(Click here for a slideshow of all the photos in this story.)
Mission Trip to Vrbas, Serbia. Aug 2-10, 2003
Organized by Dr Robert Hunt, missionary pastor of the English Speaking United Methodist Church of Vienna, Austria.
It was October 1944 that my family left our home town Novi-Vrbas. Fifty-nine years later I received a letter from my cousin telling me that the missionary pastor, Dr Robert Hunt,
Dr Robert Hunt 2003 Click for larger version.
from the English speaking United Methodist Church of Vienna is going on a mission trip to Vrbas, Serbia. He asked me, would I want to go? My immediate answer was yes.
Pastor Adolf Drumm ID card picture – 1942
My father, Rev. Adolf Drumm, was Pastor of the Christ Methodist Church of Novi-Vrbas for 7 years from 1937-1944. It was a German speaking congregation. We were the Danube Germans.
Sunflower Field Summer of 2003
They changed the marshland into fertile agricultural plains that were called the bread basket of Europe.
Agricultural Land Summer 2003
German people settled in Austria Hungary in the 18th century. My father’s ancestors settled in Austria Hungary in 1738.
House of Early Settlers
The settlers established their own community called Vrbas.
Alt-Vrbas – 1926
We had German elementary schools and high schools.
Back of Elementary School Summer of 2003
We had a teacher’s college, trade schools, and 2 hospitals.
Well maintained Teacher’s College Summer 2003
We had state recognized churches: Roman Catholic, Lutheran, and Presbyterian and other non state recognized minor denominations: Methodist, Pentecostal, Baptist and others.
Vrbas Christ Church Old Post Card
Vrbas Church Youth
The people who were members of the Vrbas Methodist Christ Church supported it by their attendance, prayers, gifts and service.
Rev Drumm performing a wedding ceremony
Children’s Church Camp
They also paid state tax for either Lutheran or Presbyterian or Catholic state approved churches.
Rev Drumm and his daughters in the parsonage/church courtyard – 1938
My parents came to Novi-Vrbas with 6 children between the ages of 3 and 11 years old. I was the 3rd daughter. My father had 4 preaching stations. He traveled to them mostly on a bicycle.
Lydia Drumm and her Children – Elfriede is standing beside her mother.
My mother took care of us 6 kids. Once a week a woman would come and do the laundry by hand. My mother did the cooking, sewing, gardening and ironing. She sang in the church choir, led the woman’s mission society and helped with church programs.
In 1941, World War II changed the state borders. We were now part of Hungary again and allies of Germany.
Fellowship Hall in disrepair - Summer 2003
The Hungarian troops took over our fellowship hall and made it their headquarters.
The Germans were encouraged to support the Nazi party.
The German schools started to indoctrinate the students with Hitler’s ideology.
School yard 1943
On special occasions the students had to fall in for roll call in uniforms in the school court yard to listen to a Nazi party official.
On occasions, my father would express his anti Nazi opinions in his sermons and in conversations. Some young Hitler supporter would threaten to report him to the Nazi officials, but they never did.
Parsonage Outside Wall Summer 2003
One day we found anti Jewish graffiti scribbled all over the wall of the parsonage. It was painted over right away.
The Synagogue in Novi-Vrbas was stoned and soon after that set on fire.
Memorial Column – 2003
The one column that is left is now a memorial. In 1943, the Jewish people of Novi-Vrbas were rounded up and deported. Most of them were exterminated.
The German military began to retreat in early 1944, with the help of Tito, the leader of the Partisans – Serbian Communists. The German population was in danger. In October of 1944, my mother took us 6 children with a couple of suitcases to my grandfather’s across the Danube in Madjarboly – Hungary. The Russians were coming and we never could return home so we went to Austria in cattle cars by railroad.
Danube – from the Old Fort in Novi Sad – 2003
My father remained with his congregation until all of them, except those who chose to stay, left their homes. He was ordered to report to the German military post in Budapest and he then was assigned to serve in the military police as a translator. He was discharged in winter 1945 and we were reunited with him in Austria. The Russian military occupied Austria. All refugees were sent back home. Communism took over Hungary. All Germans who lived in Hungary were ordered to return to Germany, the land of their ancestors.
The Novi-Vrbas Methodist Church had no more German members. Their homes were taken over by mountain people who were used to living a very different way of life. When the town officials were informed that the German Methodist Church was American property, they did not seize the Christ Methodist Church, the fellowship hall or the parsonage.
The parsonage was occupied by German nursing home residents who remained in Vrbas.
Lydia’s picture remained on the wall of their bedroom
In 1951, they celebrated Thanksgiving in Serbian and Hungarian languages in the Vrbas church and a picture was sent to my parents.
Thanksgiving Service 1951
In 1952, I immigrated with my sister, Gaby, from Germany to the United States of America.
Elfriede and Church - 2003
59 years later on June 26, 2003, I read in the Bible in the book of Prophet Haggai, Chapter 1:2-11. These verses became alive, they spoke directly to me and I knew that the Lord wanted me to go back to Vrbas to support a new beginning of the Christ United Methodist Church of the Serbian community.
Haggai 1:2-11 Thus says the LORD of hosts: These people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the Lord's house. Then the word of the LORD came by the prophet Haggai, saying: Is it a time for you yourselves to live in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins? Now therefore thus says the LORD of hosts: Consider how you have fared. You have sown much, and harvested little; you eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill; you clothe yourselves, but no one is warm; and you that earn wages earn wages to put them into a bag with holes. Thus says the LORD of hosts: Consider how you have fared. Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored, says the LORD. You have looked for much, and, lo, it came to little; and when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? says the LORD of hosts. Because my house lies in ruins, while all of you hurry off to your own houses. Therefore the heavens above you have withheld the dew, and the earth has withheld its produce. And I have called for a drought on the land and the hills, on the grain, the new wine, the oil, on what the soil produces, on human beings and animals, and on all their labors.