Travel report from Senka C., 13 years old, student in Lovcenac

 

Our vacation in Baden-Württemberg last summer

 

Last summer Sanja, Agnes, Mrs. Helga and I setted out from Feketic to Germany on 24 of June. We arrived to Korb after a long, 15 hours travelling. Mrs Helga showed us her home and we moved in. We were four days in Korb and we visited Stuttgart every day. Stuttgart is a beautiful town, it enchanted us. We were in the botanic garden and zoo called `Wilhelma`. We saw rarity plants and animals there, everything was orderly and we were delighted. We visited the `Mercedes Benz Museum` where we could see `old timers` and the latest models. It was very interesting. We spent one day by visiting an old castle near Korb. We got know about its history and enjoyed the view of Stuttgart. We had time for shopping.
The next two days we spent in Ulm. We lived in a students` hostel. It was very nice. We spent that days by sightseeing. We were in a huge cathedral which is one of the tallest cathedrals in the world. It`s a beautiful building. We visited the museum called `Museum of Danube Swabians`, where we could see antiquities, traditional costumes, guns and their money from past. We liked the people in Germany. They are kind and hospitable. We liked their cooking, it`s different as our. Helga was a nice host, she made our vacation unforgettable. She spent a week with us. We are very thankful that she gave us the possibility to travel to Germany and to become acquinted with their history and culture. I got two new friends, Sanja and Agnes. We became very close friends. We arrived home on 1. of July with pleasant memories and souvenirs for our families.

 

Trip report and my visit to Sekitsch from Ronald P. Fetzer

The first thing I thought of when I was first asked to attend a business meeting in Budapest, was that Budapest must be close to Sekitsch, since my Oma had always talked about things Hungarian when I was a child. When I looked at the map, I was happy to find that it was only 200km or so from Sekitsch, the famous place about which I had heard so many stories from my Parents. The next challenge of course, was to figure a way to get from Budapest to Sekitsch to see the town from which my family came from.

I did some research on renting a car and driving myself, but quickly found that was not going to be practical. I asked my sister Karen to see if we could get any information from Karen Karbeiner, the daughter of friends of my Parents that also came from Sekitsch. Karen Karbeiner had made the trip to Sekitsch a few years back, and might have some suggestions for me.

The information I received was very helpful. The best tip I received was a referral to Heligon Taxi, a car service based in Novi Sad that provides car for hire between Budapest to Novi Sad and other destinations in Serbia. The current owner of the firm is named Dusan Rakic, and he also has a son named Dusan that drives for the company as well. Both spoke very good English as well as Serbian and were very helpful as guides and interpreters. The cost for the driver was not terribly expensive in US dollars, and from what I understand is much quicker and more comfortable than the train.

We left our hotel in Budapest in early afternoon of May 24, and after a half hour or so we were outside of the city limits and began seeing nothing but farmland. There was no traffic on the highway, and about an hour into our trip we hit the border with Serbia. The crossing itself was uneventful, but it did take 20-30 minutes until we were back on the highway. We continued on the road south into Serbia.

Our original plan was to drive from Budapest to Novi Sad and visit Sekitsch the following morning. However, since we were making good time I changed the plan to include a stop in Sekitsch on the way down. (Novi Sad is south of Sekitsch). In a little under two hours from Budapest, Dusan pulled of the Highway - the highway sign read “Feketic”, a name which I also recalled from stories my Parents told me. We drove through Feketic, and a few kilometers further down the road we arrived in Sekitsch.

We hit the town at around 4:00 PM. After many years of talking with my Father and Sisters about visiting the town of our ancestors, I could not believe that I was finally here. The town was surrounded by farmland, but once we arrived on Main Street there were many homes, some small shops and many people walking around. Most of the homes seem to have been built long ago, and many needed work. Nonetheless it was a colorful, quaint little town and .

My father had drawn a map for me, which we were able to use to find “die zweite Reie”, or Second Avenue in english. I got out of the car and immediately started taking pictures of all the homes since I could not identify those of the Fetzer’s and Bensingers. We asked some of the local Serb population about the homes I was looking for, and they quickly suggested I speak to Frau Eisele.

