“Yearbook of Dobrujan Germans” (“Jahrbuch Dobrudscha-Deutschen“, editor: Otto Klett) – chapter “Fate of Adam Sezonv in Brăila” (“Vom Schicksal der Familie Adam Sezonov an Brăila”), by Victoria Sezonov-Zielinski (pages 138-147):
“About the Fate of the Adam Sezonov Family from Braila
by Victoria ZIELINSKI, born Sezonov, Braila
My first recollection of my parents? I have no first recollection, as my parents were there always there for us children. No beginning and also no end. The latter I maintain firmly. Their intercessions still have validity, long after they left. Prayers do not set, they do not go out, they have strength and remain vividly before God’s throne, even if the mouth is silent which pronounced them.
My nicest recollection of my parents? Also the nicest recollection do not recall. Everything was nice and good and we felt secure. These are quite glad and sad recollections, but by far more glad ones. Even the sad ones have something glad in themselves. For example, the headaches of my mother. It hurt me as a child to see how the migraine gave her great pain and I could not help her. Then mom would bound herself a cold-humid handkerchief around the forehead, lay down on sofa and close the eyes. In her bedside table drawer she had blue-white round little boxes with Nevralgine tablets. How glad it made us when she got up after a while and said: „ Slowly I am feeling better again”.
My father foresaw several things. Dreams were given much more meaning before then nowadays. The sentence „Have sweet dreams” were meant seriously, as good dreams belonged to a good night sleep. And if one in the family told of a bad dream of the previous night, every family member took part in the discussion and would try to make interpretations, in order to weaken the feeling the dream left behing. After bad dreams misfortunes sometimes happen in the company, either a fire broke out, or an explosion took place. In the last of his years, he would dream that he had to go around barefoot, as a soldier took his shoes. I can still hear my dad say: „Difficult times will come to us, poverty and distress.”
My mother was a wonderful woman, a true Christian. When she was 15 years old, during confirmation classes, she decided to turn completly to God. To walk in God’s path and to live by his commandments, was and stayed her main focus in her life. One day, after breakfast and matins, I went back into the diningroom; my father was already in the factory and my siblings in school. She fancied to be alone. I opened the door and she was kneeled down in fornt of the open Bible and prayed, while tears pouring down her face. She stood up. „Why are you cyring Mom?” – „ Oh, I was praying for your children, that none of you get lost.” My mother only had good traits. I dont know a better woman that could be a greater model to me. Since I was a small child I wanted to be exactly like my mother. Not by piety or through a certain distance, which sees the people with a certain coated shine, and which makes mistakes forgotten, I say everybody which has known her, will be able to confirm this with me. When she remained 1947 with my father in Romania, after heavy suffering she passed away and my brother Emanuel, who just fled and was at the moment in Paris, sent me a telegramme stating:„Our mother has gone home. She was a saint”. Her life was focused only about love, forgiveness, reconcile, compassion and helping. She truly knew what has value and what has no value, what had to be done now and what was not important. Chatting, gossiping, or even lying were as foreign to her as was arrogance, cleaning obsession, and pride. She was diligent and was happy with gardening and beautiful handworks. She liked reading and conducted an active correspondence. He love to the poor knew no limits. She took in an orphan child Iliuscha, apart of raising us four children. And as one day Iliuscha’s brother, Grischa, has run away from his fosterparents, my parents took him in. When Iliuscha came to us, our domestic help refused to bathe the three year old as she looked so miserably. Filthy, to the highest level, rachitic, undernourished, the body and the scalp full of pus ulcers. The doctor, Dr. Vargha, removed all hair prior to treatment. Till then it was nourished just by tea and soaked in bread. Slowly it got to know Codliver, Fruits and Milk Pudding. First time to take a bath in a bath tub. Would caress the warm water and say:” Ce moale!” (how soft!) Prior so many would make fun of him when one would ask him: „Esti un rus?” (Are you russian?), he would answer enraged: the side a, as he could only see with one eye. He was very smart. In school he was the best in his class and received in the 3th Grade the first Prize, „premiul intai”. Also Uncle Fischer belonged to our family, who just appeared one day. He was a Bibel hawker and missioned in Turkey and Bulgaria. He spoke several languages and was also once a ship cook. He could do it all: build and carpentry, gardening, excellent shopping on the weekly market and tell amazing stories. He found with us a home.
