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Villages Lorrains En Roumanie

by André Rosambert

Written in French, Magazine Publication:
L'Illustration*,  24 Nov 1934 - Issue N. 4786

Translated by
Elisabeth Koch
Translation Edited by Nick Tullius
Contributed & Published @ DVHH by Jody McKim
- 09 Sep 2010

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The town hall of Mercydorf, today
 Mertisoara (1934)

  Marchal, Tirié (Thiriet): don’t we find them in the civil registries between Meuse and Sarre?  And, in effect, their holders came from Metz, Delme, Boulay, Juville, Differdange, Guébling, Lemoncourt, Baronville, etc. Austrian officials did not want to carry on with certain family names of particular spelling or pronunciation: this is why, for example, Rousselet became Russle; Toussaint became Tussing.

     Last year, we described the curious destination of the Lorraine emigrants that were made Yugoslavian subjects by the treaties of peace, and the three villages, Saint-Hubert, Charleville and Seultour who found themselves grouped in the north-east part of the kingdom of Yugoslavia.  It is without a doubt in this part of historic Banat of Temesvar, where the residents of Lorraine, due to its superior numbers and densely populated community were able to conserve its unique character while adopting the language of the Swabian people that lived in neighbouring villages.  But if the Yugoslavians originating from Lorraine were numbering three thousand, the Romanians of Lorraine origin numbered in the tens of thousands.  Today (in 1934), there exist descendents of Lorraine in about sixty villages in the Romanian part of Banat, with equal numbers north and south of Timisoara, capital of Timis-Torontal.
     Last summer saw the commemoration of the bicentennial of one of these villages: Mercydorf, today Mertisoara, is in its 3rd century of existence.  That a village located within 24 kilometers from the ancient Turkish fortress of Temesvar carries the same name as the summer residence of M. Albert Lebrun – Mercy, in Lorraine - that is at least unexpected. 
     But if the Banat became such a rich and fertile land where so many poor emigrants from the four corners of Europe found fortune and prosperity, don’t they owe it to the Lord of Lorraine Florimond-Claudius Mercy?  It’s true that Mercy’s family, which had its lands between Metz and Longwy, distinguished itself in the service of the Holy Empire.
     Field Marshal Francois de Mercy, grandfather of the first governor of Banat, was killed during the Thirty-year war in combat at Allerheim on the 3rd of August 1645.  His father, the baron Pierre-Ernest, “fell beneath the walls of Ofen” in 1686, in the ranks of the imperial army.
     Count Florimond-Claudius Mercy, that the Viennese archives simply indicate was <born in 1666 on the lands of his father in Lorraine> was actually born in the duchy,  at  Martin-Fontaine, close to Longwy.  This Lorrainer battled bravely against the Turks under the orders of a Savoy, the famous Prince Eugene.

    When the capture of Belgrade in 1717 finally assured the emperor of the conquest of the Banat, which had been under Muslim domination for 164 years, it was Prince Eugene of Savoy who would entrust to count Mercy the administration of this territory that was directly connected to the imperial chancellery.
  The Banat exhibited the appearance of a desert.  The Turks had taken over the tiny population of the region desolated by the bloody battles, the few mud huts among which the churches were only distinguishable by their crosses, which housed a few half savages, decimated by the Malaria fevers.
  In fifteen years, Mercy made the area a breadbasket of Europe.  Then, once the miracle was completed, he was killed on the 19th of June 1734 in the assault on the castle of Crocetta close to Parma.
  His name was to be perpetuated in the very center of his work: the baron of Engelshofen, second governor of Banat gave the name of Mercydorf, or the village of Mercy, to the town of Caran, which had been established in 1733 by his illustrious predecessor, with 48 Italian families originally from Trentin, specializing in the culturing of rice and the raising of silk worms.
  Thus Mercydorf was born, in name if not in fact, 200 years ago.  The town was to become later a miniature Babel, a typical Banat locality, where three or four races cohabitated very peacefully.
  In 1734, the imperial administration brought to Mercydorf, besides indigenous Romanians and Italian colonists, more Spanish families.  Then, in 1765, it was the turn of the Germans. 
Finally, three years after, the compatriots of Florimond-Claudius Mercy came in large masses and gave a boost to the population of the village.  French speaking inhabitants formed 58.4% of the total population of Mercydorf, Italians and Spaniards formed 24%, and German speakers formed 17.6%. The street  of France was created.
  The names of the new arrivals, grouped into 150 families are well characterized: Abou, Malgras, De-Manche (Demange), Vasseur, Clodon (Claudon), Prévot, Varrain, Everard (Evrard), Henriquet,

Then, much like in today in the Yugoslavian portion of Banat, under the successive reigns of Maria-Theresia and Joseph II, the systemic denationalization of Lorraine and French families continued, favoured by the arrival of new German settlers.
  The bicentennial festival committee of Mercydorf-Mertisoara had nevertheless thought of associating Lorraine with the ceremonies (maybe the opportunity was suggested?) that took place last September in this little village.  Anyway, it took this occasion for a Frenchman to affirm by his presence, to the descendents, that they had not been forgotten, at least not by the University of Nancy and the Academy of Stanislas, of which the capital of Lorraine has the honour of being the seat. 

