Chronicle -

A short history of the Banat, the Banat Swabians and the village of Neusiedl (Uiheiu)

The Banat was in ancient times the home of a long-forgotten people who disappeared eons ago. Hardly anything is known about those times. Much more, however, is known about the times of the Dacians and the Romans. The Banat was the deployment zone for the Romans fighting against the Dacian empire (100 A.D.) whose capital, 'Sarmizegetura', was in the Banat mountains.

And so it became a Roman province until 270 A.D. The Romans founded many towns, including today's Herkulesbad. Then came troubled times and many foreign tribes passed through the land. The inhabitants suffered especially badly under the Turks and so they fled, or were banished to Turkish exile. Homes were neglected, the land was no longer cultivated and a wilderness of reeds took over.

After almost 200 years of Turkish rule, the Banat was freed from the Turkish yoke through the victory of Prinz Eugen in 1716 at Peterwardein, and put in the hands of the Viennese Court Chamber. Then the first plans for colonising the Banat with German settlers were drafted. The first Swabian trek took place between 1717 and 1726. The reason for the emigration from Germany was the impoverishment of the people during the wars of conquest of the region between France and Germany.

The Banat was divided into thirteen regions by the Austrians. In 1726 there were already 633 settlements in the Banat with a total of 21,298 houses. Despite the deprivation and sacrifice of life and property, the German settlers pulled through and the Banat became a fertile land. However, it wasn't long before the Turks invaded the land once again, ruthlessly destroying the homes, plundering, murdering and banishing thousands into slavery. On top of all this came the plague which raged through the population like wildfire. In order to replace the resulting loss of life, a second Swabian trek followed between 1763 and 1770. This time, villages were founded mainly in the Banat heathland, villages such as Sackelhausen, Hatzfeld, Gottlob, Biled and, in 1769, our neighbouring village of Bogarosch was established. The third and last Swabian trek took place in 1782, but even then malaria and cholera claimed their victims. For example, within six years 908 inhabitants had died in Biled.

With these high numbers of deaths the villages would soon have died out if the continuing late arrivals and the high number of births hadn't managed to fill, and overtake, the large number of losses.

In 1788 the Turks again destroyed 134 villages in the Banat. It is wrong to claim that there were only Swabian settlers at that time; there were five times as many other nationalities there than Germans, e.g. Serbs, Romanians and Hungarians, amongst others.

The convenient geographical situation, the fertile soil and, above all, the tireless hard work by the Swabians, led to sweeping development. As a result, subsidiary settlements were established. The overflow of families from the older colonies founded new villages. And so in 1833 our neighbouring village of Alexanderhausen was founded. In 1836 cholera had claimed the lives of 107 people within three months.

In 1844 the village of Neusiedl (Uiheiu in Romanian) was finally established with 80 'sessions'. The colonists were obligated by contract for 20 years to pay 221 Gulden and 20 Kreuzen annually for 16 'Jochs' of land. 96 plots for houses were allocated. The houses had to be built to a certain specification. The house gable had to face towards the street and be rounded at the top. The house itself had to be built along one edge of the plot in order to appear symmetrical and to minimize the risk of fire. Stalls and sheds were not allowed to be built at right-angles to the house, only adjacent to it, i.e. following the same line.

The settlers of Neusiedl (now called Uihel locally) were not independent and free farmers, and the breaking of the contract was often punished harshly.

The year 1848 was to bring many changes to a situation which had become unbearable. The farmer, who had up until now been in servitude and used merely as slave labour and tax payer, was, after the huge reforms of 1848, now a free citizen with equal rights, liberated from the aristocratic landlords. The Hungarian fight for freedom in 1848 triggered these reforms. On 18th August 1848 a strict order was delivered in Bogarosch: All able-bodied men between the ages of 16 and 60 were to hurry to Grosskomlosch with weapons, scythes or cudgels, and fight the Serbs. The head of the judiciary, Johann Buocz, was the leader, together with the captain, Ispan Mathias Hrabes from Neusiedl.

The expedition lasted eight days and they returned home in good health and in a festive mood, although starving hungry. In October of the same year, ten recruits were assigned to the Hungarian army.

The village of Neusiedl itself had developed quickly; one house had been commandeered as a schoolhouse and another had been fitted out as a chapel. Six small farmers were allocated house plots, but they did not receive any land at this stage. The only landowners at this stage were those who had already been working the land for some time.

It took until the turn of the century for the economic breakthrough to happen. In 1902 the foundation stone for the new school was laid and in 1906 the first schoolchildren were taught there. But in 1914 the First World War broke out and many of the men were sent to battle to fight for foreign interests. Thirteen men fell, five remained missing, eight died abroad and four died at home.

In 1919 the Banat, which had previously belonged to Austria-Hungary, was annexed to Romania. In 1943 Banat Swabians once again were sent to war, which was to have devastating consequences. Twenty-two of our men died in battle and eleven people died in various Russian labour camps. There was also the strain put on those who were deported to the Baragan, and many other things which could be mentioned and analysed by history writers.

P.S. The founding of the following communities should also be mentioned: Biled in 1765; Hatzfeld in 1766; Lenauheim and Grossjetscha in 1767; Grabatz in 1768; Bogarosch in 1769; Kleinjetscha, Marienfeld and Kleintermin in 1770; Triebswetter, Gottlob and Kleinkomlosch in 1772. Later came Lovrin, Komlosch, Wiseschdia and in 1833 Alexanderhausen, and Neusiedl in 1844. Throughout the years, Kirchweih (consecration of the church) was always celebrated and the bunch of rosemary always played an important role on special occasions, as well as in daily life: 'Rosemary - symbol of Love, Loyalty and Death'.

'There is a word that sounds lovelier than the lark singing in the sky. There is a word which is like a magic spell and which no child on Earth can escape. There is a word with which nothing else can compare, not even Heaven. A word which, like the sunrise, radiates above the grave and above death - and the word is 'Heimat!'

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With grateful thanks to Hans-Johann Schmidt for supplying me with the german original of this chronicle of Uihei written by Lissi ENGELMANN.

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