welcome to our newest life members of the
Douglas Reckmann, Portland, OR
Robert and Jean Gaschler, St. Louis, MO
Arnold and Elvira Schoenthaler
The life member payment is placed in a special
endowment fund with the earnings paid to the society annually. This has created
a good financial footing for the society. The life members receive all
publications of the society and pay no annual dues.
New member Susan Nordquist-Mead would like to
make contact with persons with information on her family, “My grandfather Conrad
Weber, grew up in Ostra, Bukovina (his sister remains in Romania, now living
near Suceava). His parents are Johann Weber and Regina Hartinger. His paternal
grandparents are Conrad Weber and Cecilia Winter, and maternal grandparents are
Wenzel Hartinger and Theresa Lang. He tells me that his grandparents were
German Bohemians, but did not know their village of origin.” Email:
Van Massirer announced that the Texas German
Society and the German Texas Heritage Society will meet in joint convention at
Waco, Texas April 6-7, 2001. Van will be chairing the program and can be
contacted at 124 Canaan Church Road, Crawford, Texas 76638.
Samantha Kerth is looking for family members
around the globe. Her grandparents came from Illischestie, Bukovina. She has
traced her heritage back to the 1600s to an Antonius Kerth and a Hans Ast/Aust.
Email at: Ahtnamas68@aol.com
BEKAR/BAKER FAMILY REUNION
By: Joan Galey
The Bekar/Baker family held a
reunion this summer, 2000 in the Edmonton, Alberta area. About
200 descendants and relatives of
Josef Pekar and Ludvina Maierhoffer attended. Josef and Ludvina
with their family of 10 children
emigrated from Paltinossa, Bukovina to Saskatchewan in April, 1912. 6 more children were born in
Canada. Names connected to the family are: Loy, Rieberger,
Kwasnicki, Lang, Thiele and Ludwar.
Some American relatives
descended from the Gura Humora and Paltinossa Pekars also attended.
These included Anita Busek from
Seattle, Wash., Walter and Josephine Reichel from Tacoma, Wash.
and Joyce Davis from Gales Ferry,
Ct. Their presence enriched our reunion and expanded our
awareness of other branches of the
family. Bill and Jean Carr of Indianapolis, Mi. sent photos of
Paltinossa taken on their Bukovina
Society trip in 1996 and which were very much appreciated.
WITCHES, GHOSTS, PROTECTIVE MAGIC:
SUPERSTITION IN THE VILLAGE OF EISENAU IN
Translated by Sophie A. Welisch
This narrative about ghosts, witchcraft,
protective magic and other superstitions is based on examples cited by two
women, mother and daughter, from the village of Eisenau in Bukovina.
Eisenau was founded in the early 19th
century by ironworkers from the Zips. The Zips (Spis/Szepes) is a territory in
eastern Slovakia at the foot of the High Tatra Mountains which, since the
12th-13th centuries, had been settled by Germans brought in by the Hungarian
kings to work in the mining industry.
The Austrian nobleman, the knight Manz von Mariensee, acquired an iron foundry in Eisenau. In 1808 he recruited skilled
workers from the Zips for his Bukovina foundry, among them Gottlieb Oberländer,
a foundry worker.
Among his descendants were Katharina Kattani (née Oberländer) born in 1864 and her daughter
Gisela Oberländer (née Kattani),
born in 1907.
While her mother Katharina remained steeped
in the old superstitious traditions brought from the Zips, their practice by her
daughter Gisela gradually fell into disuse. She no longer accepted as true
everything that her mother believed, and for many of the superstitious practices
she carried out on behalf of her mother she could offer no explanation nor did
she question them.
CATTLE PROTECTION. When Katharina
Kattani got a new cow and wanted to take it into the stable, she asked her
daughter to bring an apron. Gisela had to lay it on the Stalltirpel (Schwelle
zum Stall = doorstep of the stable) and lead the cow over it. This was done
to assure that the cow would always return to its stable.
