Nick Tullius &
Jody McKim Pharr

The Banat Villages
Home of the Danube Swabian for over 200 years.




Trip to Banat, 1999

Temeswar, St. Andreas, Mercydorf, Kalatscha, Hodon, Billed & Knees

by Alex Leeb
Published at by Jody McKim Pharr

Part 1

    On our recent trip to Europe we covered many kilometers and also met relatives and friends whom I’ve never met. We landed in Hamburg; our destination was a three hour drive east of Hamburg and two hours north of Berlin. Which took us into the "Müritz See" district, formally DDR. We stayed with my fathers cousin, whom I met on the Internet. Our stay with them was excellent. After enjoying the scenery around "Müritz" for five days, our relatives drove us to Ingolstadt. The trip was an eight-hour drive, the scenery was beautiful. We spent a week in Ingolstadt and district, meeting relatives and friends, also attended three funerals during our stay.

       On the third week we traveled to the Bodensee, enjoyed the beautiful scenery for a few days. We also drove to Switzerland and covered the top portion of Switzerland. On our return trip to Ingolstadt we stopped at several places and visited relatives in Ulm and district.

       For the next three days we spent our time shopping in Ingolstadt and visiting with relatives and colleagues. I was informed, people working in the Audi factory, consume up to 3-4 bottles of beer while on duty. Such a statement was hard to believe. Apparently the employees requested they should be allowed to have their beer while on duty. If the request were not granted, they would refuse to work. The management agreed and the request would be on a trial bases for a month and permission was granted.  After six months the productions was up and everybody was happy.

      I met my cousin, Martin Roos, a priest in Temeswar at his fathers' funeral.  After the funeral, we had a family gathering and told us that it is very significant that we should be in Temeswar on June 24th.

      On June 23rd, at 17:00 (5 PM) six of us left Ingolstadt for Temeswar.  At 19:00 (7PM) we entered Austria.  It was getting dusk when we  approached the beautiful lights of Vienna, although we didn’t see much  of the city account darkness, it still was a beautiful site.

      We crossed the Hungarian boarder with no complication. The road was excellent; we drove on the Autobahn beyond Szeged. Clear sky, the moon was shining bright at 2:00 o’clock we approached Buda-Pest, (Budapest).  As we were getting closer, you could see the city lights glaring off the Danube. What a beautiful site. At 4:00 o’clock we arrived at the Romanian boarder.  It took us an hour before we could enter Romania. They claimed that there were minor defects with our vehicle. After exchanging a few inharmonious words with each other for an hour, I could see we wouldn’t get no where by doing this. Finally my cousin got out of the Van, went to the boarder quart and inquired what the problem was and shook hand with the quart with a 100 DM in his hand. With a smile on his face, the quart said that there was nothing wrong with the vehicle and we are free to go –Thank you very much- -

      At 5 o’clock we entered Romania. As we drove through Arad, the sun was rising in the east. People were going to work; we saw the odd car on the street. As we got closer to Temeswar, it seemed if our vehicle had a magnet in it. It was running faster and faster towards Temeswar.  Driving through Segenthausen was my first look at Banat.   I remembered the Churches in Vinga when I was in my younger age. But they sure changed. Orzydorf in site, I sat up more with interest, because one of my cousins lived there and spent some time in Orzydorf. As we were cruising southward, we passed Mercydorf on our right. Then St. Andreas on the right.

     When we arrived Temeswar, I was not impressed what I’ve seen from the Boarder up to Temeswar.   At 6 o’clock we arrived at our destination, at the bishop’s place.  Our cousin (the priest) greeted us, told us to lie down, have a five-hour sleep and at 12 o’clock sharp dinner will be served.

Part 2

     When we reported for dinner at 12:00 sharp, we were informed that dinner would be delayed until 14:00. A press conference was to be held at 13:00 and therefore dinner was scheduled for 14:00. Our cousin (the priest, Martin) introduced us to a lady Professor and to escort us to the boardroom for the press conference. Entering the boardroom, we were shocked with the amount of people being present. Persons like the bishop, priest, professors, and people from the media and televisions. Oh yes, our cousin Martin informed us before we went to bed at 6:00 o'clock, to wear a jacket and ties and the ladies should wear a dress. “Surely, this reception isn't for us,” said my other cousin.

