Danube Swabian Community
“Never underestimate the power of a small group of committed people to change the world.
In fact, it is the only thing that ever has." ~Margaret Mead

Villages Helping Hands

Remembering Our Danube Swabian Ancestors


Cousin Connections Via DVHH
 & Old Friends Reconnecting
Published at DVHH.org 2013 by Jody McKim Pharr.

10 Year Anniversary Stories Coordinated by Rose Mary Keller Hughes, 15 Jan 2013
To have your DVHH connection story added to this page, email story to
DVHH Community.


Annette O'Shea

Annette O'Shea

Marie Dimitrijevic




Approximately 2 years ago, I was searching the DVHH website for any input for my family's home town in Banat named "Botschar" in German or "Bocar" in Serbian.  I came across an inquiry from Marie Dimitrijevic who was also looking to find friends and family from Botschar.  I sent her an email explaining that my mother (Anna Zahari) and family were from Botschar until they escaped with their lives in October 1944.  We found out that Marie's mother (Kathi Molitor) lived directly across the street from my mother.  My grandfather, Ludwig Zahari and Marie's grandfather were close friends, musicians and members of the same band.  The Zahari and Molitor families were in the same caravan when they fled and they initially settled in Czechoslovakia until they were separated on their way to Bavaria in Germany.

We found out that Marie's mother (Kathi Molitor) lived directly across the street from my mother.  My grandfather, Ludwig Zahari and Marie's grandfather were close friends, musicians and members of the same band.  The Zahari and Molitor families were in the same caravan when they fled and they initially settled in Czechoslovakia until they were separated on their way to Bavaria in Germany.

Coincidentally, both families settled in nearby towns in Bavaria where they

Kathi Molitor
(Marie's mother)

Both born in Botschar  


Peter Zahari, 82, 2012
(Annette's uncle)

they kept in touch for a while and then lost contact as the years went by.

Eventually, my family, the Zaharis, settled in College Point, NY, and the Molitors migrated to Michigan. Marie and I exchanged photos of the family and the band from back in the 1920's, 1930's and 1940's, and had several of the same photos handed down.  We were delighted to receive "new" photos from each other that we did not previously have. Marie's mother, Kathi and my uncle Peter Zahari were friends growing up in Botschar, and only a few years apart.  They are both in their 80's now, and sadly so many of their family and friends have passed away.  It was SO wonderful that they had a telephone conversation and enjoyed speaking "Schwowisch" with each other, just like old times.  Marie and I have exchanged letters, emails, photos, and stories of mutual friends and family members.  My Uncle Peter provided them the address and phone number of one of their family members whom they lost contact with.  Marie was so gracious to mail me some of her mothers' recipe books which are in German.  One book has Banater recipes, and the other has Bavarian recipes.  My mom and I are so thrilled to have the books.  Not only did we reunite my uncle and Marie's mom, but Marie and I have become friends, and share a bond due to our connection with our Donauschwaben roots. 

I am very grateful to have the DVHH website.  Not only has it connected me with friends from "the old country," but it is helping me to connect with the rich heritage.  I love reading the stories and accounts, and I love reading the Schwowische dialect.  Even though I was born and raised in College Point, NY, I spoke Schwowisch at home.  It is music to my ears, and warms my heart.  The DVHH has also provided me with a wealth of knowledge about our heritage and history and links to videos, DVDs and books.  Marie introduced me to the book "Bread on my mother's table" and the DVHH also introduced me to "A Pebble in my Shoe."  Both books were excellent and gave me a deeper insight and appreciation for our family's experience. 

Thank you DVHH and everyone who has contributed their stories.  May the legacy of our Donauschwaben live on and never be forgotten. 

Best regards,
Annette O'Shea

Beth Tolfree


Meeting my cousin Juliana Sheldrake:

Being the DVHH Apatin Village Coordinator, Juliana Sheldrake of Utah first wrote to me asking about finding her mother’s Apatin ancestry. Her mother had recently passed away and Juliana was still in mourning. I immediately empathized with her feelings of loss and her desire to know about her mother’s family.  My own mother had died before I was able to trace her Apatin ancestry and it was a real comfort to me when I finally found her DS family thanks to the DVHH. 