As protection against accidents and illness,
Katarina Kattani sprinkled holy water over her cattle and poured it between
their hoofs. On January 6, a High Holy Day in the Eastern Orthodox Church, she
sent two of her daughters to the neighboring community of Vama to bring fresh
holy water for the cattle. A large procession took place there, accompanied by a
flag and wooden barrels to carry water drawn from the river. It was very cold.
The two small girls had to travel a great distance. As they returned home very
chilled with two filled bottles, a relative, Gustav Hennel, happened to be
sitting in the parlor. He joked about the holy water. Katharina defended the
water and gave as an example of its efficacy that it could be kept until the
summer without acquiring a bad odor.
"Naturally it will keep," declared Gustav;
"the cold has made it germ-free. That has nothing to do with a blessing or a
Katharina was a Protestant; nonetheless, for
the sake of the valuable cattle, she did not reject the blessings of another
The words of her relative nonetheless raised
doubts, after which she no longer used the holy water.
A horseshoe hung above the stable entrance.
As with the holy water, it was to protect the cattle from accidents and illness.
Should the cattle sicken despite all the protective measures, the family turned
to drastic "healing practices" and for a while "doctored" on their own before
finally calling in a veterinarian.
When Gisela Oberländer's sow became ill, she
took a piece of mandrake root and bored it through one of the sow's ears. Today
it is clear that this torture brought no relief to the animal. But at that time
Gisela believed in the advice of the men with "healing knowledge." Eventually
she had to summon the veterinarian. But even he could no longer aid the pig
infected with red murrain.
At Christmas Gisela Oberländer's cattle got
a small piece of "Klootsch" (Kolatschen/Hefekuchen = leavened
cake). When asked the reason for this practice, she could give none other than
that her mother had also done it. Possibly this custom stems from the
traditional Zipser Christmas cuisine. This called for dishes containing a kernel
of new life: peas, corn, poppy seeds, etc., which would enhance fertility. If
the cattle were to eat some of this food, their fertility, too, would be
With the Oberländers of the third and fourth
generation this practice lapsed into oblivion. After Gisela Oberländer married,
she cooked kernels at Christmas only one single time. Since no one was enthused
over this dish, she henceforth prepared "Galuschken" also known as "Haluschken"
(stuffed cabbage). This consists of a mixture of pork and rice rolled into a
soured cabbage leaf.
WITCHES. In the village there lived
two ladies of whom it was said they practiced witchcraft. Their specialization:
bewitching the milk out of the cows. At home they had hung a rope and through it
they milked the bewitched cows.
One day Gisela Oberländer's friend Della
claimed her cow no longer gave milk and blamed [a neighbor lady] for it. The
previous day the "witch" had appeared at her stable whereupon the milk failed.
Gisela, who was not entirely convinced, asked if the bite of a weasel could not
have caused the problem. But Della could not be dissuaded from her witch's
In any case, there existed a magical remedy
for the situation. For this, it was necessary to resort to the chopping block
used to split wood. When not entirely new, it developed a hole in the middle.
Milk was poured into this depression. Then a so-called Tschuflink was
heated and held in the milk. "Tschuflink" was the name of a wedge-shaped
wooden implement with a chain. It was cut into pieces in the forest and then
conveyed forward by the chain.
After Della had practiced her magic, the cow again
gave milk and on the very next day the "witch" appeared under some pretext. The
magical remedy had "forced" the witch to return to the place of her deed.
When asked specifically why these two
Eisenau women were suspected of witchcraft, Gisela Oberländer could only offer a
reason for one of them. This woman had supposedly been a mean person who
disputed with many people. Once, when she was moving away, her neighbors banged
on pots and pans: a sign of derision and contempt.
When the Eisenau villagers departed their
homeland in 1940, the alleged witch also went along and after the war lived in
Bavaria. The belief in witches had entirely vanished. Yet the woman was still
disliked since she had maintained her argumentative ways.
