From Fulda to Fulda

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From Fulda to Fulda

Mr. Elmar Ebert of Fulda, Germany sent me an old article published in the Fuldaer Zeitung in March 1933. In this report an Ursuline Sister from Fulda, Germany reminisces about her stay in Caldwell/Fulda, Ohio in the years 1931-33. I have abbreviated her story somewhat, omitting her description of the voyage from Bremen to New York, the impressions of that city with its noisy streets, infernal heat, crowded subways and the hot train ride through Pennsylvania.

The writer signed her report only with "S.E." and I do not know who she might have been. Maybe someone in Fulda, Ohio or Caldwell can find her full name in the records of the Ursuline Convent there.

-- Elizabeth Ginsberg, 15 Nov 2005

Upon arriving in Ohio, "Sister S.E." writes:

Toward evening it is getting cooler, and we are riding through Ohio-Land. Ohio means "beautiful". And this land is beautiful, wonderfully pretty. As we ride along the Ohio River, the landscape reminds me of our German Rhine; other views with wide forested hills remind me of our Rhoen mountains at home.

After an 18-hour train ride I get off in a small town - Newcomerstown. This town is called that way because all newcomers have to come through here, I was told, jokingly.  From the station master's flood of words I understand three: "Two sisters come."  I wait one hour, going on two hours, I am falling asleep, until I feel myself hugged by friendly arms and hear cordial German greetings of welcome.  Two more hours' ride in a car, then I stand a little surprised in front of our small Ursuline convent [in Caldwell].  It is built of wood and with its four verandas and many doors it does not look at all like our German convent.  But inside it is homey, and most of the sisters are compatriots.  For my sake they talk German for a while; even all our American sisters know German more or less.  To my delight I hear two young novices talk in the most genuine Rhoen dialect. "Well, where are you from?" "From Fulda!" "Is it possible? Where is it?" "Close by, half an hour by car. There are always three of our sisters who teach in that school."

This Fulda is a friendly village of about 300 people. I t was built 100 years ago by settlers from the Fulda [Germany] region.  Their last names sounded familiar to me. The great and splendid church is dedicated to St. Bonifatius.  Until the war [WWI 1914-1918] sermons, prayers and songs were in German.  Then came another pastor who introduced the English language in church and school fearing German-hating fanatics. And so it is that our younger student generation uses only two German words which have been included in the English, or better, American language: Kindergarten and Sauerkraut.

It was always a pleasure for me to hear the old farmers speak German.  When they are at a loss for a word during a conversation, they invent one.  I found it a little peculiar when they often said: "Ich gleich das" instead of "Das hab ich gern" [I like that].

My English must have sounded just as curious to them.  In school I always made mistakes in pronunciation.  But the American child is so polite, does not at all ridicule by laughing, but corrects one in a most gentle way.  One quickly grows fond of these children, despite their sometimes too independent nature.

Let's hope that the teaching of the sisters among them brings a rich harvest."

Translated by Elizabeth Ginsberg 15 Nov 2005


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