Pretty exciting day today. Hold on here, because the following names are going to read like something out of war and peace. Our family destinations for the day today were Weiberwerder and Rudnica (formerly Hammer). Two small settlements quite a bit further north than the other places not far from Gorzow Wielpolski (formerly Landsberg).
Several years ago Wolfgang and his cousin Peter did research into finding out exactly where Weiberwerder was, as I could find it nowhere. Peter actually went there and took photos, reporting that it really wasn’t a village at all, but a farm between a long earthen dike that was built along the Warta River to protect the lowlying flood plain and the Brenkenhofs Kanal, built to provide drainage for the area. (Wolfgang told us an interesting story about the name, in old German Weiber means “women” and “verder” is an island. Before the dike this area was probably often flooded, and the farms were islands).
There are no roads there. The only way to get there was to drive to the end of the road, and then along the top of the dike. Wolfgang had a printout of an old map of the area. Using it, his Polish maps and suggestions from Peter, Wolfgang had plotted a route to get us there.
In Ottillie’s bible her 3rd and 4th children, Heinrich Adolf Otto Hennig and Adolph August Felix Hennig were both born at Weiberwerder, and christened in Hammer. Heinrich died only 1 month old and was buried in Hammer. In the christening records for the two children two other Hennig’s are mentioned as godparents – Ottilie Hennig and August Hennig. I don’t know whether these are Ottile Hennig, (the mother of the boys) and August Hennig (the grandfather of the boys) or new Hennigs. Bev was looking through her records and found that a invitation from a Bertha Hennig to Herr Hennig and his wife to her wedding in her chambers here in Weiberwerder.
It felt like we were heading to nowhere, and there would very little to see other than a known place where my gr-gr-grandparents lived for a while.
Getting there proved to be quite an adventure, and took a lot longer than expected, as we could see roads on the map but they had no names or numbers, the maps were old enough, and enough new streets have been built recently that roads didn’t connect the way they did on the map. I saw a sign pointing to Ulim, but immediately after that were a series of roundabouts with no directional sign to Ulim anywhere. Once we left the main road we enquired village by village where the next town was located. Ofcourse the answers were all in Polish which complicated things when people said more than left, right or straight ahead. We finally made it to Ulim, and had difficutly finding directions to the next town Derschau/Dzierzow, which turned out to be only two kilometers away. At Katharinenhof the last named town we pulled out the photocopy of the old dike map.
Quite excited we drove to the farm that was the cluster of buildings on the old map. The main house and outbuildings formed a square around an open area, and there was a car parked there. As we approached a beautiful, bouncy, very friendly dog, looking like a cross between a collie and a St. Bernard bounded out to meet us. We called out, and eventually the door was opened and a tiny, ancient Polish lady came out. We tried asking if we could take photos, but clear verbal communication was not possible, so in the end we grouped around her and took pictures with her and us in front of the building. As we were preparing to leave she said “Kawa, kawa” (coffee?, coffee? Ie the only word I understand in Polish). Realizing we were being invited in we accepted. She served us coffee and cake, and understood that we were asking for her address (so that we could send copies of the photos) She brought an envelope and we noted the address.
It was surprisingly emotional sitting there waiting for the coffee. The building we were in was old enough to have been standing when Adolf and Ottillie lived in the here. And whether they lived in this building or not, because there are so few buildings anywhere, and the area so full of fields it would have been a place would have seen everyday. It was sobering to think of the young Adolf leaving this green wet environment to make a go of it outside of Fargo, and where things would be so hard for him that he would take his own life. How I wished grandpa would have been here with me, in this place where his grandparents had lived. And was very grateful I was sharing the experience with Dick and Bev.
It was getting late by the time we finished the coffee. As we walked outside there was a glorious sunset. We said our goodbyes and piled in the car. We discovered a straight road with a bridge across the canal, a much less convoluted route back to the main road. We stopped on the bridge across the canal, looked back over the landscape, the brilliant sunset reflected in the water.
It was too late by this time to try to visit the church and graveyard in near-by Rudnica (formerly Hammer).
It was nearly 9:30pm by the time we reached out hotel in Lagow.
While the trip to Weiberverder was the highlight of the day, the rest of the day had also been quite interesting. After another fantastic breakfast in the morning ( a beautiful plate of cucumber and tomatos, a cheese and meat plate, scrambled eggs) I had climbed the tower of the castle for a view of the surrounding area. Lagow is located in a huge beach forrest (Buckhenwald in German to add a sobering note to the occasion) and there is a small national park around the town. The town is located between two lakes, and there are places for camping and swimming. We checked out the remains of the local German cemetery and strolled back to the castle grounds passing some huge, beautiful old trees. (Wolfgang referred to some old German law that prohibited cemeteries from being in town, so most had moved away from Church yards to the edge of town) Then it was mostly heading north on a small field rock paved tree-lined road until we hit a main road to take us north. We paused at the other tourist attraction in the neighborhood, a place where you can visit parts of an extensive bunker system that the Germans built in the 30s – the Ostwall (east wall).
Was lovely to tumble into my bed back in the hotel. I spent nearly an hour before falling asleep, however, looking over my scans and notes to see what else I had missed, I can see some revisions in my online maps in the works!