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2001 Trip To Germany And Poland

Tuesday, May 15

We checked out of the Pension about 9:30 and headed to Stettin (Szczecin ) via Hwy 2 crossing the border at Rosowek. One new ritual when crossing into Poland was disinfecting your hands. I imagine this was because of the mad cow or hoof and mouth diseases but I can’t imagine what useful value this procedure provides. Communication got to be amusing here because the Polish guard couldn’t speak English. She kept rubbing her hands together and pointing but it made no sense to us. Finally she got out of the booth, walked to the other side of the car and showed us the dispenser where we were to wash our hands. Every car also had to pass over a huge mat on the road soaked in disinfectant.

The traffic wasn’t heavy in Stettin and we were able to negotiate the streets fairly easily. We checked into the Orbis Arkona hotel and then took the car to a secure parking lot about two blocks away under the freeway overpass interchange. I was anxious to get to the Archiwum Panstwowe (the State Archive), which is located on the corner of Lotnikow Square and Jagiellonska Street, about a 13-minute walk away. The Archive is a Neo-Romanesque red brick building erected in 1900 for the purpose of storing records and is still used for that purpose today. I was very disappointed to find that the archive closed at 1:00 pm on Tuesday as I was really looking forward to seeing the church records for Regenwalde. With the afternoon to kill, I spent my time visiting the Castle of the Pomeranian Dukes and the St. James Cathedral while Norma rested.

Wednesday, May 16

I was at the door when the archive opened at 9:00 am. Communication was difficult until Maria Frankel appeared who spoke pretty good English and she explained that I would have to fill out a form and it would take about an hour to obtain the church books – and it did. She left me with a couple of other men and they gradually communicated what was available and what was not. Unfortunately, the church register for Regenwalde for the years 1833 to 1848 was missing – just the period when Julius Maass (my great grandfather) and most of his siblings were born. Knowing that his sister, Johanna, was born in 1850, I decided to check the register for 1849-1864 first. Records were kept in two sections, those for the city of Regenwalde and those occurring in villages closely surrounding Regenwalde. I quickly hit pay dirt. Johanna was born in Ornshagen as were two siblings, Gottlieb Ludwig Ferdinand in 1849 and Eduard Franz Wilhelm in 1853. I was ecstatic because I finally knew where the David Maass family lived prior to moving to Hohenschönau. However, my joy was tempered by the realization that the church register listing the births of the other siblings, as well as the marriage of their parents, David and Friedrike, may not exist anywhere. Moreover, there were no church registers prior to 1824 either, so the likelihood of finding the birth of David, which was about 1810, and the names of his parents is rather remote. The 1849-1864 register also listed the death of Gottlieb and had Confirmation records of several siblings. The last Confirmation, that of August Heinrich indicated that the Maasses were still in Ornshagen as late as 1856.

I felt quite rushed knowing there were far more records than I had time to check. And our inability to converse in a common language and the bureaucratic procedures in getting church books from storage also added to the frustration. Except for a lunch break, I kept searching church records until the Archive closed at 3:00 pm and decided I would have to return on another day. Because we were meeting Katarzyna "Kasia" Grycza, our Polish guide in Wangerin (Wegorzyno) the next day at 9:00 am, we needed to travel farther into Poland so we wouldn’t have so far to go in the morning. We went as far as Stargard and got a room at the Hotel Staromiejski. It was about 5 pm and we had time to drive to four of the villages in Saatzig county [Buchholz (Grabowo), Kietzig (Kicko), Alt Damerow (Stara Dabrowa) and Kitzerow (Kiczarowo)] where the Köhlers had lived lived before they settled in Steinhofel (Kamienny Most). I took pictures of the churches and we returned to the hotel about 7:30.

