A Remembrance of the Past; Building for the Future." ~ Eve Eckert Koehler

Remembering Our Danube Swabian Ancestors
The Serbian-Pravoslavic Church in Beschka from 1860-1968

by Peter Lang
Translated by Brad Schwebler

          Possibly from January 1st, 1872 on, from 1876 on at the latest, the community was no longer administered by the military.  From then on the “judge” stood at the pinnacle of the community (Serbian Knez = prince).  He was elected.  To the side of him stood the community committee (community council), such as for example the justice of the peace for minor cases (and individual functionaries from the ranks of the community council.  For damages in the field the jurors had to estimate the damages.  The community committee posted the house keeping plan of the community and cared for the payment of the community services, for roads and bridges, for community cattle and boars, for schools, police, field guards, and so forth.

           The community notary was an administrative specialist and cared for the observance of the laws.  He was nevertheless under the community judge, but thanks to his knowledge he was still put over him.  He exploited this superiority often to get his own way.  His pay was very good and the notary position was very desired.  Besides the notary there was a second notary or community cashier.  His position was also well paid and desired.  In tax calculations, especially with the business people, he had great influence in the matter of discretion, so he was feared.  The farmers paid their taxes after the last registry net profits, so that they were not dependant on him.  Besides the office bearers named there was also a community writer and also some police and field guards for maintaining order.  Formerly the field guards were liable for the field damages themselves.  But field damages, including theft, were rare.  Horse theft occurred often around 1850, but this bad habit was really fought with the introduction of livestock passes for horses, cows, and swine.  For small livestock there were no passes.  Small livestock were sometimes stolen for fun and the owner was invited to consume it.  Burglaries happened more often in Krtschedin.  That may have been because the company had its seat far away in Beschka.  There were a half dozen murders and manslaughters from 1927 to 1941.  The motives were: robbery once, once under the influence, once crossing the power in office, once from injured vanity, and two cases unexplained.

          During the time, when the Save and the Danube Rivers formed the border of the Turkish ruling district, the Turks invaded the realm of the Hapsburgs again and again.  To resist these invasions a strip about 50 kilometers wide known as the so-called military border was created under Maria Theresia along the Save and Danube Rivers.  It was also a protective rampart against epidemics.  During certain times the military border not only consisted of the 50 kilometer wide strip, but also stretched further to the north, for example up to Mariatheresiaopel (Szabadka, Subotica) and reached from the Adriatic up to the Carpathians.  Enough said here, that Beschka lies in the region of the military border, so that its development was decided by the peculiarities of the region.  The inhabitant of the military border, the Grenzer (borderer), was obligated to protect the land against surprise raids and looting attacks by the Turks.  They were therefore subject to and obligated for a permanent state of readiness to take part in certain military exercises.  The meaning of these duties is expressed in the Serbian proverb: “Vojna krajina, krvava haljina” (“military border is a bloody dress”).  The borderers, who were essentially farmers, had to serve as guards.  Here they had to carry their equipment, food, and quarters themselves.  The military character of the military border does not only have the military breeding of its inhabitants to follow, but meant that the total administration and jurisdiction were military.  The whole military border was divided into four “Generalate” (districts).  Beschka belonged to the Peterwardein district, one old fortress on the Danube, which was probably built by the crusader Peter of Amiens in the 11th and 12th centuries.  Until December 31st, 1871, that is until the dissolution of the military border the districts of Titel and Zsablya also belonged to the Peterwardein Generalat.  The regiment for this Generalat was in Mitrowitza.  The 12th company was in Beschka.  The guard farmers were not only commanded to guard service, but were urged on to reforest the large forests.  The borderers had use of it and so did we people of Beschka until World War II, which each old border house and the communities, including the church congregations, received firewood.  Until 1918 cheap salt (only the freight) and tobacco were kept.  Ms. Hubler (vgl. Reg. No. 854A) also explained to me that the work-shy farmers who sat around on the street during the main work time were driven to work by the sergeants with their clubs.  (A parallel to this was when Frederick the Great forced the farmers to the potato fields with his cane.)

          The official language in the military border was German, but the officers and sergeants were mainly Croatian or Serbian.  The general in Peterwardein was called, for example, Loncarevic = Häfner.  All sergeants who are named as authors of purchasing contracts or witnesses in the Krtschedin and Jarek homeland books, had Slavic surnames.  I only found one name in the Jarek homeland book (von Gregus), whose bearer could have been German.  There can be no question that there was a Germanization in the military border.  The German official language in the military border also had an effect on the surrounding languages of the Serbs and Croats.  Here is an example: “Kad sam presla preko Bruckn, tako mi je bilo ibl, a kad sam malo aine movale, odmah sam se bolje filovala.”  (As I went over the bridge, I was so sick, but as I went a little farther, I felt better.)

          At the immediate border (cordon) the guards stood in airy summer house type guard houses, which were called the Tschardak (Turkish summerhouse).   (This was also the description of the corn barns, a framework of slats 2 x 2 meters and as long as one liked.  Also the Germans took over this name.)  When danger threatened anywhere the guards ignited a straw bundle on a high pole.  In the old days this was the quickest way to transmit the news.

           In Beschka the 12th Company was put up in the house with the large stalls at 71 Reiter Square.  The city hall was in house number 69 and there may have been living quarters in house number 40.  All of these buildings may have been built in the time under Maria Theresia. They were made of first class materials.  The walls were made of fired bricks, the roof covered with tiles, and the timbers of very strong oak.  The Reiter Square in Beschka served, as its name already implies, for riding exercises.  The main road from Peterwardein to Semlin did not go through India at the time, but through  Beschka and Sasse (Novi Karlovci) instead.  Reiter Square was in the center of Beschka at the time.  House number 71 was probably rebuilt as a school after the military border was abolished in 1871.  House number 40 was the Reformed church and parsonage.  As the new community house (city hall) was built, building number 69 was also passed over to school ownership.  In the military border there were other laws which were also valid as in the Beschka.  Because of ignorance of these differences some colonists in Krtschedin were deceived by the purchase of the land holdings.  In Beschka this may have also happened.

          For the collars of parts of the uniform (Krap?) red was grown between the railroad tracks and Prinz Eugen Street.  Because they attached the fruit of Krapp to the clothing themselves, one called it Pappgras (pappen – kleben – dicht) (stick – stick – thick).  The red color was taken from the roots.  When alzarin red was later chemically manufactured, this Pappgras was a troublesome weed for Beschka.  Only the old people knew of its former use.  There where the Pappgras was planted was also the shooting place during the time of the military border.

          After the Berlin Congress of 1878 the Turks were completely forced out of the Austro-Hungarian border, so that the military border was dissolved overall.  I should still mention that during the time of the military border all men assembled in front of the city hall after church service to receive orders.  This custom was kept in some villages that people assembled in front of the city hall after church service to take notice of the publications until the people fled.       

Source: Beschka Homeland Book by Peter Lang; Translated by Brad Schwebler. Ortsmonographie der Gemeinde Beschka in Jugoslawien aus der Sicht der ehemaligen Donauschwaben 1860-1944; Erzhausen, Leuchter 1971 Originalleinen 155 S. u. Personenstandsregister, 26 Tafeln Erstausgabe

[Published at by Jody McKim Pharr, 2005]

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