If a person had a problem getting to sleep
or suffered from nightmares, one suspected an incubus (Alp = evil
spirit). An incubus, so one thought, was the soul of a still-living person,
usually a female, who left the body during sleep. It sat on the chest of the
sleeping person and compressed it in order to deprive him of air or sucked on
the breast to take away his strength.
Gisela Oberländer knew stories about the
incubus and heard complaints about the pressure it applied but never experienced
it herself. In the Zips the incubus was also called Mahre or Mohre
(dialect; Mahr = nightmare). In other regions one used the term "Drud"
[drude = witch]. Gisela Oberländer no longer remembered the remedies against
this uncanny entity, the Drudenfuss [druda’s foot] or the Drudenstein
[drude’s stone], its two other names.
WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD?
Lead smelting, which some people do on January 1 [St. Silvester's Day], took
place among the Zipsers on November 30, on St. Andrew's Day. This custom,
brought from their homeland, persisted until the twentieth century. They poured
smelted tin into water and from the bizarre configurations girls sought to
discern the occupation of their future husband.
A broken mirror portended seven years of bad
luck. If a black cat crossed one's path, misfortune would follow.
It was said that a girl could see her future
husband in a mirror if she stood naked before it on New Year's Eve. Gisela
Oberländer knew of this superstition but did not believe it. If her mother
glimpsed her bridegroom in this way will remain her secret.
Other means of discerning the future
included cards, reading coffee grinds and looking into beans. In Eisenau several
women specialized in one or another of these methods.
The Gypsies practiced palmistry as a means
of livelihood. Gisela Oberländer's husband, Rudolf, once had his fortune told by
a Gypsy. She prophesied wealth and many children. Later he told his
granddaughter this story, adding: "And what happened? I have one child and never
At age fourteen an aunt took Gisela
Oberländer along to Pojoritta (village in south Bukovina) to a well-known
psychic who read cards. The purpose of the visit was that the aunt learns
something about the marital prospects of her two daughters.
Gisela found the psychic's appearance
sinister. Everything on or about her was long and thin, especially her fingers.
But the girl became increasingly distressed when her aunt asked the psychic to
read the cards for her. Now, in advanced age, she can no longer remember the
details of the prophesy, although she still recalls the central point: she would
marry someone who lived near water.
This was a clever shot, since most of the
villages lay along streams and rivers, and it could scarcely be anticipated that
Gisela would marry an inhabitant of the Sahara Desert. And indeed it came to
pass that the homestead of Gisela's husband lay near the Moldova River. No house
in Eisenau was all that far from the river.
Dreams portend the future, or so many
Eisenau villagers believed. If one dreamed of dirty water, this meant something
bad; if one dreamed of clean water, it foretold something good. Snakes were a
sign of enemies with harmful intentions toward you. Black birds symbolized
Some people had dream books, which they
consulted when a dream caused apprehension. Sigmund Freud's psychological
interpretations about dreams had not yet reached Eisenau.
ENCHANTED PLACES. On a northern
ridge of the Moldova Valley above Eisenau there was a large cliff protrusion
which the inhabitants called "Trappenstaan" (Spurenstein =
footstep stone). On the upper side of the large stone were footprints of animals
arranged according to size. It began with those of a horse and cow and got
smaller with each imprint.
How these "Trappen" (footsteps) got
into the stone remained an enigma to the villagers of Eisenau. The saying
circulated that an unimaginably long time ago the animals, one after another,
pressed their foot into the soft stone.
Gisela Oberländer holds to the veracity of
this theory to this very day. She cannot believe that someone could have
chiseled the impressions into the rock.
In western Eisenau the valley narrows. Its
narrowest point lies near the "Black Cliff," which rises steeply alongside the
road. The other side of the road faces the river. Rudolf Oberländer, Gisela's
husband, told his granddaughter that this place was "sinister," and that he
always hurried when he had to traverse it in the dark. Once he saw something on
the cliff which looked like two gleaming eyes, perhaps a wolf, and ran as fast
as his legs could carry him.