Thursday, May 17

We left the hotel at 8:20 am and drove to Wangerin where we met Kasia at the church. She was accompanied by a trainee, "Romek", who spoke Polish, German, and Italian, but not English. They had driven up that morning from Poznan, about 216 km. Kasia had made arrangements for us to stay at the Gospodarstwo Agroturustyczne, a guesthouse on a farm run by Beata and Andrzej Sak that was about 8 km east of Wangerin, just a bit northeast of Rosenfelde (Brzezniak) -- off the beaten track and the last 0.9 km of road was mostly a dirt road with some cobblestones. One had to know where it was to find it. After meeting the proprietors (both of whom spoke English) and unpacking our luggage, the four of us left in our car to tour the villages in the counties of Regenwalde and Naugard. Our route took us back to Wangerin, north across the Rega River to Labes (Lobez) where we stopped to exchange some travelers checks and to look at the church. The weather wasn’t cooperating and we were having rain showers. Next stop was Regenwalde (Resko) where Johanna (Maass) Luedtke and at least two, if not all, of her siblings were baptized. The church, which dates back to the 15th century, was impressive with a beautiful interior. After getting pictures of the church and the town hall nearby, we went to the Rega restaurant for lunch. It was a very nice place on the second floor next to the small flow-control dam on the Rega River but it took longer than we hoped it would to get dumplings stuffed with cabbage and potatoes.

Regenwalde’s history goes back to at least 1288 when it received city status. The town and much of the county of Regenwalde were owned by one noble family, the von Borck family, from 1447 to 1808. It was an economic center, famous for markets particularly the St. Bartholomeus Day & Fair. The decline in its economy was caused by wars and Napoleon's conquest. The town hall was erected in 1841 and is one of very few buildings that survived WWII. In 1843, Karl Sprengel built a new agricultural machinery plant and a new steam mill in Regenwalde. He developed an experimental farm on 76 ha of land in Regenwalde including 200 different varieties of plants and initiated an animal breeding program [For those curious about the plants grown in that area, a diary kept by Hermann Schlueter while he was a gardener at the Ornshagen estate in the 1860s, and which is posted on the Internet, is of particular interest because he mentions a vast number of plant species growing there]. Karl, who contributed much to Pomeranian agriculture, died in 1859 and is buried in the local cemetery. When the capital of the district was moved to Labes at the beginning of the 20th century, Regenwalde lost its importance. Today Regenwalde has a population of 4700 people.

We took a walk through the cemetery, which was very large, to look for the monument for Karl Sprengel and any other Germans buried there but only saw one WWII grave with a German name, a Lüdke who died in 1945, I believe. Then we drove a couple of kilometers south to find Ornshagen where the David Maass family lived before moving to Hohenschönau, but saw no evidence of the tiny hamlet [Regrettably, I learned after we returned home that Ornshagen (Zerzyno) was about a mile off the road we were on and we missed it. I am told there is nothing left of the old estate, that the collective farm established on the site is crumbling and the land is reverting to the wild].

We continued on to Ludwigshorst (Taczaly) to get a picture of the church for Sabina Pamfili of Canada. Also got pictures of churches in Jarchin and Maskow (Maszkowo) for Don Litzer of Wisconsin. Stopped briefly in Kniephof (Konarzewo) where Otto von Bismarck lived between the ages of one and six. At age 6 he was sent to the Plamannsche Erziehungsanstalt in Berlin where he went to school, but when school was out, he returned to Pommern, a country he always loved.

We continued south to Naugard where we stopped only long enough to get something to drink and then drove to Langkafel (Dlugoleka) via Wolchow (Olchowo) and Wissmar (Wyszomierz). Langkafel is where Heinrich and Johanna Luetdke’s first child was baptized. We were able to get inside the church but since we were running late for dinner (we were expected back at the farm guesthouse for dinner at 6:30), we quickly hit the road again. We returned via Hohenschönau (Jenikowo), Dober (Dobra), Zeitlitz (Siedlice), Ruhnow (Runowo) and Wangerin. We arrived late at 7:30 but Kasia had called ahead on her cellular phone with our apologies. We had a great home made dinner consisting of three courses, smoked herring salad, tomato soup with half a boiled egg and bacon and cheese toast on the side, and veal cutlet with mashed potatoes, green beans and lettuce salad. Dessert was custard with a berry sauce. We were impressed.

