Nick Tullius   Jody McKim Pharr

Home of the Danube Swabian for over 200 years.



The Banater Post published two little stories written in the schwowisch dialect
by Nikolaus (Nick) Tullius
about his home village Schandrhaas in Banat.
Published at 16 Apr 2014 by Jody McKim Pharr.


English translation:

My Mother tongue


Nikolaus (Nick) Tullius is originally from Schandrhaas, but has lived in Canada for over 50 years. He wrote an interesting book about his life, entitled “From the Banat to Canada.” The book was published a couple of years ago in English and in German. Dr. Gehl reviewed the book in the Banater Post. Now the book was also translated into Romanian. Nick Tullius has written several times on the Dialect page. This time he wrote two short stories, memories from his youth in the Banat. That was long ago, but our writer remains a Banat-Swabian, even in Ottawa.


Folks, the times have surely changed! Today we’re living all over the world, we have all kinds of mechanical and electrical gizmos, we eat and drink stuff coming from all over the world, but our memories remain with us. Fortunately, the bad memories are easier to forget than the good ones. I want to present to you a couple of stories that may be counted among the good or at least among the interesting ones.

Examen in Temeswar

     It happened around 1946 or ’47, when high school (called “Gymnasium”) started right after grade four. Our Romanian principal prepared us, two boys and a girl, to pass the admission exam to the high school “in the city” (for us, “the city” was always Temeswar). All subjects were in Romanian, in which we were getting along nicely at that time. And mathematics was pretty much the same in all languages.

Religion presented a little bit of a problem. In the village school, our catholic priest taught religion in German, while the orthodox priest taught our Romanian colleagues in Romanian. The principal agreed with our priest, that the priest would separately teach religion in Romanian to the three of us, in preparation for the high school admission exam. Our priest found some Romanian bibles from somewhere, and we went to the rectory, two or three times a week, for our private lessons in religion.

As the exam drew closer, Bessl Liss, a woman that sold produce on the Temeswar market, found us a place to stay in the city during the days of the exam. We stayed at with Erschi-Neni, who lived somewhere around the Kittl Square. I slept on the couch in the kitchen, and during the night, something bit me around the neck and near the eyes. Erschi-Neni declared that it were rashes, because “We haven’t got bedbugs”. She treated the “rashes” with alcohol, and I thought to myself “you can tell that to the bedbugs”, but I did not say it out loud.

The first day of exams was uneventful; only math and religion remained for the second day. Once again we sat two to a bench and worked on our test papers. The test supervisor, probably a math teacher from the high school, was walking up and down between the rows of school benches. He had a big moustache the rest of his face resembled the picture of the Neanderthal man from the biology book. One could easily get scared from looking at him. He stopped a few benches behind me, glanced at the work of a student, and yelled at him: “Pişta, mă Pişta, ce faci tu acolo?” (“Pishta, Pishta, what are you doing there?”). Now I got really scared, as he was standing behind me. But he did not say a word and marched on.

The religion test was the last of our exams. As we sat in our benches, the door opens and in comes a young, blond chaplain in black robe, who says in a friendly voice: "Good morning, boys, would you like to retell me something from the Bible?" He said this in literary German, indicating that, naturally, we could write our essay in German. When I notice how my bench neighbour spelled “Egipten” (Egypt), I realized that he also received his religion lessons in Romanian. When we reported this experience to our village priest, he laughed and said: “Learning religion is always good, whether in German or in Romanian.”

I don’t remember ever seeing the results of these tests. Around this time, the government issued a decree reforming high school. Every student had to complete seven grades at elementary level, and then continue to high school (now called “Lyzeum”). I can tell you that this was a relief: I could now stay at home three more years.

Village Music in the Homeland

     We did not have electricity in the village, in those early nineteen-fifties. Some people had gramophones from America, the type that needed rewinding. Most people who had owned battery radios, had to bring them to the village hall in 1944 and never saw them again. When groups of boys gathered in the village, usually classmates born in the same year, they were either sitting in the grass somewhere, or slowly walking through the street, while singing some songs. They sang old folksongs as well as new hit songs, in German and Romanian.

     Like other Swabian villages, our village had a brass band. The War dispersed the musicians; we did not know who had returned home, or who may have been imprisoned or was working in the salt mines. Only a few knew, that some members of the band already played with the “Original Donauschwaben” in Munich.

     On a beautiful New Year’s eve, when we came out of the church, our brass band stood in front of the church and played a few pieces, finishing with the march “Alte Kameraden”. The leader of the band was Stemper Vettr Hans, who had managed to gather enough band members to continue the old New Year’s tradition. At some point in time, there was also a string orchestra and the younger generation started to learn the instruments. It puzzles me even today, that so many children, especially boys, started lessons on playing the various instruments, including me. The children were no longer needed for work in the fields, so they had more time for other things.

     Two of my friends, Mischko and Hilli, took accordion lessons from the Grawisch-teacher. I would have liked to do the same, but the instrument was too expensive. However, we had my father’s violin, which he had once played in a string orchestra. Teacher Grawisch took me on, to teach me the violin. He seemed to know how to play all instruments, but certainly the piano, accordion, and violin. At the start of the lesson, he tuned the violin, using his piano. Then, the two of us played together, sometimes all four of us played together. Of the songs we played during my violin lessons, I especially liked “Kleines Mädchen von Hawaii” (“Little girl from Hawaii”) and I soon learned to play it by heart. Later on we learned to play a few waltzes and polkas. At home I had to practise the many exercises from the book published by Morawetz in Temeswar.

Often I perused my father’s handwritten book of musical notes. I learned at least a couple of pieces: The “Donauwellen Waltz” by Ivanovitch, and “Du schwarzer Zigeuner” (“Little black gipsy”). We also had in our house a song book, with the complete text and notes for many songs. I taught myself to play the song “Schlesierlied”: “Wir sehn uns wieder, mein Schlesierland, wir sehn uns wieder am Oderstrand” ("We’ll meet again, my Silesian Land, we’ll meet again on the Oder strand"). The song made me feel sad, even though I did not know the post-War fate of that land. I learned to play the song “Nach meiner Heimat ziehts mich wieder” (approximate translation: “I long for my homeland”), which could be often heard on the street. I played it mostly after drinking something, which certainly did not happen often.

My father had learned to play the violin from KLei Vetter Matz, like many children in the nineteen-fifties. Many of these children were in the school orchestra, which participated in all school festivities. Once we even played as guests in the village of Bogarosch.

Finally I want to mention that at some point Schandrhaas (Alexanderhausen) even had a chamber orchestra. The members of the quartet were our priest Lamoth (1st violin), teacher and organist Sieber (Cello), chaplain Nikolaus Muth (lute), and Sepp Brandl (2nd violin).

It is funny how all this came to mind. At the end of our vacation in Hawaii, we were sitting on the plane, waiting for takeoff. And since this could be our last visit to these lovely islands, I suddenly remembered that old song. It stayed with me during the six hours of the flight to Vancouver, so I marked it all down.

 That’s how life is. After so many years, I finally visited Hawaii, but the “little girl” of the song was now slightly older: my wife of over 40 years. I was happy and sad, all at the same time, because that song somehow related to the whole life: “Little girl from Hawaii, quietly I say good-bye…”



Last Updated: 13 Nov 2020 ©2003 Donauschwaben Villages Helping Hands, a Nonprofit Corporation.
Webmaster: Jody McKim Pharr
Keeping the Danube Swabian legacy alive!