I was able to trace Juliana’s Apatin ancestry back eight generations and also discovered that we are cousins through our Strumberger ancestors.  She was so thrilled and grateful that she wanted to meet me.  Chuck and I met Juliana and Steve on a beautiful day in the charming little town of Solvang. The weather was lovely enough to sit outside as Juliana and I poured over all of my Apatin books, which I’d made sure to bring with me.   

We shared pictures and memories of each of our families and after an al fresco lunch, we hugged each other goodbye and headed home in opposite directions. 

This is just one example of the gratification and reward I’ve experienced in being a DVHH Volunteer helping others find their own DS family history.

Beth Tolfree, Bakersfield, CA , Jan 15, 2013 

Eve Brown

Eve Brown

Roy Engel

Sophie Souza

Rita Schiwanowitsch




One of my cousin connection started this way -  I opened an email on Dec. 26, 2007 to find this letter:

Dear Eve, My name is Roy Engel and I am responding to your web site posting regarding requests for information on publications about Kischker in the region of Batschka of the former Yugoslavia.  I am a first generation Canadian and my father was born in Kischker in 1934 and lived there until the forced evacuation in 1944.  He is the only surviving member of his family unit which immigrated to Canada in 1952 from Graz, Austria.

Of course there was more written – details of his family and the information he had on Kischker, but something else was there that neither one of us expected – a family connection.  I already knew I had Engel in my family so I did a quick look at my family tree before I responded to Roy with this:

Hello Roy, So nice to meet you!  You are probably a cousin of mine, distant but more than likely a cousin. 

We then exchanged personal information and talked about what we had learned from our parents and Roy from his grandparents and great grandparents also.  This was very exciting and as time went on I made the actual connection and Roy is my 5th cousin.  In April of 2008 Roy and Viv (his wife) traveled from Pickering, Ontario to meet my family.  He delighted my mother by speaking to her in her native language; the most she gets from us girls is a mix of Schwowisch with English.

Shortly after becoming the “mail list” co-administrator with Roy there was a glitch on the mail list where only digest members could receive the emails.  During that time a post by a new member was made that I found by checking the archives daily.  You cannot imagine my shock when I saw “Obresch” (my mother’s hometown) in a post for the first time. This was posted by Sophie Souza who is also a 5th cousin to Roy and 4th to me, what a small world!  We have yet to meet Sophie, but talk online and occasionally a phone call. 

Because of working on all things Obresch – it is a good contact place for meeting fellow Obreschers and it’s always going to be a good chance they are related.

I have also met another cousin on my father’s side through the DVHH mail list when Rita Schiwanowitsch first joined our mail list and was at the beginning stages of her research.  She posted that she had traveled to Jabuka (Apfeldorf) – where my grandfather Leopold Sklena was born. 

During our private conversations I found out that the church records had been released on DVD in their entirety – oh my goodness, this is what I’d been waiting for to make a “Sklena” connection with some online connections I’d made long before I ever joined the mail list.

I had the Ortsbuch written by Adelhardts but it was incomplete as were the church records available at the LDS center that I had on permanent loan, I had hit a brick wall!  Rita not only found my missing links she was added to my family tree since her mother is my 4th cousin.  I am now planning an International family reunion for my family line and Rita’s to meet this other group of cousins whose ancestor came here in 1910. That man, Mathais Sklena was my great grandfather’s brother. 

I'm also related to Norbert Giesse (husband of DVHH's Noelle Giesse), Robert Zink and Andrea Ballreich. 

What a world the DVHH website and mail list has opened up for me. 

Eve Brown, Jan. 9, 2013

Helga Kiely


I find it totally remarkable that I have become acquainted with cousins via the DVHH.  When I first joined and posted an inquiry, Gabriele 'Gaby' Steger (DVHH Lookup Guide for Ridjica, Batschka) replied to my request, she asked for my family names and where they were born.  Before I had a chance to give the correct birth dates, she had already had so much information that it blew my mind.  She started off her reply by saying "Hello, cousin." 