The guesthouse was constructed upon the original rock walls of a former stable. The thick rock walls provided the support for the two-story building, which is both the residence for the owners, with a rustic dining room downstairs, and a guesthouse with a loft and three guest rooms upstairs. It was built when it was very difficult to get building materials and Andrzej said it took 10 years, from 1986 to 1995 to complete. The rooms were plain but comfortable and ours was the only one with a private bath.

Despite the weather, our first day touring villages together had been interesting and enjoyable, and we slept very well that night in the peaceful and quiet surroundings of the country.

Friday, May 18

Breakfast was a buffet with the usual selection of bread & rolls, cold cuts, boiled eggs, cereal, and fruit but with home made white cheese and yogurt & fresh vegetables (tomatoes, radishes, cucumbers) from their garden. They also suggested we make sandwiches to take with us for lunch. We got on the road about 9:30 and took Hwy 149 southwest out of Wangerin, turning off at Winningen (Winniki) to go to Teschendorf (Ciesyno). Here we stopped to see the church, which was built in 1740, and the grave of one of the estate owners, von Wedel, who was born in 1799, I believe. We took a dirt road to see the lake (Wothschwien See) where Grandpa Carl Maas skated in the winter. The lake has a maximum depth of 28 m and is 2 km wide and 9.5 km long. Then we returned to Hwy 149 driving thru the dense forest and took the turnoff north to Vehlingsdorf (Wielen Pomorski). At each of the churches Kasia found someone to open the church so we could get inside. We checked around the abandoned cemetery (except for 3 Polish graves, presumably post WWII) but saw only a couple of iron crosses lying in the weeds. It appeared that all other iron grave markers had been ripped from the stone bases and taken away. We left a small donation with the man who opened the church for us.

Next we went to Braunsforth (Brod) where Julius and Emilie Maass lived for over 20 years until they immigrated to the US in 1895. Braunsforth is a very old village which is known to have had residents as far back as 1500-1300 BC. The first record of the name Braunsforth dates to 1498 AD. Kasia found someone to open the church and a young boy offered to lead us up the stairs to the bell tower (the oldest part of the church) where we got to see the church bell that had been made for the church in 1855 by the estate owner, Hugo von Wedel. This bell would have been in use when Julius and Emilie Maass lived in Braunsforth. The von Wedel’s were members of the aristocratic family that owned 1000’s of acres of land around Braunsforth for several centuries.

As we left the church, we asked Kasia about a restroom and she said there were probably no public toilets but she would ask to use one in the house across the street. The couple living there, Mr. and Mrs. Banc, were very hospitable and friendly. While talking to them, they mentioned that the von Wedel manor had a new owner and was being renovated so we went to see it. A man and woman working there (the owners I believe) asked us if we would like to go inside to see what they had done. Only the second floor was finished but the results were very impressive. Beautifully varnished wood floors, walls painted with decorative borders and the family crest, and a huge bathroom with a jacuzzi tub, two sinks, two toilets and walls tiled with beautiful green ceramic tiles. The owners showed us a notebook full of information and pictures of the mansion from sometime before WWII. Renovation was to take about four years he said. Previously, the Poles had used the building for a school.

Julius had been the head shepherd in Braunsforth, but when we were there in 1999 we were unable to find evidence of the sheep barns that appeared on an 1890’s map to be about a kilometer south of Braunsforth. When we asked the manor owner about the sheep barn, he said that only the ruins of the foundation were left. He knew where it was because they go there to pick mushrooms and he offered to go with us to help find it. Because the car would only hold four of us, Romek agreed to wait for us at the church. It was just south of where the village road intersects with Hwy 145, on the east side of the Hwy 145 where there is an abrupt break between the trees and a cultivated field. The ruins were in a grove of trees where we never would have found them without his help. Remnants of rock and tile foundations for two separate structures appeared to be the foundations of a house as well as that of a sheep barn. I couldn’t help wondering if this was where the Julius Maass family lived. The trees growing in and around the ruins are about 6-8 inches in diameter and are probably 50 years old more or less. He said the field outside the forest was not very fertile and believed it would have been a meadow for grazing the sheep.

