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

Remembering Our Danube Swabian Ancestors


by Dr. Viktor Pratscher
Translated by Brad Schwebler

   Mararia-Swamp Fever, from the time of settlement until the 1880's our forefathers suffered a great deal from malaria.  The swamps offered an excellent breeding ground for the mosquitoes.  In the death records of each period "fever" is frequently listed as the diagnosis and under that malaria is almost exclusively mentioned.  The number of malaria patients was always large.  The "Frere?" was still a genuine plague of the people during grandfather's time.  Then the workers  were often absent when they were needed the most and it was very difficult without them, unlike today in the time of agricultural machines.  It is an illness in which the skills of the useful wife and the magician and completely useless.  In vain it was written on the gate in large letters, "THE ONE WHO WAS PLAGUED BY THE SHIVERING FIT IS NOT AT HOME," so the angry spirit of the sick would not afflict again.  Finally many of the poor sick were just not believed and so the malaria illness was known as the "lazy fever" which many malingerers certainly contributed to it.  With the regulation of the great rivers such as the Danube and the Theiß, as well as our little Krivaja Stream, the swamp laid dry.  The dam digging disappeared with the canals.  So the illness also disappeared almost completely about 1900. 

     Since the post war years the illness has affected people at home.  In view of the battle with the recidivism of the illness for a year came the damages inflicted by this illness the same as a serious physical injury.  Through preventive measures it will be enough to stem the illness.

     The cholera often affected our ancestors since the settlement and caused terrible devastation in 1836, 1848, and 1873.  Since that time the illness has disappeared and strict precautions were instituted by the state that the whole region would be protected from a single occurring case.

     Until ten years ago the typhus illness appeared in late summer every year in Feketitsch which affected the most sprightly people as its victims.  The drinking water was especially affected by the high water table.  Despite the dozen artesian wells many people still drank the affected water from the open wells because it tasted better.  Also the illness could not be stemmed the whole year through because the illness was seldom recognized in time and the symptoms of the inhabitants were not recognized well enough.  Ten years ago there were no more occurrences of the illness.

     The smallpox belonged to the most dangerous of illnesses.  Our ancestors suffered very much from it.  Since 1813 a vaccination has existed and the population has gradually gotten use to the vaccine.  The elders know to report early of a child who needs to be vaccinated.  Today the community buys the necessary vaccine from the bacteriological institute.

     The childhood illnesses:  measles, scarlet fever, and diphtheria dessimated a large number of the children during the whole past century.  The protective vaccinations have put an end to this huge quantity of child deaths. 

     The gout was frequently the cause of death.  Stomach and intestinal catarrh (gastroenteritis) led to this "Gichtre" (gout).  The children were already fed porridge and bread with all meals in the first one or two months which came largely from the table.  The mother or grandmother went through all the trouble to spoon feed the food to the child.  The unhygienic living conditions supported the rickets and pneumonia which also led to the gout.  Today there is seldom any gout and it occurs mainly from a poor diet.

     Tuberculosis, known as the "consumption": Time was first devoted to a necessary understanding 10 to 15 years ago and since then the customary practice has ceased and much more airing, isolating, and disinfecting the air and access to the sun takes place.  Today the illness can be healed from the start with expert treatment in the stage of the (Spitzenkatarrh?).  Nevertheless, the decrease in the number of victims of this illness has unmistakably gone miserably which is the reason why the draining of the dwellings and enlightenment in Feketitsch are still very necessary.  Also with this illness one may not idly depend on the love of God as through the false interpretation the the good Lord has a fatalistic attitude no longer causes all the pent up suffering. 

     The number of cancer illnesses is always growing.  It is this illness of the elders which in former times was seldom caught.  This is even the cause of its great spread.  The better diagnosis is also the cause of frequent appendicitis which was formerly entered as "Bauchfellentzüng" (peritoneum tongue).  

     The ancestors suffered from pneumonia and rheumatitis a lot.  The elderly were often caught unexpectedly at their fieldwork in storms and rain.  They could not escape into a Salasch (field) house like today because there were none.  Also the grain could not be transferred from the end of the village to the steam mill, like today, because they had to drive to Vrbas, Neusatz, or even Budapest to find a buyer.  For construction bricks and wood had to be fetched from Temerin, Becej, Apatin, etc.  There they got the "illness."

     The protective vaccinations against pigheadedness, blood poisoning, and hot-temperedness are achievements of progressive medical science which they have proven brilliantly.  A necessary understanding of it will be for the good of the people.  The horrible picture this illness conjures fills each one with dread.  The success of the vaccinations have irradiated the ills through the skill of the “Brauchweiber” (nurses?).

     The Spanish influenza epidemic from 1918 to 1923 was still actively in memory.  Wherever it enter a house a member of the family was seldom spared and it claimed numerous victims.  The intensity of the illness decreased from year to year until today it seldom occurs anymore and when it does it is in a weakened form.  It is still mentioned in the whole Batschka region as the widely spread (Trachom?) illness.  This terrible illness of the eye is still not always treated which would be absolutely desirable.  It is a compulsory treatment, but unfortunately only on paper.  Unfortunately the greatest part of this illness affects our comrades.

     Accidents in occupations, in the mill, in landslides on the Teletschka, and in the Krivaja Stream also take their toll on the Germans of Feketitsch.  As an infringement against the fifth commandment the Germans of Feketitsch had a somewhat higher percentage of their share than in pure German communities.  Through slights and alcohol many get carried away in their judgment of their own life or that of their fellow man without being criminal types.  The Germans of Feketitsch are never this way. 

Source: The Germans of the Community of Feketitsch by Dr. Viktor Pratscher. Herausgegeben vom Festausschusz der Gedenkfeier.

[Published at 2004 by Jody McKim Pharr]

Last Updated: 18 Aug 2020 ©2003 Donauschwaben Villages Helping Hands, a Nonprofit Corporation.
Webmaster: Jody McKim Pharr
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