I never dreamt that I could find distant cousins nor even connect with them. But then Gaby told me of other DVHH cousins such as Alice Spande (US), Judy Ottinger (US), I'm not certain if she told me about Lori Straus (CAN) and I did find another cousin, but I don't think she knows that we are also related - Eileen Wilson (CAN); and I was also connected with Eleanor Little (US) as we have a mutual cousin. I think the last time I saw her was about 63 years ago.

Reading the DVHH guest book I came across a posting by a Helga Soares (US). To my great shock, she was born in 1942 in Ridjica and listed family surnames she was researching. I knew immediately that we were related. Not only did we share the surname Muschkat but we were born the same year and we share the same first name which is very uncommon amongst Danube Schwaben. We might be the only two females in Ridjica that were not named after of the the saints. I emailed Gabriele about this, and she confirmed that Helga Soares and I shared the same 4th great grandmother. Since she did not have a viable email address I posted my reply on the website. Her daughter Elisa Ayres (US) (DVHH subscriber) replied. It was quite exciting and I think that all three of us were very surprised.  Helga and Elisa have very few pictures due to the terrible circumstances. So this year, after my return from Ridjica, I shared some photos with them. 

Then there is Anne Dreer, after coming in contact and speaking several times, we came to realize that she knew my Aunt Vicki Marx, as she worked with her and her family in uncle Pete's fields.  Further, I remember my grandfather paying a visit to a family that had just came to Canada and it was Anne's family. Then Anne and I discovered that I had a school photo of a George Riffert, who is related to her late husband and I think distantly related to me. 

Presently I am reading "Pebble in my Shoe" and I cannot praise the book enough.  It is incredible how I can relate to what has been written about Gakowa and the way of life. I wrote the author Katherine Flotz to congratulate her on the book. I mentioned having a large Danube Schwaben club here in Toronto.  She responded, that she has a friend that currently lives between Toronto and Chicago, who once went to that club.  Not only do I know her, but I know her entire family and have several photos of them. I cannot remember a time that I never knew this family. Katherine mentioned other names and one of them was my mother's maiden name of Thebert. (The original spelling was Thoebert.)  Same name and same town that Ingrid Andor had in her book "Bread on my Mother's Table.”  I cannot prove it, but I know that we are connected somehow to Ingrid's family.

This is the photo taken in June of 2012.  It rained for the entire 4 days while we were in Germany.
From left: Helga, Gaby, Kevin (Helga's husband) and Renaud (Gaby's partner)  


I should also mention that since becoming a DVHH member, it has inspired me to delve into a lot more things.  It is remarkable what I have found out and never in a million years did I dream I would gain so much knowledge about my family.  I have lots of stories.

Helga Kiely, Jan 11, 2013

Helen Remich Dubas

Helen Remich Dubas

Betty Mauro


Through help from list member, Diana Lambing, and various member postings, I was able to connect with a cousin, Betty Mauro, who lived in Philadelphia. Shortly thereafter, we actually met in person and have shared time together over the years. I am also related to Noelle Giesse who is married into my Stahl family.

Betty and I served as the DVHH Host at the 2010 Donauschwaben Landestreffen, at the United German-Hungarian (UGH) in Oakford, PA. Pictured below at DVHH booth with fellow DVHH folks.

Noelle Giesse, Betty Mauro, Dennis Bauer, Helen Dubas & Eva Martini

Helen Remich Dubas

Jody McKim Pharr

Werner & Jody me at his Summerhaus, Ingolstadt 2005
He & Lissi made Goulash!

Ingolstadt 2004: www.lifesadance.net/ingrisch-marmon/travel/2004-Marmon-Ingolstadt.htm

Ingolstadt 2005: www.lifesadance.net/ingrisch-marmon/travel/2005-summerhaus.htm

 Ingolstadt 2005: www.lifesadance.net/ingrisch-marmon/travel/2005-munich.htm#COUSINS




My amazing story begins with telling Alex Leeb that I wished I could find some living family, because we only had 2-3 INGRISCH families from Mercydorf (Banat) that immigrated to the US. He immediately responded saying that actually he knows a Werner INGRISCH from Mercydorf, he is married to Lissi, who is from Knees, the village Alex is from. And said he communicates with them often because Knees had reunions; and today they live in Ingolstadt, German. (What! -You've got to be kidding me!) Alex then called Werner for me, because they do not speak English and I don't speak German. 

