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Remembrances of My Time in Austria
(Erinnerungen an Österreich)
Part One

by Adam Martini

From the Jan-Mar 2008 issue of the Trentoner Donauschwaben Nachrichten
 English translation by
Hans Martini

     The expression "you only live once" is one that always seems to cause a great deal of reflection.  These particular reminiscences are from my time in “Upper Austria” in an area known as "Innviertel."  Our regional capital was "Braunau" and I lived in a hamlet known as "Pfaffing" that was part of a place called "Haigermoos."  Haigermoos was a sleepy little community in 1947 when we arrived as refugees, with just a few hamlets surrounded by farmland.  The whole scene seemed more like something out of the Middle Ages than from the present. 

     The farming families here had worked the land for many generations and were proud of their heritage and traditions.  To insure the farms stayed completely intact, the oldest sons were sole heirs who took the job of passing down the whole farm to their oldest sons quite seriously.  This tradition still goes on today to varying degrees. 

     I found this all most interesting.  While we refugees weren’t exactly greeted with open arms by the locals, one had to hand it to these good and straightforward folks:  They gave us shelter and food, educated our children and welcomed us in their churches where we would join them for mass on Sundays. 

     Every farm had a small house in addition to the main house where everything seemed to happen.  The main house was always one of four that formed a square with a yard in the middle.  The farmer, his wife and children lived there as did any farm hands and caretakers.  The small house stood usually next to the main house.   Here the retired farmer and his wife (the parents of the current farmer/owner) lived when they could no longer work the farm. This is the way it was for generation upon generation.

     So, into this carefully choreographed culture, so rich in tradition, marched refugees like myself.  We were moved right into the small houses by the government and the old-timers had to move back into the main houses with their son’s family.  We took up residence anywhere an empty room could be found.  Naturally there was quite a bit of resentment on their part, but who can really blame them? 

     On the other hand, we Donauschwaben provided a cheap and very effective workforce.  Indeed, it caused an economic upturn in the area that was plain for all to see.  Since there was no industry, there was little for our people to do but work the farms.  So undeveloped was the area that the only paved road was only as long as the tiny hamlet itself. 

     And so it was that in the fall of 1947 my family came to this place called Haigermoos. It was here that my mom, grandmother, sister and I found a place to stay and a place to put the few things that comprised our worldly possessions.  I was a “thin as a bean stalk” ten year old and my sister, Maria, was just four.  We were happy to have escaped with our lives from Tito’s death camps and wanted very much to put that unpleasant memory behind us.  My mother, always the strongest of our family, knew how to get along and was able to always make the best of things.  My grandmother, on the other hand, was as stubborn as they come, with strong views that she was quick to share no matter what the circumstance.  It fell to me to try and keep her as quiet and as inoffensive to others as possible.  Alas, the very first comment she made was within earshot of the locals, saying in a heavy Donauschwaben dialect "how come these folks don’t speak proper German?"  Our new life in Haigermoos was off to a roaring start!

     These days it’s different, of course.  Those small houses I mentioned above have now become something like villas.  All the roads and even the walkways are nicely paved.  The nearby pond called "Hoellerer See" (which no one but the locals knew about back then) has now become something of a tourist destination.  Farmers have changed too.  They manage to do almost all of the work by themselves, it seems.  Modern equipment has revolutionized the farming industry and no longer are horses, oxen and throngs of farmhands necessary.  Milking machines take care of the cows whose output is optimized by highly trained veterinarians for heaven’s sake! 

     Over the years, many of the Donauschwaben moved away from the area.  Some went to the larger towns in search of work while others sought their fortune across the Atlantic Ocean.  Still others got married to native Austrians and became citizens of that country.  A few would even stay and build their own homes in Haigermoos. 

     This is just a taste of what the situation was like for us refugees in Austria after the war.  Hopefully, you have some sense of the area and the folks we encountered.  I've surely forgotten many of the details over all these years, but my impressions of that beautiful land and its people will stay with me forever.

Go to: Part 2

[Published at www.dvhh.org, 12 Mar 2008, by Jody McKim Pharr]