THE EVIL EYE. The evil eye,
attributed to certain people, put fear into the Eisenau Zipsers. In their
dialect this phenomenon was called "Vom Aagen kommen" (von den Augen kommen
= coming from the eyes). One believed that evil people, through intensive
staring, could will illness and misfortune upon another.
But happily there was a magical defense.
Katharina Kattani still remembers well the extinguishing of the [glowing] coals.
When one of her daughters complained of a headache, she said: "Hot dich bidda
abea ongeschaat." (Hat dich wieder jemand angeschaut = someone has
looked at you again). Then she brought out an enamel pot with a handle, filled
it with well water and threw three glowing coals into it. After starting the
ritual, she could utter not one single word. Mentally she repeated three times:
"In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen," each time
making the sign of the cross over the coals. The ill person had to imbibe three
swallows of the coal water and three times with the left hand take water from
the pot and rub it over her skin. To dry off, she had to use the reverse side of
her undershirt and then lie down.
After concluding the ceremony according to
old practice, Katharina Kattani carried the remaining water out and cast it
toward the garden gate.
CURSING. A feared threat was "Auf
den loss ich a Mess lesn" (Auf den lasse ich eine Messe lesen = On
that I will have a mass said). It usually arose out of revenge, after having
been offended. Gisela Oberländer was familiar with this threat but knew nothing
else about it. Presumably it involved a black mass.
She also recalls a tragic story involving a
curse: a girl had been going with a boy in the village for seven years. But the
young man's mother presumably wanted another, wealthier woman as her
daughter-in-law. This rumor reached the girl and she wrote a letter, expressing
her annoyance, to the boy who worked outside the village. She did not seal the
envelope and gave it to a co-worker for delivery to him. Since the letter was
not sealed and the co-worker could read everything, the young man felt
humiliated, broke off relations with the girl, and married the one preferred by
The embittered girl let him know that she
wished him and his children misfortune. And to be sure, his marriage was not a
very happy one. His wife was not a good housekeeper. She let the cabbage rot in
the barrel and did not empty it until summer. The geese developed a foot
sickness because the stable was seldom cleaned. The couple had two children. One
died young as the result of an accident, and the other, when an adult, was
To those who were superstitious, the curse
came to pass. Some even thought it recoiled on the curser herself, since she
married a man whom she did not love and died childless at a young age.
GHOST STORIES. In Eisenau it was also
a popular pastime to tell scary stories. This practice was especially in vogue
in the spinning room. Gisela Oberländer recalls one story, which she often heard
from a relative from Jakobeny (village in southern Bukovina).
Once upon a time a house was being
constructed in Jakobeny. While excavating the cellar, the workers found human
bones, which had thoughtlessly been thrown about. After the house had been
completed and the owners moved it, noises resounded every midnight, although
there was no one to be seen. The family feared greatly, and, since the mischief
continued, they summoned a priest for assistance. He blessed every room and
gathered up the bones, which were then interred in the cemetery. Henceforth, the
owners of the new house enjoyed peace and quiet.
Gisela Oberländer's brother-in-law, Anton
Hendel, often recounted his terrifying experience in the cemetery of Eisenau.
Once night as he was homeward bound with his
friend Luzezky, they passed the cemetery. It was pitch black, and they were
terrified as they suddenly heard a rustling. A dark coil rolled out of the
cemetery gate. It looked like a very large ball. As it approached both men, they
took to their heels and ran home in panic squarely through the gardens. After
that they never went past the cemetery at night. Those who know the habits of
the Eisenau villagers wondered if perhaps the two had been in their cups. . . .
Gisela Oberländer had her doubts.
Nonetheless, she never went in the vicinity of the cemetery at night.
Once the Oberländers were awakened at about
2:00 a.m. when they heard someone jumping over the garden gate and loud
footsteps nearing the house. Since no one knocked, they got out of bed and
looked laterally through the curtains. There was no one to be seen, but suddenly
they heard a commotion behind the house. Someone was bustling about in the
woodpile. It sounded as though he were throwing around the pieces of wood.
