A Brief History of Felizienthal (Dolynyvka)

The following is a little bit about the history of the place where my grandfather Joseph Wirll was born




  Felizienthal, Galicia, Austria; later Felizienthal (Stryj), Stanisławow, Poland; now Dolynivtsi, L'viv, Ukraine


 Written by : Jim Lang

In 1835, Karl Von Seif, a wealthy Austrian, invited 100 families from western Bohemia (Deutsche Boehman) to develop a tract of land in the Austrian province of Galicia. No doubt the Austrian government was keen to install German-speaking people in their most northeastern region, which was largely populated by Russian and Ukrainians, and Herr Seif was apparently happy to oblige. In fact, recent evidence suggests he needed to go far afield to find people willing to take his offer of “free land.” Although the valley he owned was devoid of people in 1835, a few Ukrainian families had lived there up to 1812, when cholera claimed one or two of their lives. The survivors abandoned the valley and when word spread of the disease, no others dared venture back.

The Bohemian settlers, ignorant of the cholera incident, accepted Von Seif’s offer and left their home villages of Hesseldorf and Schonwald (principally) for Galicia. They traveled first to Vienna, where they were officially registered. From there, they were transported by covered barge on rivers, and covered wagons by land, for the arduous journey to Galicia. Most likely they stopped first stop at Lemberg (Lviv), the regional capital, before continuing 75km south to the town of Skole, then further south to Tuchol’ka, then west for a few kilometers more. There they would have seen their new home, a lovely forested valley, nestled in the foothills of the Carpathian mountains, visible on the horizon to the west.

When these one hundred families arrived in the valley owned by Von Seif, they were not overly impressed. Clearly the land was far more challenging than they had anticipated. The valley was mostly dense forest, and at 738 meters above sea level, the growing season was short and the winters were to be severe (-35C is common, we were told). Under these conditions, Von Seif ordered them to build four colonies (villages), each of which he asked to be named after one of his children. And so, from the dense forest, they carved the villages of Felizienthal (Felix) – 32 families; Annaberg (Anna) – 23 families; Smorze-Gorme and Karlsdorf (Karl) – 45 families between them.

Although Karl Von Seif likely saw himself as a benefactor, he cut himself a pretty good deal, as well. Not only did he keep information about cholera to himself (we assume he knew – of course, perhaps he didn’t, which is another twist entirely!), these settlers were, in effect, serfs. Every family was given five Yoch of land and 15 Yoch of forest, all of which they were required to clear at their own expense (21.3 acres. 1 Yoch=1.422 acres). As a group they had to clear a pasture of 63 Yoch, plus 5 Yoch for a cemetery and land for a school. They were supplied with firewood and building materials. In the first year, they were each required to deliver 9 Koretz (bushel?) of potatoes to Von Seif, and 35 Koretz each year thereafter for fifteen years, at which time they would be free of serfdom and would own their land free and clear. The German settlers lived up to their side of the bargain, as did Karl Von Seif, and after fifteen years they assumed ownership of the land. In 1857 they constructed a church, and across the road, in 1866, they built their first school.

Although they owned their plots of land, they could not control the ownership of Galicia. After ruling the region since 1724, Austria ceded Galicia to Poland in 1919, Lemberg was renamed Lvov (or Lwow), and the first new non-German-speaking regime was established in nearly 200 years. Six years later, the Polish government prohibited the use of German in schools, and the children of Felizienthal began to receive their education in Polish. However, in 1939, Poland – and Felizienthal – fell victim to Hitler’s blitzkrieg. The village was nearly destroyed in fierce battles, and when it was over, all German-speaking villagers were removed for “resettlement.” Most Germans ended up in Austria or Germany, but the Jewish members of the community were not so fortunate. Like hundreds of thousands of Jews from throughout Galicia, they perished in the holocaust.

When the Russians swept through Poland in 1943, they simply kept it, and for the next 48 years, Felizienthal – which the communists had renamed “Dolynyvka”(valley village) –suffered the consequences of a totalitarian regime. However, when the Soviet Union crumbled, the free country of Ukraine emerged, and in 1991 achieved its independence from Moscow. Felizienthal, now permanently named Dolynyvka, was free once more.

However, the many hundreds and thousands of descendants of the original settlers of Felizienthal knew little of the fate of the village. Most believed it had simply ceased to exist, destroyed by the ravages of war.


Make a Free Website with Yola.