Not very long after that discovery, I received an email from Axente Marmon, who found my family website: www.lifesadance.net and read all about my MARMAN family who immigrated from Mehala (suburb of Timisoara) to the US, and I was looking for family.  He said he had in his possession the same photo of my family last taken in Timisoara before they immigrated.

I was shocked, and of course was very skeptical, the photo I had posted was cropped and didn't show the photographers name at the bottom.  I wrote Axente back and asked if he could scan and send me the image. He not only send me the original photo but the back of it!  That was a shoe in for me.  And to boot, he lived in Ingolstadt! Amazing twist of events going on here.

I asked Axente if he knew Werner Ingrisch, he said no.  I gave his Werner's address and he said that was very very close to their home. Well - a meeting had to happen! I booked a flight! Via Alex phone communicating with Werner and Lissie, we made arrangements for me to stay with them.  Axente and his wife Renate took vacation from work, and we were all together all day and some evening, with was great because Axente and Renate speak English, and were able to translate for me.

What an exciting time it was meeting my two new cousins Werner and Axente and their wonderful wives.  We had a blast.  Since our first meeting in 2004, I've visited again and again.  Axente and Renate have been to the US for 2 visits.  

This could not have happened, without Alex Leeb! God bless you Alex!

Werner and Axente at the INGRISCH Summer house, 2004

2005, we're in Munich!
Lissi, Renate, Axente, Jody, Werner

Never would I have known my cousins in Europe, without the DVHH!

Jody McKim Pharr

Rhonda Friedl Staudt


A couple of years ago my daughter called to say that she had Googled my grandparents hometown of Mercydorf, Hungary and was directed to a site at DVHH.org.  When she went searching on this site she read about a family story for the Herz & Wilhelm family and at the end of the story was a mention of Anna Herz, who married Martin Friedl and lived in College Point.

She said to me "Mom I'm not sure but I think you need to read this story, it sounds like 'your' family and the stories you told us."  Lo and behold it was my connection to our lost family and their history. Through this article I contacted Susan Thomas, the author of the story and she is my relative because her grandfather and my grandmother are siblings. 

Through Susan, I met another relative on my grandmother's maternal side and this year he's going to Eger to meet relatives who are a lost branch of the family and we will finally know what name to put with the war story we were told.  We might even find out more about our great-great grandfather Peter Wilhelm and other siblings who stayed in Europe. 

All this because Jody, Susan and others decided to put their stories online.  Since then I've been more willing to type in a name and search online and have found many more relatives for many other branches. Thanks to all those who chose to share at DVHH. 

Rhonda Friedl Staudt, Jan 09, 2013


Robert "Bob" Wolf



The Donauschwaben community has been very helpful in resolving when my grandparents actually migrated to the States as I had conflicting dates, many thanks! Through the Donauschwaben community, I was also able to reconnect with a first cousin I haven't seen in 60 years, Catherine Wolf Holtzclaw.

I continue to seek information on my great grandfathers, Josef Wolf and Johann Stoffel from Kleinbetschkerek. Both were born in Kleinbetschkerek in the 1850's and I believe died in Kleinbetschkerek. Josef Wolf married Katherine Baer and Johann Stoffel married Magdalena Jost from Grossjetscha. The marriages probably occurred in the late 1870s.

I also noted a Michael Wolf family was one of the original settlers in Kleinbetschkerek listed in 1786. Does anyone know if this family has created a tree? Given my surname of Wolf, I am, of course, curios if the dots from 1786 connect with my great grandparents Josef and Johann.

Robert Wolf, Chicago, IL, 2012

Robert Wolf

Catherine Wolf, Holtzclaw, MN


Last Updated: 26 Oct 2020

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