Gisela Oberländer's husband, Rudolf,
hesitated to go out and check on the situation. "Dea haat miä aans iban Haap
ond beg sei ich (Der haut mir eins über den Kopf und weg bin ich =
He'll pop me one across the head and I'll be a goner.)
After a while all became quiet. In the
morning the Oberländers first checked their wood. They feared it had been
stolen. But the woodpile appeared completely undisturbed. Nothing was missing.
They were speechless and could not explain the goings on. Again belief in the
supernatural came into play. Had it been a man, they would have seen him.
Moreover, he would also have stolen something.
Although Gisela Oberländer did not take so
seriously much that caused fear and anxiety in her mother, she was nonetheless
raised in the old tradition. Until this day the event remains unresolved for her
and she continues to reject a rational explanation. It is possible that someone
wanted to play a prank on the family.
BIRTH. Katharina Kattani sometimes
recalled that in days of yore very many children died of "Fraas." "Fraas"
is a word in the Zipser dialect and means "Freis." Freis or "Freisen
was a dreaded illness of infants and young children. Various types of cramp
attacks were given this name.
Today it is thought that these cramps were
cause by unsanitary conditions, spoiled milk-pap or the "Schnuller" (=
sucking device). At that time infants were given small linen bags filled with
bread, sometimes mixed with sugar, on which to suck. These little bags must have
been a breeding ground for bacteria, particularly in the summer.
To ward off Freis and other illnesses
the mother had to repeat the Lord's Prayer into the child's ear immediately
after birth. Katharina Kattani did this right after the birth of her
granddaughter Edith Oberländer. Gisela Oberländer was no longer so familiar with
this practice. She had to be urged to do it by her mother.
Many other customs have long since slipped
into oblivion. The ancestors in the Zips had to observe considerably more: a
small child could not look into a mirror lest it remain mute. A child's
fingernails had to be bitten off; if cut, the child would die. He who looks at a
sleeping child, puts it under the spell of the evil eye. When a child is carried
to its baptism, a coin is placed on its chest in order that it has money its
whole life long. If two loaves of bread are baked together in the oven, the
mother had to break them apart over the child. Then it would become clever.
Defenses against evil powers include saliva, flowing water, fire and bread.
Katharine Kattani was sometimes summoned
when at the birth of a boy a testicle did not slip into the scrotum. Then the
"sentence was pronounced" (abgesprochen). She stroked the infant several
times with the back of the hand from the abdomen to the testicle and said: "In
the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen."
At that time it was thought that prayer
would solve the problem. Today Katharine's daughter, Gisela Oberländer, asks
herself if indeed it was not the massaging hand motions that carried the day.
As late as the 1930s, when Gisela
Oberländer's daughter was born, people in Eisenau bound their infants tightly
into a bundle. Failing to do this, the child would not have straight legs, they
thought. A small child was not to be admired and called beautiful lest it come
under the spell of the evil eye.
MARRIAGE. Gisela Oberländer still
recalls some rules applying to weddings: In a section of the wedding dress one
inserted sugar and a piece of bread. A coin was placed in one of the bride's
shoes. These customs were to assure that the bridal couple never lacked food and
The guest threw crumbs at the bride as she
was leaving her parents' home.
En route to the church and at the altar the
bride could not turn around. This brought bad luck. Should she happen to step on
the groom's foot during the ceremony, she would have the upper hand during her
years of marriage.
The bridal couple had to stand so closely
together that no one could see between them.
The one who first fell asleep on the wedding
night would be the first to die. Even today Gisela Oberländer maintains, "Da
Tatte is zeerscht eingeschlofen. Ich darinner mech noch bi er geschnoacht hot.
