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Banat Settlement Area
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Baratzhausen | Billed
Hodon | Ketfel | Knees
The Collected Works of
Thank you Alex for your wonderful contributions to the DS community
and the entire DVHH
"It makes me feel good when I can help somebody make his or her research successful."
Rose Mary Keller Hughes
Published at DVHH.org 18 Jan 2005 by
Jody McKim Pharr
first person to be interviewed in 2005 is Alex Leeb.
Alex, as we all know, is a fountain of information and
willingly shares it with all of us. He is one of the
list members who was born in the Old Country and has
lived the life that we have all been so interested in
learning about. So, sit back and enjoy our latest
interview . . .
Welcome, Alex, to the list
of Shakers and Movers.
off with a bit of your background...
Well, I was
born on February 19, 1936 in Knees, (Satchinez),
a village in Banat, Romania. This village has
been in existence since 1333. My father, Anselm
Leeb, was born in Emmental, Bessarabia, Romania;
my mother Teresa (nee Lay) was born in Knees,
grandfather, Eduard Leeb, died in 1917, in the
Russian-Japanese War. My grandmother, Salomea Wagner Leeb, and my father needed to find work to survive; since work was hard to locate in Bessarabia, they went west, the whole way on foot, to the Banat. My father was 16 years old at the time. Grandmother and my
father found work in the village of Knees. He worked as a hired man and Grandmother worked as a maid for farmers. Two years later, my father seemed to be doing okay, so my grandmother returned to Bessarabia by herself. Father had met my mother, the daughter of Anna Schneider Lay and Johann Lay, in Knees; they were married in 1933. My brother John was born on October 1933 in Knees and I was born three years later.
I had a
complicated birth and. about three months after I was born,
a disease had set in my blood resulting in my whole body
being covered with boils. According to my parents I was in
much pain. One day, a Gypsy came by the house, stopped and
had a conversation with my father. The Gypsy could hear me
crying inside the house. My father told the Gypsy about my
illness. With my father’s permission, he asked if he could
see the baby. While the Gypsy looked at me, he requested
that my father get a blanket and meet him in the barn. In
the barn, my father observed the magic being performed by
the Gypsy. The Gypsy covered my whole body with manure and
then totally wrapped me in the blanket.
told my father that he would be coming back at sunset daily
for the next four or five days and would perform the same
activity. After a week, there were signs of improvement in
my body. The disappearance of the boils and the pain was
not overnight—it took three months before my system returned
back to normal.
That was some beginning to life! Now, tell us about your
grade six in Knees, Banat. After we came to Lancer,
Saskatchewan, Canada, in 1950, I attended school in Lancer,
until the first of April in 1951. Then we moved to Medicine
Hat, Alberta, Canada. Because I did not know one word of
English when we came to Canada., my greatest handicap was
having to learn the English language. Our curriculum in the
Banat, was equal to the eleventh grade in Canada. Yet, I
had to begin in the first grade again in order to learn the
language. My first year in school in Canada, I covered
eight grades! In the fall of 1951, I entered High School.
At first, it was difficult because I had to spend extra
hours studying, but everyday, things got better. In the
Banat, a child does not begin school until the age of
seven. In 1956, I graduated from St. Theresa’s Academy, a
high school in Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada.
still employed or are you retired?
I have been
retired since 1994.
told me a little bit about when he was still working.
He said that
when he was a high school student he worked during the
summers in the construction trade, building houses. After
his 1956 graduation from high school, he began working for
the Canadian Pacific Railway in Medicine Hat, Alberta.
a little about working with the railway.
My first job
was repairing and fixing box cars. I worked this position
for two months; then in October 1956, I was asked to become
an Assistant Agent. It was an inside job and I was able to
put my high school education to use. I was the relief man
for the all agents in Alberta when they went on their annual
vacations. After I worked the Assistant Agent position for
one year, I was asked to become a telegrapher for the
company. This was the same kind of deal as the Assistant
Agent position, the telegrapher position was a relief
position and I had to travel all over the province. While I
was in the telegrapher job, I had the opportunity of working
in such beautiful places as Lake Louise and Banff in the
Canadian Rockies.. In August 1958, I got my first permanent
position with the company. It was a telegrapher position,
working from 4:00 in the afternoon until 12 midnight. I
worked in Banff, Alberta as a telegrapher for 10 years. In
1958, my position was abolished and I got a telegrapher
position in Calgary, Alberta. In 1968, I fell in front off
a moving train.
you do seem to have some major catastrophes in your life!