This is how our parents were. Often I have such a longing for them, especially for my mother. Although, in the meantime I have become a grandmother. I ask myself, did we as children take our parents love for granted? Should we have shown them our love and admiration even better? I found a poem in my mother’s diary whichmade me think:
„Love me know as long as I am still here,
Maybe just a little but, otherwise you will feel,
Guilt when the Earth
Will cover me to rest.
Then I have the love of the holyland,
Those that replace yours.
Therfore when you want to love me;
Please love and do it now.”
Tell us how it used to be!
How often did we come like this to our parent! There was no Radio and no TV at the time. When we finished our School Homework or when we were tired from playing, there was nothing more beautiful then just listen. We would travel into a different world, a foreign but yet not strange World to us. A reason to narrate was found fast. Always we thought with longing of mothers desk, which contained so popular wonders for us, in hope mummy would open the drawer after the narrative, take out a pack of postcards and show us every single one of them. On one side a wonderul picture, on the other side an old stamp and the address; Miss Lydia Rosner (my mother’s maiden name), as well as the address of the expeditor. And then we would ask questions and would hear new stories. About Bertha and Emma Hess, Sophia Fränzel and Alida Graf, Names from her Konstanz Virgin Union. Or she would show me a crochet draft from her school time and would start narrating. Or we would come through the salon and would look for long time at old family pictures on the wall; our mother surrounded by five young people, which would look so strange in their clothes. „Mama please tell us!” And should not let us begg for too long. She was there for us children, and never would she say nervously: „ Go away, I dont have Time!” She woudl take from the mountain of socks a pair, looked for a garn, a mushroom, a thimble and a needle, and we children assembled around her. „You are my second children. I had previously already five children. Apart of Adolf, who live in Switzerland, you know them all. Anna, she is a nursery school teacher in Bucharest, Albert is a teacher in Berlin, Willy lives in Kobadin and Fritz, a medic who is now studying in America. I was unmarried at the time as my sister Therese and her husband died shortly one after the other. What should happen to the five orphans? I moved in with them in their house in Constanta and took over the mother position. That was suddenly a lot of work! Few time some boy pants needed to be stitched and darned! My other siblings would help me in Kobadin where they lived at my aunt Eva or aunt Karoline. Few years were like this until they were all out of the house. And then our dad would come. I was then already 31 years old.”
We knew exactly how this will continue then. This chapter my dad would tell me over and over with deep gratitude. Every time we would get visit and they wished to know how my parents found eachother, he would say:
„My Family used to live in Tulscha at the Danube Delta. My parents are from from Ukraine. Due to thier religious beliefs they fled to the then still turkish Dobrudscha. They were very poor and received a pard of land. The Sezonov Family was very big, eight sons and two daughters. All together we would sleep. I was the youngest. In school I was a very attentive student. Geography and History were my favorite subjects. All too fast did the school years pass by. Now I had to help at home with thresh, chop or in the mill. My father started with two grinderstones and the brothers made trails. Then an oilpress was added. Once I was ready and also wanted to be independent and start something on my own, I thought of marriage.” He would then smile and say: „I wasn’t handsome, but I was young.”
My father did not want a village girl. She should be different. Obligatory a Christian – and she had to be German. But where do you find such a girl? How often had he asked for God’s help! Then he had a thought. He would ask Pope Sembat Bagdasarians, a missionar from Switzerland, and he gave him a name: Lydia Rösner from Constanta. „You need to hurry up, she is very admired. Until now she has rejected all candidates, because she has children in her care.”
And then my dad would beam in full pride: „seventeen marriage proposals has your mother rejected. I received her „Yes”. Thats how he made his way one day to her. He was full of plans. From his dad he would tell how he would read love to read the newspaper with great anticipation about happenings ourside the village. Thats how he was interested in different lives paths and about how things would take its course. To aspire for higher, the never being content with the achieved state, that my father has inherited from his father. How big and wonderful was the world! It was open for him. The railway and the electricity, all the factories and machineries were of his great interest. It was something major to make something bigger.