Maanst, doss a davoa als easchta gestoam is?" (Der Vater ist zuerst
eingeschlafen. Ich erinnere mich noch, wie er geschnarcht hat. Meinst, dass er
deswegen als erster gestorben ist? (Der Vater ist zuerst
eingeschlafen. Ich erinnere mich noch, wie ar geschnarcht hat. Mainst, dass ar
deswagen als erster gestorben ist? = Father fell asleep first. I still remember
how he snored. Do you think this is the reason he died first?)
She still carried out selective
wedding customs in 1950 when her daughter married in Bavaria. To be sure the
guests threw rice. “Rice was too expensive in Eisenau,” she noted, adding, “I
never really believed all this, but I thought ‘even if it does not help, at
least it can not hurt.’” By 1977 when Gisela’s granddaughter married, this
tradition had fallen into disuse.
DEATH. Before someone
died in the village, there would be an indication of the sad event, or so the
Bukovina Zipsers believed.
A black bird, which sat for a
long time on the roof of the house or nearby in a tree, was a bad omen. A clock
which fell down or a black dog encountered at night similarly signaled calamity.
Kattani's death, her daughter Mali (Amalie), insisted that she had heard heavy
footsteps under the window during the time her mother was failing. Mali, who had
been reading by the light of a lamp, could see no one.
The Kattanis' neighbors
maintained they had glimpsed a fourteen-year old girl, who had died shortly
before, standing at the corner of the house. She was wearing the white
confirmation dress in which she had been buried.
When Katharina Kattani
became ill and felt the end approaching, she implored her daughter Gisela to
carry out the following customs: the mirror (there was only one) should be
covered. Gisela should go to the stable and arouse the cattle. She should place
in her mother's coffin a wooden shaving from the threshold of the house and a
coin and see to it that the deceased is carried out of the house feet first. The
coffin should be set down on the threshold three times.
fulfilled her mother's wishes although to this day she does not know the purpose
of all these funeral rites.
A glance at books about
superstitions yields clarification: the mirror must be covered in order that the
soul not see its reflection. In that case it would always have to return [to
earth]. Additionally, the amalgam on the back of the mirror would corrode.
The animals had to be
aroused in order that they leave the spot where they found themselves at the
time of the death. The deceased could otherwise drag them along with her. The
coin served as payment to the evil spirits enabling the soul to travel
undisturbed to the next world. The corpse had to be carried out feet first so
that the soul did not return. As a sign that the deceased believed in the Holy
Trinity, the coffin had to be lowered onto the threshold three times. [Note: No
information on the significance of a wooden shaving in the coffin could be found
in the literature on the subject. In the event that a reader can offer an
explanation, the author would appreciate learning of it.]
CONCLUSION. Gisela Oberländer has been living in Bavaria since 1945. She is ninety-three years old.
In contrast to her mother, who tenaciously clung to the old customs brought from
the Zips to Bukovina, she was influenced by modern, scientifically enlightened
ideas, and, doubting much of the old traditions, does not concern herself about
them too much. Nonetheless, the sway of the old superstitions remains so strong
that she defends some of them to this day. In answer to her granddaughter's
comment that here in Bavaria no one any longer is struck by the evil eye ("vom
Bösen Blick getroffen werde"), she
retorted: "Chioo, dos is richtig. Ich baas aach nech, bieso dos hie nech meh
is." (Ja, das ist richtig. Ich weiss auch nicht wieso das hier nicht mehr ist
= Yes, that is true. I really don't know, why this no longer happens).
Dingolfing, Lower Bavaria, Germany, February
Gréb, Dr. Julius, Zipser Volkskunde, Heft 1,
III Klasse (Kesmark and Reichenberg: Verlag für Sudetendeutsche
Hadbawnik, Oskar, Die Zipser in der Bukowina:
Anfang, Aufbau und Ende ihres buchenländischen Bergbaues in den Nordkarpaten
(Munich: Verlag der Landsmannschaft der Buchenlanddeutschen, n.d.).