I was lucky,
I rolled to the side and rolled off the track—otherwise I
would have been cut in half. In 1972, I was asked to become
a relief Train Dispatcher (Traffic Controller) in Calgary.
In 1976, I was once again able to hold a permanent
position—it was a midnight position, but it was a job. In
1978, I was asked to become a relief Chief Train Dispatcher
for the Calgary Office. In 1985 I became the Personnel
Manager for our Department. In 1994, all good things came
to an end & I retired April 24th.
Pacific Railway was an excellent Company to work for. They
had good wages and good benefits. I don’t regret my time
your interests and or hobbies, Alex?
I played golf
when I was still working, but then. I had both of my hips
replaced—one in 1995 and the other in 1996. Since the
operation, I don’t play golf much anymore.
Pacific Railway owns the Banff Springs Golf Course. Since I
was an employee of the company, I had free passes to play on
the golf course. Since it was free, I played 6 days of the
week. While playing on the golf course one day, I had the
privilege of caddying for Mr. Bing Crosby who was
vacationing in Banff. Another time, I had the privilege
meeting Robert Kennedy while playing golf in Banff.
like doing genealogy.
that’s no surprise to the DVHH list!
married or do you have a significant other in your life?
Yes, I am
yes, we see the beautiful Rose Marie in the photo.
"Alex & Rose Marie Ibach"
on their 40th anniversary
How did you
first meet Rose Marie?
While I was
working for the Canadian Pacific Railway in Banff, I ended
up in the emergency room in the hospital—I had Hepatitis.
The second day in the hospital, a nurse came on duty at 3:00
PM (he even remembers the time!), she was put in charge to
tend the patient by the name of Alex Leeb.
I suppose it
is every nurse’s duty to get more information from the
patient. While she was finding out about me, I noticed her
nametag on her uniform—immediately I recognized the surname
and asked her if she had a brother by that name. Her
immediate answer was a question. - Why did I want to know?She knew she had me, because I was the helpless dying
patient in the bed and she was the boss.
said, “No, he is my first cousin.” I said to myself, “Well,
at least we’ve got something in common to talk about.” Day
by day, our conversations became longer, and longer. On her
days off, she would come to visit. My parents came from
Medicine Hat to visit me in the hospital in Banff. After my
father found out Rose Marie’s ancestors were Germans from
Russia, and that she could speak the same dialect as we did,
my father and Rose Marie hit it off immediately. After a
while, my father told her that if she knew how to cook
noodles and make strudel, she could marry me.
If we had heard that romantic
story before, we would have made you the Valentine’s Day
interview, Alex. What can you tell us about Rose Marie?
Rose Marie Ibach was born on
the tenth of December in 1935 in Fox Valley, Saskatchewan,
Canada. She comes from a family of 17 children; she is the
second oldest child in the family. Her grandparents came
from Baden, Russia. Her grandfather was a schoolteacher in Krasna, Bessarabia. What a coincidence! Krasna is the
place where my paternal grandfather was born.. Rose Marie’s
parents were born in Saskatchewan, Canada.
Rose Marie and I got married in 1963 on the 18th of May in Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada. We stayed in Banff until 1968; then we moved to Calgary, Alberta.
Do you and Rose Marie have children, Alex?
We have two daughters—Alixes, was born on
January 13, 1966, in Calgary, Alberta and
Felicia was born on October 2, 1972, in Calgary,
Alberta as well.
Anything you want to share about them?
Both of our daughters are not married. They
both work for Canadian Pacific Railway as
Traffic Controllers in Calgary, Alberta.
Felicia is also the President of the Traffic
Controllers’ Union. Both reside in Calgary.
