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

Remembering Our Danube Swabian Ancestors

Chapter 7

The Romanians, Armenians, Greeks, Albanians & Bulgarians

By Josef Schramm
Translation by Brad Schwebler

    We begin with the Romanians who are certainly regarded as the oldest inhabitants of the Batschka.  Old or not age played no roll because we could not admit whether the Romanians are descendants of the old Daker, Sarmats, or Romans.  In the Banat this question played a greater roll, but not in the Batschka because there were only a few Romans.  They did not form any closed community either in national or in religious respect.  In the 18th century there was a larger number of Romanians in the Batschka, and in the cities as well as livestock breeders in the south Batschka.  But they went out in the 18th century in the Serbian and Hungarian eras.  Together with the Serbs they had a common church organization, with the same state institutions with the Hungarians. 

   The Armenians came during Turkish times and in the cities of the Batschka in 1738-39.  They were above all salespeople and arranged for merchandize to move from Constantinople to Vienna and in reverse.  The Armenians were regarded as the most skillful merchants of southeastern Europe because of what it says in a proverb: “A Jew is as crafty as three Christian merchants, a Greek is as crafty as three Jews, and an Armenian is as crafty as three Greeks!”  The Armenians especially formed a large community in Neusatz.  There they had until our days their own Armenian Catholic congregation and a large church in which the church service was prevented in Armenian rites.

   The Zinzaren were livestock dealers found only in the cities.  They became friendly with the Armenians, Greeks, or Serbs.  The Klementiner or Catholic Albanians came as refugees from the Ottoman Empire into the monarchy, above all to Slavonia.  Only a few came to the Batschka.  They settled down in the Croatian villages.  Of the Catholic Bulgarians the greater number fled to the Banat, only individuals came to the Batschka.  They did not form any large community.

    There were already Greeks as merchants at the time before the Hungarian land acquisition.  In the middle ages we find them here and there as dealers and again later in Turkish times.  As a specialty the Greek merchants regarded the trade with food and consumables.  While the Armenians had large department stores in the cities, the Greeks would rather go to the annual market.  There they purchased produce and sold their exotic wares.  In Neusatz and Theresiopel they had large communities.  One part of the Greeks moved to Turkey when the emperor came to the Batschka, the rest went to Serbia where they were brought together in a common orthodox church.  One noteworthy chapter of Greek history played itself out in the Batschka after 1945.

   General Markos, who fought against his government in Greece was supported by Yugoslavia.  The people who evacuated from the battle regions were brought to Bulkes as the homes were free of expulsed Germans.  After the collapse of the revolution, Bulkes became a “Greek republic” because Greek laws were regarded as valid, Greek was the official language, Greek money was used, and there was even some Greek military besides Greek schools, and a Greek “national theater.”  But this Greek republic did not last long.  When Stalin and Tito began to dispute the Greeks in the Batschka republic also split: the EAM Greeks listened absolutely to Moscow, the ELAS Greeks were friendly to Belgrade.  Repeatedly there were bloody arguments and real fights between these two groups on Batschka soil in which Yugoslavian troops finally moved the refugees out.  At first they were moved to Hungary and from there to Czechoslovakia. 

   Czechs also came at different times to the Batschka.  When officials of the court’s war council and the court chamber came they were already in the land at the beginning of the 18th century.  Then there was a certain number of retired army musicians who moved into the Batschka and finally they came in greater numbers as officials (Bachhussaren) between 1849 and 1867.  They never had importance as a group.

   Some Russians already stayed on the land in 1848, others came in the course of World War I as war prisoners and stayed.  After World War I a larger number of so-called “White Russians” came who belonged to the ragged army.  They formed some communities and were placed in office and dignity by the south Slavic kingdom.  So everywhere there were Russians as math teachers and drafting teachers, actors, archivists, and surveyors.  In the course of World War II a military unit (“Russicher Korpus”) was put together with Russian volunteers who were put in against the communist units in Syrmia.

   The imperial Yugoslavian state needed a good many Slavs in its statistics to justify its claim to power. For that reason it gave only two columns for Slavs in the questionnaires.  The one was called “Serbocroatoslowenen”, the other was called “other Slavs”.  So it was easy to enter many members of the “state’s people” on the national census.

[Published at 19 Sep 2005 by Jody McKim Pharr]

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The Romanians, Armenians, Greeks, Albanians & Bulgarians