But first he was on his way to meet his choosen one. He brought her some apples wrapped in a towel, as he would not count on love at first sight from our mother. As my mother met this stranger he had rotten apples with him. However she asked him friendly to come in. They got to know eachother, respect and love eachother and almost half a year later they got married and moved first to Tulcea and then to Braila.
My dad build an oil factory. One oil press wasn’t enough for my father, there were many more added. Later on he build a refinery and after several years an extraction. He made cooking oil, fuel oil, and paint oil. He had books come from Germany and therefore made many experiments. From the secondary products surely something should be made! He dreamed of a soap and candle factory. He would think about the production of margarine and had an engineer with his family come from Heilbronn/ Neckar: Kark Beck. My father was happy that later also his son Emanuel had pleasure to assist him. A great team, both diligent, the father with long years experience and the son with new ideas and suggestions.
The parents loved us children very much. We were stricly educated. I was the only girl, so my father would spoil me as a young girl. He would caressed me and would laugh: „Later when someone wishes to marry you, I will not give you away for thousand million quadrillions!” His life was characterized through his diligence. He could not stand a bum who would live into the day and waste time. My parents would look forward. They were people full of expectations, without endulging. They wanted to be „complete” people. I once witnessed as my dad started crying when he heard the song: „Oh, leaves only!” An experience from his time as a soldier marked him for all his life. A watch soldier was standing in his watch house in Constanta with his rifle leaned on. He was on guard but suddenly he was overcome by tiredness and he fell asleep standing. Another one noticed and took his rifle out of his hand. Not to notice the essential did not give him peace of mind. One of the most significant biblical stories was for him similar, the one with the five foolish and the five clever virgins. His life’s desire was to be one of the available people.
The parents were in their foundation very simple people, humble and childish faithful. We belonged to the romanian baptist congregation. Sundays we would go mornings and afternoons to church mass. Also did we never miss Thursdays Bible class. Sunday mornings was market day in Braila. Things were bought and sold. The village people from the surrounding villages would come with their products and would also wish to buy oil from our factory. My father was often warned that he should not miss this business opportunity, but he stuck with it. At the factory gate was a sign „Duminica absolut inchis!” (Sundays absolutly closed). As a business man he was very well respected. He has build in Braila, Chisinau and Constanta assembly halls. The baptists were in Romania surpressed. Not only laughed at but also scoffed, but were also ever and anon hit and thrown into jail, especially in villages. Around 1930 my father visited as the president of the baptist union, with two preachers, king Karl II, and asked for freedom of the faith. Also he himself preached in the service every now and then.
Time of War 1939-1945
Easy come easy go! This sounds hard. I want to express it rather with a song verse: „Everything passes, God, however, stands without all staggering; his thoughts, his word and will, has solid reason. His welfare and mercies, they do not take damage, cure in the heart deadly pains, to hold us timewise and forever healthy.”
End October! My brothers Emanuel and Paul have been since Christmas and New Year married. Since a few weeks the Second Worldwar has broken out. In Romania still peace. At home all in abundance. I was drawn to Germany brutally. I was engaged with a Reichsgerman. Hans, my chosen one, has just finished his studies, as he was pulled in. He was at the Infantery Kaserne Mühlheim a. d. Ruhr, but waited daily for his removal to Polen. I had no peace at home, as I longed to be at his side. The farewell broke my fathers heart completly. Also for my mother it must have been terrible. They could not understand how i could leave a protected safe home for a country in war.
Oberhausen, where Hans’ parents lived, was not far from the french positions. No one would think about Bomb attacks, but about a possible escape into the land if the war would spread. But that was exactly the reason for my decission. If in Romania war was to break out, it would be probably against Germany. Hand in Germany and me in Romania? A temporary visit and a letter correspondence was impossible. Where you are thats where I want to be, thats what I said to myself. My way was very clear to me, and I know to take this path was in God’s Will. Therefore, I knew no fear nor an uncertaty. But my parents would say: „You have nothing there of your Hans, he is a soldier. And you are an Outercountry – German with a romanian Passport.” I would reply: „I am in my heart German and will become there a Red Cross Nurse. And if Hans will get wound, I will care for him.”