We were fortunate to find Frau Eisele and her husband Peter at home, and they welcomed us in. Their home is being meticulously reconstructed, using many of the original materials that the homes were once made of. They were quickly able to take me to Jakob Fetzer’s house, which is still occupied and is in good shape. I took many pictures for my Father, of both his father’s house as well as those homes around his still standing. Herr Eisele also took my to my mother’s home- the Bensinger house. This house was unoccupied and is run down. I was able to get close and look in the window where I saw some very worn lace curtains. I could not help but wonder whether the curtains hanging were once brand new and hung in that same window 70 years before when my mother was young.

We stayed a bit longer that afternoon and walk around the town and took many pictures. We then left and headed to Novi Sad to spend the night (Sekitsch is very small and has no hotels). Novi Sad is the regional capital and is located about one half hour from Sekitsch. There are many hotels and restaurants to choose from, and the people were friendly. I found a restaurant atop the Petrovaradin Fortress overlooking the Danube which had great food and beer, and a wonderful view.

We returned to Sekitsch the next morning and visited again with Frau and Herr Eisele. To my surprise I was able to speak some German, which I have largely not done since my mother died 7 years ago. I learned about their plans to open a small museum in their home to show what life was like in Sekitsch between the time it was settled and the time of the War. Frau Eisele was also able to help me get a copy of my father’s marriage certificate. We went to the local government office where we met the mayor, and where we were able to get the certificate. He encouraged any Sekitschers who wish to return to the town to do so, as the area is very poor and could use the economic activity.

After my visit, my friend and I went on to spend a night in Belgrade, which to me was not so nice. After that, our driver took us back to Budapest ( a 4 hour drive), where I spent my final two days visit . (Budapest, by the way is a beautiful city and I recommend it as a vacation destination as well for anyone who is visiting the region.)

In summary, the trip was very moving and it was something I had wanted to do since the war in Serbia ended. I was surprised at how easy it was to get to Sekitsch, as only a few years ago I understood that the only way to get there was via a long bus, train or boat ride. The cost of the trip from the US was not very expensive (roundtrip airfare from NY to Budapest was around $1,800 US, the car and driver cost approximately $200 per day, and hotels and food in Hungary and Serbia are very reasonable) , and I encourage anyone else who comes from the region to make the trip. If anyone needs more detailed tips on the travel, please email me at rfetzercpa@gmail.com

You may also wish to contact Frau Eisele :HelgaEisele@aol.com

 

Can You Go Home Again? And if „Yes“, Where to?

In June 2011 I once again returned my native city of New York. For the sake of convenience I joined a trip organized by the German-American Institute of Tübingen. I wasn´t too keen on sight-seeing – or riding the elevator of the Empire State Building for the twentieth time, even though this building has a very special significance for me: its construction was completed just months before I was born. So, instead, I decided to go to the Top of the Rock for its grandiose view of the city. This building directly faces Radio City Music Hall, that coliseum whose construction was started one day after my birth! Furthermore, my father, Jacob, and brother-in-law, Jack Judt, had worked on some of the better known high rises of New York. All this allows me to define myself mainly as a New Yorker – which I consider my Identity No. 1.

My flight began with Identity No. 3: that of a Tübinger, where I´ve lived most of my life. Leaving Identity No. 2, that of „Jaksch“, as some of my schoolmates from the days I lived in Yugoslavia/Hungary choose to call me. This label seems to come from an attempt to make a „Sekitscher“ out of me, which, due to the short time I lived there, could only be because my parents came from Sekitsch. Nonetheless, I´ll always remember those very important six years there!

As much as I like New York, I´m still more attached to my sister on Long Island, Tessie, and her family. So it was obvious that I´d call her immediately after my arrival. And as it happened, I´d once again shown up when another meeting of the Donauschwäbischen Hilfs- & Jugendverein (follow-up organization of the Donauschwäbischen Jugendverein, founded in 1956) was to be held.