      At 13:00 sharp, our cousin (the priest, Martin) entered the room.  Everybody rose from their seats, the secretary went to the bishop handed him a letter.  The bishop announced his resignation commencing August 28th, 1999. After his speech, he started to read the letter, which was handed to him the secretary. --- “This letter is from the Pope—and in this letter states, after my retirement on August 28th, 1999, I appoint “Martin Roos” as the new bishop of Banat with headquarters in Temeswar.” At that moment, the secretary opened the window in the boardroom; we could hear all the church bells ringing in Temeswar. The secretary informed us later, that all the bells in the catholic churches in Banat  were instructed to ring at 13:00 that day.

      After the announcement was made, the elect new bishop returned his gratitude with a brief speech, in German, Hungarian and in Romanian.  After the speech presentation, he had to cope with the media, TV cameras, and peopled congratulating him.   Finally he found a few moments, came over to us and spent some time with us. Congratulations were in order from us, we toasted to his success in the future. He insisted that some photos have to be taken with his relatives.

     A photograph was taken just from the three cousins first. Peter, Martin and myself. At that moment I was proud of my cousin. Not very often a person from your own village, or not very often a person from your own family becomes a bishop. Ones in million.  Another photo was taken with all the rest of the relatives included our wives.

     The celebration continued for about an hour. At 15:00 we ate dinner, after eating the snacks and drinking schnapps and beer during the celebration, our appetite was reduced in half.

     His father was buried a week prior to his appointment as a bishop, especially he would've been proud of his son.

Part  3

Trip to the Villages

     After dinner we took a rest for a couple of hours. The new elect Bishop took us out for supper. They recommended a Chinese restaurant, which we all agreed. The food and service were excellent. We had alcohol beverages and for nine persons, the bill came to 1,200,000.00 lei.

That's correct, one million and two hundred thousand lei. That might sound much, but it is not. E.g.
100 DM  = 800,000.00 lei
100 Can$ = 850,000.00 lei
100 USA$  = 1,500,000.00 lei.
So for nine persons, $80 is not bad for us, but them it is.

     It had rained all week, but it stopped raining on Friday June 25. This is the day we scheduled to drive to some of the villages. We had a good breakfast at 8.00, we knew we would not be back for dinner, there are no restaurants in the villages.   We left Temeswar at 9:30, hoping we should be back by 6:00.

      As we approached St. Andreas, we saw a caravan of "Flackerzigeuner," just outside the village. Entering from the south side, we saw some new house under construction. I was informed by my cousin, the houses have been under construction for three years. We saw ten persons leaning on shovels and smoking. Perhaps it was coffee break, or waiting for material or might have been a union meeting. Entering the main street, the houses looked old, We saw few people walking on the street, the only noise we heard, was the dogs and geese. No horses or cows in sight. I am sorry, I apologize, there were horses, just outside the village belonging to the "Flackerzigeuner."

      "Merzydorf / Mercydorf" We saw no construction in Mercydorf.  The church looked in good condition on the outside, the inside we did not see. We saw few cows outside the village. The houses like in St. Andreas looked liked the houses in Kosovo.  We saw more people and fewer weeds on the street.

     "Kalatscha." Is a resort (spa, vacation spot) and is still in operation. It has been kept clean, about 3-4 buildings in all.

      "Hodon."  Account heavy rainfall, the road into Hodon was closed.  We were only about 5 Km from it when we drove by. From a distance, the church still looked in good condition.

     "Billed." One of the better conditioned villages, it looked clean, more people walking on the street. It is one of the villages, which has more German population than other villages. You could tell by the way the land was worked.

     "Knees" My own stomping ground. Account heavy rainfall we were limited to the main street, park the Van and go on foot wherever we went.  Arriving into the village, the first building we passed belonged to my grandparents.  It is 49 years since I left, my grandparents raised us there during our younger days.   My father was a prisoner of war and my mother was forced to Siberia to work in the coal mines. Tears came to my eyes when I saw the house.  When we left, the barn was in better condition than  the house looks now.  Weeds in front of the house.  Driving further into the village, I did not recognize a single house anymore.  We went to the City Hall to obtain my birth certificate.   When we left the country, they refused to produce my birth certificate, so I cannot return anymore.   No complication receiving my birth certificate this time. We visited  German people, I did not recognize them, but they recognized me after 49 years.  Apparently only 60 German people still live in the village.