Alixes has MS and up to now has no major
you are very proud of the area in which you live, Alex. In
fact, at times I’ve believed you to be a member of the Tourist
Bureau. Tell our readers about your life in Calgary.
We moved to
Calgary, Alberta, Canada, from a small village, in 1972, and
have been living here ever since. Rose Marie and I are both
retired. We used to go dancing every Wednesday evening, but
now we both have problems with our feet, so we gave that
activity up. We both participate in social activities. We
both go to Mass every day; we drive a blind priest to church
every morning as well as drive him to other places where he
may need to go such as medical appointments, grocery
shopping and so on. The rest of the day, I keep myself
occupied on the computer.
got you started in doing genealogical research?
When I retired in 1994 and
then had my hips replaced in 1995 and 1996, I was unable to
maneuver around very well, so I decided that a computer
would be a good toy for me to play around with. After
playing around and discovering what can be done on the
computer as well as learning about the Internet, I never
stopped entering questions. One day, I entered the word
“Banat”—I couldn’t believe the information I got back. I
was amazed; the information one could get from the
Internet! After I discovered what a person could do on the
computer, I strictly focused on genealogy.
words, you were “hooked!” Is there anything about your family
history that you would like to share with us?
As I said in
the beginning, I was born in Knees, Banat, and the second
child of four children. Life in my youth wasn’t exactly
rosy. Our life style was different compared to present-day
living. We were poor—no running water, no electricity and we
barely had enough to eat. At the age of nine, I was helping
my grandfather plow the fields. When I was six years old, my
father was conscripted into the Army. When I was nine years
old, my mother was taken away from us and sent to Russia to
work in coalmines that were close to 200 feet underground.
Thank God, we had grandparents who looked after us. In
1945, the Communists took everything away from us—houses,
land, and life stock. The Communists became the landowners
and we became the slaves.
became a POW in West Germany, and was working on a farm. He
lost his father in 1917 in the Russian-Japanese War and now
here he was a Prisoner of War in another conflict.
In November 1946, my mother became very ill in Russia—their food
food wasn’t exactly the greatest—they got one loaf of bread and a pail of water with cabbage leaves in it. She was put into a boxcar and by mistake she ended up in East Germany instead of back home in the Banat.
meantime, my bother and I were living with our grandparents,
helping dig the gardens and doing other helpful work. We
attended school where we had to learn Romanian and Russian.
School attendance was compulsory until the seventh grade.
If students wished to continue their education past the
seventh grade, they would have to attend school in
Here we were,
torn apart as a family. Our father was in West Germany, our
mother was in East Germany, and my brother and I were in
Knees with our grandparents.
My father had
no schooling—when he was very young he never attended school
because he had to stay at home and support his mother. When
they went to Knees, he had to work as a hired hand on the
farms to help his mother put food on the table.. He had no
schooling. So here was my father in West Germany,
illiterate due to his lack of schooling and unable to write
to us back in the Banat, to let us know about his status.
However, we managed to get his address so we could
communicate with him. In the spring of 1947, we received a
letter from our mother in East Germany. We had not heard
from her since she had been taken to Russia in January
1945. Our grandmother cried from joy to find out that her
daughter, our mother, was still alive. My grandmother was
kept very busy corresponding with both our mother and our
In the fall
of 1947, we received a letter from our parents in West
Germany. What had happened was that our father had crossed
the Iron Curtain during the night and gone to the place
where our mother was. After spending a week with one
another there, they both crossed the Iron Curtain and
returned to the place where our father was living. Shortly
after their reunion, our parents began to work through an
agent to bring my brother and me out of Romania so that we
might join them in West Germany. Our grandparents had to
hire a lawyer in Temeswar to provide us with the proper
papers to leave the country. A year went by, but nothing
happened—no word from the lawyer and no action from our
parents in Germany.
happened then, Alex?
grandmother was a religious person; she went to Mass
regularly and said her daily prayers.
