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Villages Lorrains En Roumanie

by André Rosambert

Written in the French magazine publication:
L'Illustration*,  01 April 1933 - Issue N. 4700
Translated by Nick Tullius; Contributed & Published @
DVHH by Jody McKim Pharr  - 12 Oct 2010



The church of Saint-Hubert, where until 1840 the sermon was delivered in
French every third Sunday of the month; on the right, the parish house


     The peace treaties integrated into our friend and ally Yugoslavia three villages with a population that almost completely has its origins in Lorraine.

Border between the villages of Charleville & Seultour

Situated at an equal distance from the Hungarian city of Szeged and the Romanian city of Timisoara, on the line that once led from Budapest to Bazias, the small towns of Saint-Hubert, Charleville and Seultour proudly carry the epithet “Welsch villages”, given to them by their neighbours, the villages called “Swabian”, whose inhabitants once emigrated from Germany.
     The Middle East has certainly accustomed us to these curious colonisations; but the existence of “French” agglomerations along the Romanian-Yugoslavian border, isn’t that something unexpected, and that among the newcomers to the hospitable home of the great Yugoslavia we count brothers of our race, isn’t that a unique turn of events?  
     How is it that the travellers that visited this region since Hungarian times, where France had industrial as well as financial interests, passed quite close by these villages, without paying them the slightest attention?
1 And how is it that since the armistice, the detailed reports from Yugoslavia, like those from Romania, did not even give a hint about the existence of these distant compatriots? 

     For this abandonment and disregard, regrettable as they are, there is an explanation: the

  Lorraine villages of Yugoslavia are actually not very easy to find, and when one finds them, one must have studied them to understand their profound originality.
     Grouped in a triangle at the extreme north-east of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, in a lost corner of the Danube Banat, at 4 kilometres from Romania and 50 kilometres from Hungary, the three towns of Saint-Hubert, Charleville and Seultour, even though they are located on a great railway line, are only served by a little steam tramway that connects the station of Sveti Hubert to the city of Velika Kikinda.
     And once one enters Saint-Hubert, the most important of the three “sister communities” because it counts 1500 souls, whereas Charleville has 800 and Seultour 950, one does not notice immediately a great difference between these Lorrain villages and their neighbouring villages, like Nakovo or Heufeld, the population of which is mostly of German origin.
     That is, for two generations, the descendants of our compatriots, either from

The three Lorraine villages in the Yugoslavian Banat

France or from then-independent Lorraine, immigrated to the Banat between 1750 and 1790, no longer speak French; German became their usual language, and no one can blame them.
    Attracted to this fertile country by empress Maria-Theresia, whose possessions in Southern Germany (Baden and Würtemberg) facilitated her recruitment among the populations of Lorraine and Alsace, the first French-speaking colonists arrived in the Banat  with families  from Germany and Luxemburg, all destined to repopulate the territories

  between Tisa, Temes and Danube, that had been devastated by the Turks.   Saint-Hubert, Charleville and Seultour were founded in 1771 by two hundred nine families, nine out of ten of which were French-speaking.
     But on December 6, 1774, an imperial edict imposed the teaching of German to children in schools, and the systematic Germanisation of all non-German colonists (Frenchmen, Italians, and Spaniards) was a great preoccupation of Emperor Joseph II.
   It is in church that French usage was maintained the longest, because the emigrants had brought along missals; the teaching of catechism was in French for many more years and the sermon was delivered in French every third Sunday of the month until 1840. The sermon was delivered in French at the church in Saint-Hubert, for all three villages together, by priests or religious personnel brought in from Temesvar, headquarters of the diocese.
   The last inhabitant who spoke French fluently was a farmer named Pierre Hanrio, who originated in Fonteny, arrived in Seultour as a little child with the first colonists, and died in 1866, nearly one hundred years old.
   In 1902 when Raymond Recouly, then a young associate, visited the Lorrain villages of the Banat during an investigation of nationalities and races in Austro-Hungary, he still found an old woman who told him that in her childhood she had read the gospel in French.
   Alas, the Hesse, the Mourgeon, the Hamant, the Colin, the Perrin, the Grosdidier, the Mathieu, the Leblanc, the Georges, had become Hess, Muschong, Hamang, Kolleng, Perreng, Groditje, Matje, Leblang, Schorsch, did not know the  sweet language of France, other than a few rare expressions. But it is wrong and it would be unjust to say, as I have read in certain hasty reports, that the descendants of our compatriots are today “Germanized” and have become “Swabians.”

A house with covered corridor in Charleville



(1)  With the exception of Dr. Louis Hecht, who in 1878, made an inquiry into the Alsacian colonies in Hungary (Mémoires de l’Académie de Stanislas, 1878. Nancy, Berger-Levrault, 1879).