     The people looked skinny and tired.   No electricity, no running water and no land.  They raise chickens, geese, turkeys, and rabbits; they cannot effort to feed hogs.  They have a few fruit trees in the garden, so they have fruit for the winter.  They have to buy the flour, salt and sugar.  The lady receives a pension cheque (check) of 100-DM, $80 Can, $60-US, per month.  She stressed to me, they have to raise their animals as if they were their own children, so they will not die because it is their only means of food they have.

     We went to another lady and the shock was more painful than the first one. When we entered her place and saw what was in it, I got ill and had to leave the room. I told  myself, how can this happen They are Donauschwaben just like we are. She told to me; "Once we were Donauschwaben and we were proud of it.  Remember when you were still home, how we always said, "der arme Zigeuner.  Now look who the armer Zigeuner is, it is us. We are the Zigeuner and the Zigeuner sure is heck are no Donauschwaben. I go to church every Sunday and pray to God to give me a good place when die, because there's nothing left for me here." When we left her place she hugged me and thanked me for visiting her. She said to me, "things have changed since you left, remember we too were Donauschwaben once open a time."

Part 4

Still on the Villages...

     Our next stop, the cemetery. The walk was four blocks away. The buildings on the way to the cemetery looked ancient. Not many people on the street and the only people we are going to visit are all dead.  Walking through the cemetery gate, I saw the chapel through the trees.   The view was a disgrace; it looked like a pasture.  The tombstones were not in sight, the weeds went over my head and here we are walking in mud, wet weed looking for our ancestors. The chapel was our guide to locate our grandparent’s grave. With the cursing and swearing, (oops, can’t swear in a cemetery, somebody might hear me.) we finally located the tombstone of our grandparents. All other relatives who died were next to the grandparents.  A few prayers were said and a few tears were shed.  I went to the cemetery every time there was a funeral; I was an alter-boy in my younger days.

     Leaving the cemetery, I knew this would be my last visit.  Walking back to the Van, people noticed us walking towards the main street. Children were approaching us with their hands stretched out and hoping we would give them something.  Chocolates or chewing gum.  It seemed they never saw  water before except when it rains. I gave a little girl about five years old, a package of chewing gum. Her mother came to me and kissed me hand and thanked me about ten times.   Everybody stared at us, as we where creatures from outer space.

     Finally we reached our Van, on the main street and ready to return to Temeswar.  It was great for me to see the village again, brought back memories, good ones and bad ones. The trip back to Temeswar was sad for me, so I decided to write a poem between Knees and Temeswar.  I hope you like it...

My lovely Banaterland,
My native town so dear!
I gaze at you this final dawn,
Today I must depart from here.
I’ll never see you again, I know,
That’s why I find it hard to go.
I bid you my last farewell,
My lovely Banater vale.
I have loved you a many a year,
My fair Knees, where I was born;
Now you stand so sad and drear,
Just as I stand all alone,
You do not want to stay alone,
But yearn with me to go along.
Come, go with me  where’re I roam,
My beautiful, beloved home.
                  A. L.

    When we returned we decided to go and have pizza for supper.  Only six of us that evening, so the bill should be less than from the night before, Pizza tasted good, the beer and Schnapps gave us a better appetite.  The cost was only 995,000.00 lei, 110DM, 85Can$ and 65US$.  My cousin Peter from Germany volunteered to do the honors tonight and paid.   Being tired from traveling all day, we went to bed early.

Part 5

Window shopping in Temeswar....

     “Get up, we’re going shopping today!”  Does this sound familiar to us men?  Saturday June 26th, one of the hottest days of the week and the wife wants to go shopping.  After breakfast we took the electric streetcar and went into the “Josef Stadt.” My cousin pointed out to me, the place, the 1989 Revolution started, it’s called “Maria Platz,” (Maria place). We went into the Orthodox Cathedral and it is a beautiful building.

     We saw just about everything you want to buy.  Washer = 34 million lei, dryer=33.5 million, washer and dryer together for=68 million. Wedding dress3=million lei. Pair shoes (men) 700,000 lei, Ladies=650,00 lei.  The grocery stores are set up like in the west.  The meat department is set up just like ours and they have everything except the quantity might be lesser. Some of the clerks spoke German and English. 

     You could say, they have everything – except the money.  Some people would approach you to exchange money; they would follow you for half a block but wouldn’t take no for an answer.  Young children follow you for handouts.  They might be poor, but I noticed they dressed well for their standard of living.  I strongly recommend their beer, it's called “Timisoara” beer.