If fifty years since the foundation of the earlier group seem long, we should remember that emigration to the US from Sekitsch started as early as the 19th century. The arrival there of my grandfather, Ludwig Klein, and his oldest daughter, Katie, dates from before World War I. After the war it took until 1921 before his wife and the other three children were able to join them. When he died in 1926 (photo), he was the first of three generations to be buried in New York. Also in 1921, my father and mother, together with „Max“ Wagner and many other Sekitschers arrived in Brooklyn. Both of my parents, Theresa and Jacob Lohrmann many years later found their last resting place within view of the Empire State Building – not far from the graves of my grandparents Klein and nephew Gary Judt

 

Actually, my memory indirectly reaches back to the time of my grandfather´s emigration because of my grandmother Katharina whom I knew very well: born in 1881, she died in New York in 1975. Under such premises it is difficult for me to consider myself anything but primarily a New Yorker. After all, major experiences of my life – early childhood, high school and college – were made there, with the adage, however, that I spent much of that time among Donauschwaben, mainly Sekitscher, be it helping to pack relief parcels for the „United Friends of Needy and Displaced Peoples of Yugoslavia“ (founded by Peter „Max“ Wagner), or playing soccer for the „German-Hungarian Soccer Club“. It was in these very rooms of our former clubhouse that the present meeting of the Donauschwäbischen Hilfs- & Jugendverein was taking place.

Searching for ties between the Donauswabian Americans and those in Germany, it turns out that they are closer than one would suspect: on the surface, neither side seems very aware of the other. Yet, if you ask: „do you remember him or her?“, memories crop up that indicate a deep-rooted connection, like the one maintained by the efforts of Justine Wittine.

The best proof, however, lies in the telling use of language: At that meeting on June 13th 2011, I heard as much Donauswabian-English, as I heard Donauswabian-German at similar meetings in Germany! And because “Schwowe“, as they call themselves in their dialect, just don´t seem to be able to shed their skins, they seek additional support to bolster their reminiscence of a blessed childhood. The best way to do this is to join an organization like the one mentioned.

Chairman George Ritter opened the meeting by reading the agenda containing a surprising number of activities the members had undertaken or planned: a trip to Atlantic City and its casinos in June, 2011; a meeting in Philadelphia with representatives from 20 cities; one in Mansfield, Ohio, planned for September 2011, to which guests from Trenton New Jersey are invited; attendance of a performance of „Jonah“ in Pennsylvania Dutch Country; a Spring Festival in May, 2012; and – most important: a celebration of the anniversaries of the two organizations in October, 2011.

These endeavors are remarkable not only because of their scope but also because of the participants, most of whom having been born in the old country! Another surprise is the considerable number of members beyond those 29 shown in the picture below (photo). Of course, a realization that the remaining time is waning – one´s own as well as that of the Donauschwabentum”, gives impetus to making use of as many opportunities as possible to preserve a 200-year-old heritage.

I must confess, though, that each time I attend these meetings, whether in New York or in Böchingen, a sense of “once-upon-a-time” and remorse enter my mind. I also regret the wasted opportunities of visiting those few Landsleute still remaining. Most likely we will realize this, when it is too late. Be this as it may, I was asked to convey the best wishes to the Donauschwaben of Germany, from the Donauschwäbische Hilfs- & Jugendverein of New York.

Karl Bubenheimer, Heinz Eichhorn, Josef Ganz, Reinhard Konrad, Ani Kuehbauch, Elsa Flenka, Anna Bubenheimer, Richard Hoffmann

Katharina Kuhner, Anna Sauer, Barbara Kapp, Sophie Schmitt, Eva Ganz, Klara Jaeger, Anna Fischer, Maria Tabor

            Justine Wittine, Magdalena Metzger, Adam Metzger, George Ritter, Matt Kleinhans, Gerda Hoffmann

                                            Adam Frank, Jacob Judt, Theresa Judt, Magdalene Frank

                                                              Philipp Kuhner, Helen Walter

Text by Jack Lohrmann