My parents named me Linda. This shocked my grandfather, Josef. He said to my father, “For why you name a girl Linda? In Romania they only name the dogs Linda.” And he meant literal dogs, not the derogatory term used for unattractive girls. Over the years we laughed at this ridiculous notion, especially because of the ubiquity of my name in the 1950s (it was the number one most popular girl’s name from 1947-1952).
I’m part of what I call “The Linda generation.” I can be pretty sure most women I meet named Linda were born within about five years of my birth. Fully one quarter of the girls (nine out of 36) in my grade school graduating class, were named “Linda.”
So what does this have to do with Travel Tuesday? Stick with me.
The morning after visiting my grandfather’s church in Neppendorf, cousin Maria was getting her hair done, so I took an exploratory stroll down a neighborhood street. I heard someone call my name. “Linda.” Surprised I turned and saw this man (at right), whom I approached, introduced myself, and explained my connection to the town. His little dog was nearby and as I bent to pet it, I said, “How cute! What’s his name.” Turned out to be a “her.”
“Linda!” the man replied. I laughed out loud and explained the long-standing family tale.
Shortly after this encounter, we went to the Siebenbürgen genealogical center in Sibiu/Hermannstadt, got Samuel Ebner’s house number and headed to my grandmother’s (Lisi Ebner) home town of Grosspold, hoping to find the Ebner Hof.
At my grandmother’s Lutheran Church, we met Pastor Meitert. I’ve already written about how he showed us the Ebner Family Book, where we discovered how many family deaths my grandmother endured. (see Life and Death Abbreviated. In the last post, (Searching for Home) we traced my grandmother’s family back to my great-great grandparents, the Eders.
After these discoveries, Pastor Meitert removed the Ebner Family pages tucked them under his arm and led us through the town, going literally door-to-door in Grosspold, hoping someone would know where the Ebner Hof was located. We pick up here.
First stop was the Sonnleitner Hof. We pushed open two enormous, thick, wooden gates through which, in previous times, horse and carts probably had passed. (Hof implies more than just a house. It includes the large, enclosed courtyard and land surrounding the home, like a mini-farm, wherein chickens pace, animals are housed, vegetables grown. (see photo)
Frau Sonnleitner was typical of what has become of Germans in Romania. We guessed she was in her sixties, a widow now living alone. All her children have moved to Germany, visiting her once or twice a year. Pfarrer Meitert told us that in 1939, almost two thousand Saxon Germans lived in Grosspold. Only fifty-five remain. Of the 800,000 or so Siebenbürgishe Sachsen, the ethnic Germans that had once lived throughout Transylvania, a mere 20,000, mostly older residents like Frau Sonnleitner, have stayed in Romania. The rest have taken advantage of Germany’s offer of citizenship and have opted to go there where they have better work opportunities and living conditions.
Pastor Meitert showed Frau Sonnleitner the Ebner family record sheets from the Lutheran Church’s Family Book, wondering if she knew the family or where the Ebnerhof, house number 365, might be.
As they spoke, I absorbed the atmosphere of a Hof that was probably similar to the one in which my grandmother’s family had lived 100 years earlier. About 1,000 walnuts lay drying in the sun as mumbling chickens made desultory pecks at loose gravel. Snorting grunts from the back of the Hof got our attention. “Do you have pigs back there?” I asked.
“Yes,” she said, “two big pigs.” Frau Sonnleitner confessed she had no idea where the Ebnerhof lay, but offered to introduce us to her “Schweine.”
The pigs were huge, rooting around in the mud. We asked what they ate. The usual scraps was the expected response, but then she added, “And they really like tile.”
“Tile! You mean like roof tiles?”
“Yes. It’s good for their digestion.” And with that, she picked up several large pieces of terra cotta tile, broke them on the edge of the stall, and tossed them in. The pigs went after them like dogs after a bone–chomping down the pieces in seconds.
We were agape, but then came the final proof that, for those Germans who had remained in Grosspold, little had changed in Siebenbürgen over the past century. Her small dog had been dashing around the Hof, chasing the chickens and sniffing about. Leaning down to pet the dog, I asked, “What’s your dog’s name?”
One hundred years after my grandparents left Transylvania, the churches still hold their family histories, pigs eat tile, chickens scratch in the Hof, walnuts dry in piles outside, and “Linda” still goes to the dogs.
Please leave your comment below.