  Although the contribution of Italians to the founding of Mercydorf was considerable, not one Italian delegate appeared at the bicentennial festivities.  By contrast, Germans from the Reich were very numerous and would remind the Romanians who were speaking their own language, that on the shores of the rivers Main, Spree, Oder, Isar, they were aware of these manifestations of Germanism in foreign countries and would make an effort to participate.
  Reaping the fruits of patient and meticulous propaganda that hadn’t ceased in Banat since the sons of their race, the Germans, had arrived there, and their arrival was celebrated with joy by the Banatar Deutsche Zeitung and by the Temesvarer Zeitung, modern successors of the old weekly Intelligenzblatt founded in Temesvar in 1769 by the printer Mathieu Heimerl, and received by all the German associations in the region reunited on this day in the Lorraine village founded by a Lorrainian for Lorrainians: Popular German Federation, German Cultural Association of Banat,  German Youth Association etc.

A road in a village of the Romanian Banat, founded by immigrants in the 18th century

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  The effusions were prolonged to the sounds of the Swabian hymn “Heil dir mein Heimatland”, which resembles a certain “Heil dir im Siegerskranz” of sad and notable memory. Oh! My God, this was very normal!  Haven’t we ever dreamed of having sent, from France “La Marche Lorraine” to the Lorrainians of Mercydorf?  Even since Mercydorf became Mertisoara?  Shouldn’t we have known that there were Lorranians in Mercydorf, and in many other villages of the Banat?
  The speakers during these two days of celebrations didn’t forget to comment on, not without humour, on the progressive disappearance of the Italians, the French and the Lorrainians who immigrated two centuries ago, and whose delicate nature could not support the rigours of the climate, where only the vigour of the Germans, the labour of the Swabians and Germanic tenacity could succeed.  The historic Italians, French and Lorrainians, those that the good hosts of the village of Mercydorf did not take care to forget, were celebrated, but in the way that, at a prehistoric congress, ancient missing races are celebrated.
    Welcomed at the outskirts of the village at the rustic triumphal arch where the word “Welcome” was inscribed in strong German, and in much less distinct fashion in  Romanian, Demetor Nistor, Prefect of the Department of Timis Torontal, and a high class diplomat, made a joyous entry by carriage with four horses, preceded by young riders carrying banners in the national colours.
   The program of celebrations consisted first in the inauguration of a plaque dedicated to the poet-peasant Gabriel, originally of France, but who spent the large part of his life singing the virtues of the German race, of which he came to believe himself a son.


Lorrain villages in Romania

  Sunday morning arrived with new hosts, whose tall carriages pulled by black horses, fast like lightning, followed each other on all the village streets.  Under a fiery sky, one of the most historic processions was organized: all the episodes of immigration, all the scenes of rustic life, filed into an enthusiastic crowd three people deep.  And we saw successively, after a curious group of <ancestors>, whose costumes had curiously been re-created, an antique plough preceded by the most modern agricultural machine, an old village forge with retaining anvil, the chariot of harvest, and that of grape gathering,  and finally a ravishing <vigil to the village> and a <country inn> with extras in clothing more than a century old,  playing cards very seriously…a jolly scene from L’ami Fritz…
  Sadly for photographers, and despite numerous complaints, the procession passed only once from the town hall to the church, and in turning, had their backs to the sun!
  On the threshold of his church, the priest of the parish, encircled by  a number of his clergy, received the wheat and symbolic grapes, then the town council held a solemn public meeting in a large barn, where numerous speeches were given, in Romanian and German and cheers followed depending on the circumstances by "Se Treasca!" or "Heil!"
    Naturally, there was a banquet at the Hotel Muttar that the citizens continue to call by its French name, Moutarde.  Given the state of siege that was prolonged on the territory of the Kingdom of Romania, it was decided that strangers would not take the floor: this measure, which was courteously brought to the attention of the invitees, and to which the French delegates adhered to scrupulously, was not to the liking of Germans coming from the Reich, and
their <<leader>>, a Berlin engineer who was very happy to discover an old grandmother from Mercydorf, to sarcastically violate the agreement under the nose of the present Romanian authorities.  The engineer Victor Wagner started by declaring that he was bringing to the Swabians of Mercydorf, the salute of Verein fur das Deutschtum im Ausland, and in a voice in with which he could command a cavalry attack, he finished by affirming in a stentorian voice, that the Romanians had no better subjects then the <Swabians>, an opinion of many that were not embarrassed to say out loud, unlike the delegate of the Reich who did not demonstrate a high opinion of this <discipline> to which his country so easily claims a monopoly.
   There are thousands of French descendents in this Banat, the wealth of which makes our Romanian allies
The priest of Mercydorf-Mertisoara receives on the steps of his church,
the fruits of the harvest.

proud.  France, and particularly Lorraine and Alsace have the duty of remembering them, if they don’t want others to erase the last traces of an origin, the recall of which cannot but make our cousins in Timis Torontal better citizens of the Romanian homeland.

André Rosambert
(Written in French in 1934)

    Who among us ever thought of him as being any different?  His eulogy was given, in excellent manner, by a young school inspector, Mr. Etienne, whose surname , we note, was not particularly Germanic.
 Ten the civil and religious authorities inaugurated the monument to the dead of the  community on which one reads with emotion the names such as Kade (Cadet), Wingron (Vigneron), Willkomm (Vuillome): I indicate here the etymologies that were given to me by local historians according to municipal archives.


Inauguration of the monument to the dead of Mercydorf-Mertisoara.

Also see André Rosambert's 1933 previous article  of the "Villages Lorrains En Roumanie"

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

[Article discovered & contributed by Jody McKim and translated from French to English
by Elisabeth Koch on behalf of Anne Dreer & 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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