My firm decission calmed my parents at the end. I left on a stromy cold rainy night my dear loving parent home to the rail station, accompanied by my brother Emanuel. One last time did my father try at the gate to change my mind: „Indeed the path may be dark but there it is bright”, i said seperating from him and went my on way. God gave us both his blessings. On 1. November 1939 our surprisingly fast war wedding ceremony took place in Oberhausen and I became Reichsgerman thereafter.
1940 Christmas in Brăila
In February my brother Willy died after a long illness, in Braila. In July my husband was released as soldier and was commanded as Engineer to the War Marine Wharf. Several months we lived in Wilhelmshaven but in November we moved to Kiel. Like a wonder, Hans and I were able to spend Christmas and New Year with my parents and siblings in Braila. It came so sudden and without expectations, that we did not even manage to announce ourselves. On 23. December at Midnight we reached Braila. There was a great Snowstorm. The train had several hours delay. Actually the express train Bucharest – Galati was supposed to be at 10 o’clock in Braila. I could not believe i was hope after 14 months away and everything was like before; no blackout, no food coupons! I already heard my dad’s voice: „Who is there, Victoria! From where are you talking? What, here in Braila? How? That is not possible!” Yes it was like a dream. And as fast as dreams pass so did the days, and fully packed with eleven suitcases and packages we returned back to Kiel.
The Years 1941-1943
Our Günter was born in October. Hans was then in Brest. He was often on the move, sometimes gone for weeks, anywhere he was needed to get a ship back on track. Although many aerial attacks were on our grocery shops and the places that handed out food cards, it was still bearable. On some houses in very close proximaty would fall explosive bombs and fire bombs. Often after an attack we remained without a roof or window frames. Houly you could expect to die. But strangely i knew no fear. When I sat in the air raid shelter, because up to the safe bunker it was a 15 minute run, I would sing to little Günter on my lap, a woollen blanket over us as a protection against the rumbling engines and by the falling dust, comforted a song one after the other. I knew us secure in God’s arms. I knew nothing would happen to us which he would not allow. I was ready to receive good and hard from him. Why worry?! Also from Braila, from the parents and from Emanuel, as well as from Buzau from Brother Paul we had good news. They often had accomodated german army, which provided them happy variation. We could keep up a great correspondence.
December 1943, we received news of my father being very ill. He had a small wound in his face. For him, as a diabetic, it was life threatening. I wanted to much to see my father again. And the most amazing thing happened. Due to a medical certificate small Günter and myself received travel permission. Also this time it was during Christmas and New Year, like three years earlier. And what luck, I could stay for seven full weeks at home!
Hans remained in Kiel, taken care by Mrs. Lembke. In our first year in Kiel we subleased in her place. One day her house was distroyed by explosive and fire bombs, we managed to help her. Now she lives with us in sublease. The days at home were wonderful. My loving father, who has given up by the doctors, due to the happiness of our reunion, became healthy again. Günterchen was the sunshine for his grandparents. Actually we could have stayed longer. But then one day in February my father said very worried:” The Front is moving closer. I dont know what will happen to us, but you with Günter you certainly have to leave. Despite the Bombattacks in Kiel you are safer.” Ach, why did my parents not just left everything and came with me to Germany?! Never after that have we seen eachother again. Not once did they have the pleasure to visit their daughter in Germany. How many travels have the done before: to Switzerland, to Italy, Sweden, France and Germany! But never could I show them my home. Never could they take part of my family life. I have loved my parents very much, thats why it hurts so much, and I ask why did their End had to be so hard? Why did my mother have to suffer? Why did my father have to stay behind alone?
Now this were happening fast in Romania. In August my brothers fled precipitately with theirs families from Braila and Buzau. They pulled back with the german Army over the Carpatian mounatins. Noone knew where to go and how long it will take. The V-Weapons were supposed to be used and with that the War Turn. Then one could return back. But it came different. More and more it went direction west. One day in October my brothers, without having any contact with them, at my door in Kiel. We were few days together. Then they returned to theirs families that were in Berlin and in Wittenberge an der Elbe.