One day her
prayers were answered. She had written to her sister in
Saskatchewan, Canada, asking her if she would consider
bringing our parents, who were living in West Germany, to
Canada. The reply from her sister in Canada was a
blessing. She agreed to bring them to Canada.
meantime, a new addition arrived in our family. Our sister
Anna was born in August 1948, in Germany. On October 30,
1948, our parents and our baby sister arrived in Quebec
City. After riding the train from Quebec City, they arrived
two days later in Lancer, Saskatchewan.
received the good news that they had arrived in Canada, we
all were really happy in Knees.
didn’t mind going to the lawyer again to change the
destination on the papers to Canada instead of West
Germany. After corresponding with our lawyer in Romania and
Canada, we departed for Canada on August 2, 1950. It was
difficult for John and me to leave our grandparents behind.
After we left
Romania and until we arrived Canada, we experienced many
document complications. We even spent some time behind bars
at the London Airport because we did not have Canadian
visas. The authorities contacted our parents in Canada and
told them they had to pay certain fees in order for us to get a Canadian visa and to continue our journey. The fees were paid and finally on August 19, 1950, we arrived by train at Swift Current, Saskatchewan.
As we got off
the train, for the first in nine years, I saw my father
standing on the railroad platform. For the first time in
five years, I saw my mother standing beside our father and
our little sister whom we had never seen. It was a great
reunion for all of us. Read all the story here.
going to school in Canada, what else was happening?
school in Lancer, until April 1, 1951. In 1951, we moved to
Medicine Hat, Alberta.
My father and
brother John began to work in a brick factory and worked
there until they retired.
I finished my
high school education in Medicine Hat.
there was another addition to our family. Mary, our youngest
sister, was born in 1957.
It is hard to
believe, John and I, were born in Romania, Anna, our first
sister, was born in Germany and Mary, our youngest sister,
was born in Canada.
asked, “Have you been successful in your research, Alex?” He
hit brick walls?
your suggestion to researchers, Alex?
Stay on top
of it, and keep in contact, and share your information with
use software for recording your family? If so, which one?
Family Tree Maker.
about your research.
don’t do any research on my ancestors. – I’m pleased with
what I have got.
all your ancestors has made the biggest impression on you?
grandfather, John Lay. When we were without our parents,
our grandparents brought us up.
grandfather always favored me and he was proud of me and of
my school report card. I helped him with the yard work and
I never refused him whenever he asked me to do something.
have an ancestral hero or heroine? If so, what has made that
person so special?
I must say, I
am really happy for one of my first cousins, Martin Roos.
He was born in 1942 in Knees, Banat, Romania at the same
time when his father was conscripted to the German Army. In
January 1945, his mother was forced to work in the coalmines
While his mother was in Russia for five years,
he stayed with his paternal grandparents. When
his mother returned from Russia, in 1950, she
couldn’t believe how much her son had grown.
Martin finished elementary education in Knees, then he decided to become a priest.
Alex & Bishop
next year he left home for Alba-Julia where he entered the Seminary. The University was totally Hungarian. He did not know any Hungarian, but was determined to learn that language.
In 1945, his father became a POW in England.
After being released, he went to Germany where
he worked on a farm. In 1952, he decided to
join his sister in-law and brother-in-law in
Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada.
1956, Martin Roos, Sr. began to work with agents to make
arrangements to bring his wife, Maria Roos, and their
son, Martin Roos, Jr. to Canada. The plan was not
successful because there were many complications
happening in Romania.
February 1962, Maria and her son, Martin Jr. arrived in Canada.
Martin Sr. had not seen his wife and his son for 20 years.
Martin Jr., who was born in October 1942 after his father had
entered the Army in August of 1942, had never met his father
In 1956, Martin
Roos, Sr. began to work with agents to make arrangements to
bring his wife, Maria Roos, and their son, Martin Roos, Jr. to
Canada. The plan was not successful because there were
many complications happening in Romania. Finally in February
1962, Maria and her son, Martin Jr. arrived in Canada.
Martin Sr. had not seen his wife and his son for 20 years.