Page 2


A wedding procession arriving at town hall

  black eyes Joseph II commented at his first trip to the Banat, made the inhabitants of the “sister-villages” so sympathetic to their “Swabian” neighbours, with whom they readily allied themselves.
     Great lovers of music, they have a famous choir, conducted by Mr. Leblanc, an old teacher from Saint-Hubert, as well as two orchestras. The one we listened to, conducted by the skilful baton of Mr. Stofflet, had learnt in only two days the Lorraine march, in honour of their French guest. The teacher from Seultour had performed the feat
     Not the fantasies applied by imperial civil servants to their family names, not the mixed marriages, nor the total abandonment in which they were left until recently by their country of origin, made them loose the memory of their ancestral land.
     Is it known that in 1930, the initiative of a farmer whose origins are in Marsal and Saraltroff, author of a Chronique of the three sister villages, lead to the founding in Saint-Hubert of a little Lorrain museum, intended to become the conservatory of ancestral traditions?
     Temporarily installed in an agricultural cooperative, a little yellow building, with a huge roof descending very low, very similar to the houses of the village, the Lorraine museum of Saint-Hubert, whose founders gave it the suggestive name “Country museum”, comprises a tiny antechamber, a single room, and a hangar.
     The hangar houses a cart and a plough from the time of emigration.
     In the antechamber, on an ancient table with pretty lathe-work legs, Mr. Nicolas Hess, founder and caretaker of the museum, placed the old wooden measuring devices once used in the village mills.
     Finally, the “main room” of the museum, a little room with earthen floor an whitewashed walls, houses the treasures that were until now lovingly preserved in the families, but which the untiring dedication of Mr. Nicolas Hess made them give up, for the benefit of the common good: clock, dresser, chest-dresser, cabinet with panels prettily decorated with flowers, bed and cradle naively painted, spinning wheels, an old butter churn, halberd and lantern of the night watchman, and the silver-tipped sticks of the mayors of the three villages, an Alsatian waistcoat with silver buttons, etc.
     The cabinet is filled with documents, among which there are birth certificates issued in
  Parroy, in Bertrambois, and a venerable French missal.
     In a tray, a Lorraine flag that resembles those that the people of Nancy and Metz placed in their windows and which according to an order by king Alexander allows the little museum, now a public museum, to fly next to the tricolour of our Yugoslav allies.

The village mill, which dates back to the early time of the colonization

     A gesture by Mr. Albert Lebrun, whose goodwill deeply moved our friends from Saint-Hubert to have in their own museum the portrait of the first magistrate of the French Republic, wearing his signature, alongside that of another great Lorrainer: Marshal Lyautey.
     The Lorrainers of Yugoslavia, even though they lost the use of their ancestral language, preserved many customs of the country: first name Nicholas given to almost all first-borns; distribution of sweets during baptisms; plantation of the "May-tree"; rattle on Good Friday; use of an “offering” at weddings and funerals, some kitchen recipes, pies and Lorraine flat-cakes; use of an old card game still called "la préférence": all customs peculiar to the "Welsch" Banat villages and that one would seek in vain in the "Swabian" Villages.
[Translator’s note: Contrary to the author’s affirmation, several of these customs were common in the Swabian villages of the Banat].
     The descendants of our compatriots kept to this day that virtue of frugality, of which the Lorrainers were so justifiably proud. Their simple and natural joyfulness, the beauty of their women, on whose beautiful

  of composing an orchestral score from the text for piano and violin that he had available.
     Music played an important part in all great events. It played its part at funerals, the musicians marching in pairs, along the houses, with the rest of the procession, while the hearse advanced alone in the middle of the 50 to 80 meters wide streets. And, during marriages, the music followed the row of invited guests that moved like a procession to the house of the bride and groom, to conduct them to the town hall, then to church… Then, after the dance that lasted until dawn, the young couple is conducted to their home; it's a last serenade which gives the signal that the celebration is over.
     And that is how three thousand descendants of Lorrainers lived, 1400 kilometers away from Lorraine. Their ancestors had run away from the oppressive administration of Mr. de La Galaizière: they had the good fortune of finding in the Banat a fertile soil, and there are no longer any poor people among them. But their fate was even more favourable than they had dared to hope: their home is now incorporated in the noble and proud Yugoslavia,

Graves of Lorraine emigrants
to the Banat

and it is under the banner that has the same colours as ours, good and loyal citizens of a country dear to all Frenchmen, they engage with joy in their peaceful work in the fields.

(Written in French in 1934)
~ Translated by Nick Tullius 2010

The three Lorraine villages in the Yugoslavian Banat

Also see André Rosambert's 1934 follow-up article of the "Villages Lorrains En Roumanie"

Written in the French magazine publication: L'Illustration*,  01 April 1933 - Issue N. 4700

[Translated by Nick Tullius; Contributed & Published @ DVHH, Jody McKim Pharr - 12 Oct 2010]

[Article discovered & contributed by Jody McKim and translated from French to English
by Nick Tullius & Published @ DVHH  - 09 Sep 2010 by Jody McKim Pharr.] 

L'Illustration was a weekly French newspaper published in Paris. It was founded by Edouard Charton; the first issue was published on March 4, 1843.

In 1891, L'Illustration became the first French newspaper to publish a photograph, and in 1907, the first to publish a color photograph. It also published Gaston Leroux' novel Le mystère de la chambre jaune as a serial a year before its 1908 release.

During the Second World War, L'Illustration was published by Jacques de Lesdain, a collaborator; after the Liberation of Paris, the newspaper was shut down. It re-opened in 1945 as France-Illustration, but went bankrupt in 1957.


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