The Front came even more closer. Emanuel leaves Wittenberge and hope to find in Switzerland a new home, as his wife Ina, born Höhn, a Swiss National was. She and their daughters Manuela and Erika were allowed to stay, but Emanuel was not accepted. Only on visitation he can stay, a home right is not given to him. That was not fair at all from the Swiss! The family belonged together. Four years they hoped for nothing, Emanuel stayed in Paris and his Family in Solothurn at the Steinke Family. At the end they migrated to Chile. Twelve years South America was their home. Now they live in the United States, in Houston/ Texas. In France they received Werner, in Santiago de Chile the forth child Robert.
Paul lived with his wife Gerda, born Borkenhagen, and their two children Norbert and Virgia very difficult post war years in Berlin. They lived the „Stalinorgan”, the arrival of the russians, hunger, illnesses and misery. They found their new home in Melbourne/ Australia.
And our parents? They stayed in Braila. The assets was nationalized. I thank God, that at least he did not allow that they were driven out of their house and land. They were allowed to stay in their house, str. Grivitei 202. They gave them one room, for which they had to pay rent. For very long we did not know from each other. No post, no messages, two years we were cut off from eachother. During this time, my mother kept a diary, that fell into our hands after she passed away. October 1947 she died, November 1951 our father. Here some extracts from her diary:
April 1947 – „Spring has come. In our courtyard stands am apricot tree, which is full of blossoms. Our kids can’t see it, as not one is at home. That is sad.”
19 may 1947 – „We are both sitting in the courtyard waiting for the postman. I wish so much to know how you all are doing.”
1 June – „It is 3 o’clock in the morning. I cannot sleep. Soon you will be here. I am so exited. I have so often such pain. But I ask God for recovery.” (Mother was very sick and had to get operated twice).
15 June – „I want to rest on the mercy of my savior.”
9 August – „I musst cry because my savior gave me this illness. Does he want to take me slowly home? It is 11 at night. Dad is with deadea Luke in the other room, talking. I cant sleep, have pain, the come from the gall bladder.”
12 September – „Will I still see you here on earth? Probabily not. So shall it be in Heaven, at Father in the Light. I strive for that! I ask for you.”
14 September – „I have more pain today. But if its God’s will, then he will give me health. I ask for it.”
16 September – „Oh, I am going home! If we do not see eachother again, so we have a home forever. Thats where I am going, Jesus is my saviour. Hold on to your beliefs and God my deart children.”
30 September – „Without a break I am in pain. I am getting weaker and weaker. My God stand with me, help me carry, and relieve my pain. I am your property.”
2 October – „If only you could soon come! I wish so much for you to come soon.”
5 October – „It is so difficult for me to just lay in bed like this. But God bless I dont have such major pain. I am alone at home. Dad went to the assembly.”
9 October – „God above everything and in all, Jesus Christ our Savior, is you with us all days, lead us on your way. May you be the signpost of my children, so not one to get lost. Open to them their hearts, eyes and ears for you. Be benevolent and merciful, forgive sins and over stepping through your goodness. Stand by me with my heavy illness.Amen!”
10 October – „This morning I had to keep on moaning, it is so hard for me. The Lord will guide me through all the hard into Fathers Land, where I will then wait for all my loved ones. Here is not our being, our home is there at Jesus.”
Our mother passed away on a Wednesday evening, 22. October at 7:30 o’clock. Friday afternoon at 4 o’clock she was laid to rest. The mother of her daughter in law, Mrs. Elly Höhn and our cousin Elena Savin stood loyal with her through her illness and were help in our fathers distress.
In Germany things moved slowly forward. We moved to the Ruhr area and started from the beginning again. We first lived in a furnished room, then in a small attic flat. How much I longed for my loving father to be with us! He survived my mother by 4 years. Two weeks after his way home the message reached me. He died of a Lung- Emblie. Thats how his earthy life ended: a rise and a downfall!
I admit that sometimes I look with envy at families that I see, how they stayed together or found eachother, despite the war and escapes. Our family stayed seperated: Romania, Australia, USA and Germany. With melancholy i think of that evangelic cemetery in Braila. Three graves, overgrown and adandoned! How desolate if i did not believe in a life after death! Thats our life: here perishable and to no avail? No! It was worth it. I am so grateful for every word, for every glance, for each act. A life rich of love and goodness. I am thankful to have had such parents and such a beautiful home. „Lord has given, Lord has taken; The name of the Lord be praised.” I will try to pass on to my children and children’s children what I was gifted with.”