Martin Jr., who was born in October 1942 after his father had
entered the Army in August of 1942, had never met his father
the language barrier, Martin Jr. decided to finish his
education in the priesthood in Germany. In 1967, his
parents joined him in Germany and in 1971; Martin was
ordained as a Catholic Priest there. After the 1989
Revolution in Romania, the Roman Catholic Diocese in
Temeswar, Banat, requested assistance from Germany to bring
the Catholic Church back to its standard beliefs. In 1992,
Martin Jr. was appointed as a Monsignor in Temeswar. In
1996, he was appointed as Vicar General of the Temeswar
Diocese. On June 7, 1999, his father passed away on his
birthday. On June 7, 1999, the same day as Martin’s
father’s death, Pope John-II appointed Vicar General,
Monsignor Martin Roos, Jr. as the Roman Catholic Bishop of
the Temeswar, Diocese.
been your most remarkable find in your research?
don’t do any research of my own, it pleases me and makes
me happy when I help people to connect with relatives
who are still alive. I have helped many people locate
their relatives in the Banat and Germany. One example:
I helped Jody McKim in bringing her together with
cousins in Germany. One other occurrence was
getting another Internet friend connected with his
immediate relatives in Temeswar. It makes me feel good
when I can help somebody make his or her research
had an opportunity to visit your Donauschwaben Village?
After we left
our village in 1950, I returned in 1962. Then in 1978, I
wanted to show my family where I was born; Rose Marie and
our two daughters liked it very much because there was no
stress. Our daughters were impressed when they saw the ducks
and geese flying through the streets.
have a motto you live by? Will you share it with us?
work; do it as soon as possible, before you forget it. Try
to stay organized.
Are there sites or references that have been helpful and that you feel would be of benefit to the DVHH members?
beginners, I suggest
ellisislandrecords.org will give
leads to find the villages a person is researching, Ancestry.com is another site. As for maps, here is
my own map that covers the Banat, in Romania and Serbia: www.rootsweb.com/~romban/map/xymap.html.
were confined to only one tip you might give a fellow
researcher, what would it be?
Once a person
knows the name(s) of the ancestor(s) being researched, the
place of origin is very important—where the ancestors came
from. Ellis Island is a good resource to find out where
they came from. In some cases, there might be a spelling
variation of the family name; the Ellis Island site is not
information is taken from the Ellis Island or the Stader
Books, the majority of the time the information will
indicate either the ancestors came from Hungary, or in the
Stader Book, it will state they are going to Hungary.
information will state, i.e. Billed, Hungary, or just
Hungary. Some people who are not familiar with the
history and geography of the area might look for Billed
located in Hungary. This is where the geographic knowledge
plays a major part in genealogy. Some people have a problem
grasping the history of the past. People should be aware
of the reasons the German people from different parts of
western and southern Germany, Alsace-Lorraine, Luxemburg,
Galicia, Bohemia, Silesia, etc. emigrated to different parts
of the world such as South America, North America, Austria,
Eastern Europe—even as far as the Volga River in Russia.
What was the
30-year war? What was the 7-year war? Why did they leave
everything they owned behind in their original villages?
There must’ve been a reason? People researching their
ancestors should know the circumstances surrounding their
lives. It is very valuable information for a researcher.
Fewer questions would need to be asked if you knew the
history of your ancestors. Did all of them travel on the
Danube? As we now know, some of them did not qualify at
Vienna to travel on the “Ulmer Schachtel” (barge) to
by horse-pulled-wagon or on foot. The ones who traveled by
horse-pulled-wagon or on foot had no land privileges when
they arrived in the Banat or Batschka. To survive, some
worked as hired help. Sometimes people could not find work
and they had to go begging from other people in the
village. A person had to have a license (permit) in order
to do house-to-house begging.
If I would
find the name of my ancestors on a piece of paper, would I
be satisfied with just a name? If I were just looking for
the name, I might as well look in a telephone directory for
the same names as my ancestors. I would like to know
everything behind that name. Don’t listen to what others
tell you about your ancestors—read and find out for
yourself. You will get more enjoyment out of it and will
get to know your ancestors better. If you have a photo,
look at it and treasure it, because they are your
Alex, for sharing so much with us. It has been a
pleasure getting to know you better.
Added: 26 Sep 2007