     After walking for five hours in the heat, I was tired, so we went back and rested before supper. Seven of us went for supper and it was my turn to buy.  Pork chops was the special, so everybody had the special. Schnapps, beer and a bottle of wine on the side. It was a nice restaurant, band was playing, but we were the only people in the restaurant.  It cost me 850,000 lei, which was reasonable for us.  100DM, $80CAN and  $65US.

     Our departure time next morning was 7:00; our cousin Martin (Bishop) had breakfast on the table for.  We thanked him for inviting us for the special occasion and for the good time we had.  At 7:15 we left his place, we took the same route back as we came.

     No problems crossing the Hungarian boarder, it was a beautiful day for traveling.  We noticed the difference after we crossed the boarder.  In Hungary there were more people walking on the street. The buildings were in better conditions than in Romania. There was more action on the streets.

     This time we were able to see Bud-Pest during the day.  At the Austria boarder we stopped for a few minutes then drove for three more hours before we stopped to eat. Again, Vienna was beautiful.  The traffic wasn’t that heavy, so we were crawling at about 160-170Km, got back to Ingolstadt at 19:00.

     For the next week we visit relatives again.  Our cousin Martin Roos came to Germany, so we visited him at his mother’s place (who is my godmother).  Now I can see why they drive so fast in Germany. Account the traffic volume and the LKW’s (semi trucks). Somebody has to drive faster to make room. I have to admit the Germans are good drivers and they have good roads. 

     Finally the time came, where we had to pack and come home.  Six weeks might’ve been long and tiring, but we traveled a few miles and met lots of people. We enjoyed ourselves and met wonderful people.  Now we have to go home and unpack and in a month’s time repack again and maybe go back for the ordination on August 28th.  Note: I would’ve loved to attach some photos, but to download them, for some of you who are on limited time, it would’ve been costly.

Part 6


     The land presently known as Banat, was occupied by the Turks for 150 years.  More damage was done to the land than good during that period of time. Riding their horses and killing people was enough damage for 150 years.   When our ancestors travelled on the Danube River seeking the place to settle down, their expectation was unknown. They knew the significance of LIFE is survival.  The first generation encountered death, the second generation experienced the need for survival.  Finally, the third generations developed the land into the best bread basked In Europe. They produced more over half a century than what the Turks did in 150 years. After a century, Banat was more developed and became more populated.

     In the early 1900, some of the Donauschwaben left the Banat to all different parts of the world. Looking for different work, some went to South America, North America and Australia.  The once who stayed behind, established themselves to a comfortable style of living. Some of the local Romanian farmers learned from Schwaben how to farm.  Have you ever heard the expression “work like a horse,” that’s exactly what the Schwaben's did. They never were scared of any work.  They were religious people and put their trust in God.

     As a child, I remember when you walked by a farmer’s place, you could Tell if he was a good farmer – by the smell of the “Mischthaufe” (manure pile) and the smell of the Strudel from the kitchen.  People were happy and took part in social activities.

     On our recent trip to Banat last month, I was in shock what we saw.  The difference from then until now. When I mentioned in my Part 5 story, they have virtually everything. The way the inflation is going, I can imagine, what future lies ahead?   They have well educated people, but only a minority.

     Something is missing there.  It seems as if they came to a “stop” sign.  Nobody is moving until somebody comes along and takes the “stop” sign away. A person lying in bed breathing and breathing, but he’ll never get nowhere unless he gets out of bed.   Or could it be, they are waiting for our ancestors to rise from their Graves and pick up the pieces since 1945 and rebuild the country.  The history of our ancestors will never repeat itself in a million years.

     The same goes for our ancestor’s cousins who went to Russia and Bessarabia.  The only difference there was, they didn’t have to deal with the swamp lands like ours.

1.  For those of us, who experienced the torture of the Donauschwaben in  1945, our memory is painful.
2.  For those of you, who visited the Banat after 1945, you  only witnessed  the ruins of your ancestors.
3. For those of you, who never had the opportunity meeting your ancestors, for you it’s only a dream, because in your eyes, they are legends of Banat.

     It is gratifying to see people doing research and show interest in their ancestors.   After all, if it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t be here, or would we?

The End .... Alex Leeb ©2003 Donauschwaben Villages Helping Hands, a Non-profit Corporation.
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Last Updated: 06 Aug 2019