Rattelmüller, Paul Ernst, 'Der oane kommt,
der ander geht' - Volksbräuche im Lebenslauf (Munich: Süddeutscher
Vasold, Manfred, "'Der
Herr hat's gegeben; der Herr hat's genommen' - Säuglingssterblichkeit in
Deutschland von 1800 bis heute" in Die Zeit, No. 10 (February 28,
1992), pp. 45-46.
THE MARIAN FOREST
A MEMORIAL FOR THE VILLAGES OF BUCHENHAIN,
DUMBRAVA AND CORNU LUNCII IN BUKOVINA, ROMANIA
By Maria Beckers
Translated by Dr. Sophie Welisch
On Pentecost Sunday,
May 19, 1991 a Marian Forest Chapel was consecrated in Julbach, Bavaria. Two
returning war veterans, who had been in desperate straits during the Second
World War, promised at that time that if they returned home safely, they would
make a great sacrifice to God and the Mother of God.
One of these men was
Markus Heiden, born on October 27, 1926 in Buchenhain (Romanian: Poiana
Micului). In 1989 he made an appeal for contributions to all his compatriots,
who also had reason to be thankful to the Mother of God that after the war in
Germany and after their flight, they were nonetheless able to find such a good
contributions poured in, so that Markus Heiden could begin with his
for a chapel. At that time he also met Hans Krapf from Julbach, who had
already heard of the building project. Faced with a like situation in
war, he had made a similar promise. In order to fulfill their pledges
Markus Heiden and Hans Krapf got together to direct the construction of
Stories of how construction came about raised great interest. People
suggested to Markus Heiden that he write a book about it. Hans Krapf had
already died on February 17, 1996.
Currently Markus Heiden is recording his experiences in a book entitled
Mein Versprechen (My Promise). This book should initially be ready by
tenth anniversary of the construction of the chapel in May 2000 and
offered for sale. Primarily it is also a testament to his compatriots.
In it he describes the emigration to Bukovina from the Bohemian Forest in
1838 and the settlement in Buchenhain and the way of life at that time
well as the return to Germany [in 1940] with stops in Styria, Austria
settlement in Upper Silesia [German-occupied] Poland.
In addition he
describes his military service during his tender years and the critical
circumstances of the difficult battle in which he, staring death in the
face, made his great commitment to God and the Mother of God that in the
event he were to return home safely, he would offer a great sacrifice on
In poignant fashion he describes the construction of the chapel with the
consecration and other festivities. In addition, Heiden thanks all who
their own way helped him fulfill his promise and also that of Mr. Hans
Since most of the participants were compatriots from his former
the chapel is unofficially called "Buchenhain-Dumbrava-Chapel." In it
the war dead of both villages are enumerated.
The chapel stands on a small elevation in the midst of the forest:
the name "Marian Forest Chapel." In 1987 a powerful hail storm raged in
this area and uprooted many trees right on the spot where the chapel
would later stand. One might even say that the Mother of God had
this area for herself. After this [devastation] they got the parcel of
land as a gift. With much effort they then cleared the wilderness and
began construction of the chapel.
In the meantime this chapel has found great resonance among the
population. Not only is its interior beautifully decorated, but its
facade is also very attractive. The well-executed onion dome, of which
many can be seen in Bavaria, has evoked especially great approbation.
Some benches have been placed outside for rest and reflection, so that
one can also enjoy the enchanting view.
People come from all corners of Germany, even from far away, as for
example from Australia, America and Romania. After the number of
had exceeded well over two thousand, a count was no longer kept.
I would like to take this opportunity to send you some photographs to
show you this well-executed chapel and ask, that should you have the
opportunity, you also visit it. The experience would be well worth
Through this chapel a lovely memorial has been erected for Buchenhain,
Dumbrava and Cornu Luncii as well as for the descendants of their former
If you are interested in ordering the book, which will be published in
May 2000 (in German) with numerous pictures, please write to:
Reimo-Verlag, Am Mitterfeld 3, 85445, Oberding/Bavaria Germany.
Top of Page
Back to Newsletter List
since July 5, 2002 Last Revised:
09/25/13 08:58:51 PM