The manor owner then offered to show us the old cemetery, which is also nearly completely lost in the trees and undergrowth. It lies just southeast of the intersection of the village road and Hwy 145 (1.1 km south of the church). One could still make out the location of the path into the cemetery by the two rows of large trees that lined a now completely over-grown path. Again, gravestones were piled up, broken and the iron crosses had been removed so no identification is possible. But I assume that it was in this cemetery where Emma and Martha, Grandpa Carl Maas’ sisters are buried. Next he took us to the site where Hugo von Wedel and his wife are buried. It is a family mausoleum about a block north of the mansion in Braunsforth. It too is overgrown with trees and brush, but the marble head stones, though knocked down, are still readable. Hugo died in 1893 and his wife in 1897. A brick entrance to the underground mausoleum was closed, we were told, because thieves had tried to break in.

When we drove back to the church, we found Romek having tea with the Bancs at a table outside their house. We were all invited for tea or coffee and pastries. We took our sandwiches with us and ate our lunch there. When we finished Mr. Banc brought out the Polish vodka so we could join him for a drink even though he wasn’t supposed to have any because of heart trouble. They clearly were in no hurry for us to leave but we had to press on and so we finally said our goodbyes and headed south on Hwy 145.

We passed thru Freienwalde (Chociwel) on our way to Steinhofel (Kamienny Most) to look for the church that the Köhlers attended when our great grandaunt, Mathilde Louise (Köhler) Block, was born in 1869. [Based on the 1949 letter from Franz Köhler, it appears that the Köhlers remained in Steinhofel until they were forced out during or after WWII]. All that was left of the church was a stone or concrete monument. A plaque said that the Russians razed the church in 1956. From there we drove to Karkow (Karkowo), the village where Emilie (Köhler) Maas was born. On this trip we were able to get inside the church in which she was baptized. We left a donation for the church with the two elderly women who opened the doors for us.

The badly damaged castle down the road that we saw in 1999 was still standing and Kasia said it was the remains of a castle that had been built in the 1800’s. From there we headed northwest to Hohenshönau (Jenikowo) to have another look at the village where the David and Friedericke Maass family lived after leaving Ornshagen. This time we learned that the church, which I had been fortunate enough to get into in 1999, was actually built in the 1890’s and so the Maass family would never have been inside this church as I had thought, but rather would have attended one that stood in its place. However, the bell tower was much older and would have been there when they lived in Hohenschönau.

We continued north to Zampelhagen (Salpolnica) to see the inside of the church that the Luedtke’s attended from about 1876 to 1882. The gravestones piled up at the back of the church lot were still there but I couldn’t find any identification on them. Heinrich and Johanna Luedtke’daughter, Bertha Auguste Wilhelmine, who died at the age of two years would have been buried in the church cemetery here. But no gravesites can be found anymore.

It was time to head back to the guesthouse at Brzezniak. We went east by way of Bernhagen (Ostrzyca), Plantikow (Bladkowo), and Daber (Dobra) to Meesow (Mieszewo) where we turned south to Altenfliess (Trzebawie) and then east through Horst (Chwarstno) and Ruhnow (Runowo) to Wangerin. After awhile these small villages all begin to look alike but some have unique churches, like the interesting beam and clay style churches in in Mellen (Mielno) and Altenfliess, which we stopped to photograph. We got back to the guesthouse in time for another superb supper at 6:30. We paid Kasia for her time and expenses and then said our goodbyes as she and Romek were driving back to Poznan that evening, about a 3-hour drive. Kasia had been a delightful guide to be with for two days and we were sorry we had to part company. She was always cheerful and eager to help, and as we traveled along she provided a narrative about the villages and churches.

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